Jolo, Sulu – This place is the most feared field assignment of any Filipino soldier. The Abu Sayyaf bandits are well-known for being ruthless. They decapitate the heads of their enemies. They want to create terror. They want to be feared by their enemies. They belonged to the tribes of Yakans of Basilan and Tausugs of Jolo. They are the bravest and merciless of all Moro warriors in Mindanao. They have fought a thousand battles. Their ancestors have fought for decades. The hatred is unfathomable. Hatred made them savages. Their savagery is unthinkable. That place was cursed for eternity and I was about to be sent there.
Slowly, anxiety replaced excitement. I felt like I’m going to the land of no return. We really thought we’re going to be sent to Davao or Samar to hunt down NPAs. All of my expectations were fading away. We should be happy. We’re going to have an early test mission. At that moment, everybody was preoccupied. We’re going to confront the most formidable and hated enemies of the state. Sometimes, enemies respect each other as warriors. In the case of Abu Sayyaf, only hatred existed in my mind. I checked my watch. It’s already 1300H. We didn’t notice we’ve skipped our noon mess. I wasn’t hungry at all. Suddenly, I missed my daughter and wife. It’s so nice to be home, I thought, but not yet. I have to finish the course no matter what. We have to avenge the death of our comrades. Hatred must overwhelm fear.
Finally, we arrived inside Camp Tecson. There was no sign of excitement. I looked at the faces of my fellow rangers. They showed no emotions. The news made us speechless. I looked at the sky. It was calm, the rain has stopped. We made preparations during the rest of the day.
I couldn’t sleep that night. All I think of was my 3-year old daughter. She’s so pretty just like her mom. How I wish I could hug her that night. I also thought about the hardships I’ve went through just to undergo this prestigious training. I’m so lucky that my Battalion Commander is also a Scout Ranger. He approved my application to join the course. It’s my dream to become one. The rest of my classmates also came from different units sent by their Battalions to undergo SR training. These soldiers were all die-hard Scout Rangers. It was a rare privilege. I wish we can can make the forefathers of the Scout Ranger proud of us. We were lucky to become one of the Musangs.
Still, I couldn’t sleep. My mistah, 2LT Dao-ayan, came to me. His name is Rene. He’s from Kalinga. He shared his thoughts about the incoming mission. He shared his boodles while telling me a lot of happy memories. He told me stories about his previous assignment in Boracay. He got tired of doing nothing in that paradise island. That’s the reason why he volunteered. It was his ticket to get out of that beautiful fortress. He wanted action. He wanted to experience what every second lieutenant wants to experience in the field. He was supposed to graduate ahead of our ranger class but he failed one critical mission in their FTX so he was recycled to our class. He also had a fiancée who was a pretty Kapampangan. He told me he’s going to marry her as soon as he graduates from SRTS. 2LT Madayag and 2LT Joaquin, also my mistahs, came and we talked about life and our families. We even planned to start a bar business in Boracay. We will call it Maliyab Bar. We belonged to PMA “Maliyab” Class of 2004. Maliyab means fiery.
That night, we’ve sworn that we will protect each other. We will never leave anyone behind. Mistah is thicker than blood. We will fight to the death.
Finally, I fell asleep.
(To be continued)