A Tribute to a Fallen Comrade (Part 11)

Datu Odin MunicipalityOnce, we lived in harmony with our Moslem neighbors in the village of Southern Philippines Development Authority or SPDA, formerly known as Dinaig, at Datu Odin Sinsuat Municipality. We felt secured in that village since we have had several Moslem relatives residing at Cotabato City. The city proper is more or less 45 minutes away from our village. One night, while my father was away working overtime at Cotabato City, a notorious gang, suspected to be relatives of the members of Moro Islamic Liberation Front or MILF, harassed my family. They were more than twenty and believed to carry small assorted deadly weapons. Without any kind of provocation, these maniacs threatened us and threw stones at our house. They cursed us and shouted “Mga baboy kayong mga Bisaya!” My mother including me and my 3 brothers were inside our house. We were all shocked that night. We didn’t know what to do. My mother was so nervous. There were no cellular phones during that time so we couldn’t contact anyone for help. I was only 10 years old that time. I’m the second child. Our eldest was a high school student, my younger brother was 6 years old and the youngest was barely one year old.

Nobody stood up to defend my family. I thought that we could be massacred anytime. We were all afraid. It was traumatic.

Instinctively, my mother went outside our house and confronted the gang. She was so brave. It was in her blood. She’s an Ilongga raised in South Cotabato at Esperanza, Sultan Kudarat. A place once torn apart by Christian-Moslem conflict in the 70’s. That night, I’ve seen my mother ready to defend us. In the middle of their verbal confrontation, the gang’s leader felt that he was challenged so he climbed over our fence. It was the moment we all feared of. He was already inside the vicinity of our house. He was a meter away from my mother as he continued to threaten her. My mother shouted “Trespassing ka! Pwede kitang ipakulong!” Then the maniac pointed his finger to my mother’s forehead. He cursed our family. He called us Christian pigs.

My eldest brother saw everything. He sensed that my mother was in danger. I’ve seen him cried in anger. He felt so helpless. He was so furious. He looked for my father’s cal. 38 revolver which Papang kept for self-defense. Before, he showed it to us and told us that we could use it in case of life threatening emergencies. Fortunately, my brother wasn’t able to find it but he grabbed his air gun then went outside like Rambo. It was the only weapon he found instantly. When I saw Kuya went outside with his air gun, I grabbed our jungle bolo. I just grabbed it in pure instinct. I also cried in anger knowing that my mother needed our help. My two younger brothers cried in fear inside the house. I followed him towards that fuc@#$ bastard. It was a natural defense mechanism. At that age, I thought of killing. I thought that if somebody in my family will get hurt that night, I will kill them. At instant, without any hesitations, my brother pointed his air gun to the man’s face. I was standing beside the intruder ready to strike him with my bolo. We were all shivering. My mother started to panic when she saw us. She never expected her sons to react so violently since we were all young. She pleaded to us to get inside the house. We didn’t hear her voice anymore. Our eyes were locked on the target. The leader of the gang never budged an inch. It was a scary stand off. My brother’s eyes flashed in anger. I breathed heavily as I held my bolo so high as if I would strike the man in a split of second. I was waiting for him to make a move. Lucky for him, somebody shouted “Mababait mga Kristyano na yan, wag nyo silang galawin!” it was one of our good Moslem neighbors who pacified the tension and negotiated with the rest of the gang outside our house. The leader of the gang finally went outside. After several minutes of negotiation mediated by our Moslem friends, the gang finally backed off.

After that incident, the rest of the neighbors gathered in front of our house. When my father arrived, he looked so worried. He never expected something would happened like that to his family. He immediately proceeded to the detachment of the Philippine Marines. It was the first time I saw my father looked that way. He was terribly mad. My father was a native of Maguindanao. He was half-Moslem and half-Christian since Lola was baptized as Christian when she married my Lolo. It was a long story. It was unusual because mostly, men who married Moslem women were the ones who converted to follow Islam. On the contrary, lola turned Christian so we became Christians too. Subsequently, the Marines immediately went towards our house. They were all heavily equipped. They were ready for battle. When I saw them that night, I could feel the power of their guns. I looked up to them as mighty protectors of the oppressed. My father volunteered to guide them towards the lair of those bastards. However, the marines were not able to catch them. It will be a bloodbath if they will pursue towards the MILF camp.

I opened my eyes. My Scout Ranger classmates looked so weary and tired. I’m already a member of the Philippine Army, I thought. Time was really fast.  The flight was taking so long. I felt so restless inside the C130. It was my first time to be deployed in Mindanao after several years of field assignment in Central Luzon. It would be a different kind of homecoming for me.

(To be Continued)

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What is the Scout Ranger Song?

SCOUT RANGER SONG

musang scout ranger

WE STRIKE!

I

We strike! We who are happy and free

Birds of a feather, we flatter together

Scout Rangers of fortune are we

II

We sing! Greeting the night with a song

Laughing at danger, we fight like a panther

We conquer our hardships away

Refrain

Shadows to hide us

And bright stars to guide us

The night we roam

No one can find us

Wherever we choose to roam

 We ride! (Hep!) march! (Hep!) creep! (Hep!) crawl! (Hep!)

Silently in the jungle

III

Scout Rangers of fortune are we

Seeking and fighting and laughing and loving

Scout Rangers of fortune are we

 1, 2, 3 Rangers!

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A Tribute to a Fallen Comrade (Part 10)

C130The flight seemed to take forever. We looked so restless inside the Philippine Air Force’s refurbished Lockheed C-130H Hercules. We never talked much during the flight. We all looked like praying our asses off inside the plane. Most of us were standing inside the C130. The central part was full of jungle packs, weapons and boxes of ammunitions. I could hardly move to change position. The capacity payload was supposed to be either 92 passengers or 72 fully equipped troops which is also equivalent to 64 airborne troops only. Our Scout Ranger class was heavily equipped. Our strength was more or less 90 including the RIs. Aside from that, a light military vehicle was on board that military cargo plane. Undoubtedly, the plane was overloaded. I just closed my eyes. I shifted my thoughts somewhere else. It was a moment of reminiscence. I remembered where I came from.

MaguindanaoI grew up in Maguindanao, one of the most battle-torn provinces in Southern Philippines. As a child, I was exposed to unending violence and other incidents of lawlessness. Kidnap for ransom was rampant in the province. The Pentagon Group believed to be former secessionist rebels were terrorizing the Christian communities. Chinese mestizos were mostly targeted for kidnapping. There was a time when almost all of my Chinese Mestizo classmates in elementary school transferred to Davao City and other Christian dominated towns and provinces in Mindanao. It was like an exodus. Our Cathedral Church in Cotabato City was frequently bombed. It seemed that there were no safe places for Christians anymore. Although, peace talks and negotiations were ongoing between the Moro National Liberation Front or the MNLF and the Philippine Government, still there were skirmishes in the countryside. Much worse, the breakaway group of MNLF known as the Moro Islamic Liberation Front or MILF continued waging war against the Philippine Government. When I was still an elementary student, I couldn’t identify Philippine soldiers from separatist rebels. They looked all the same to me. They were all wearing soldier’s uniforms. They were also conducting checkpoints simultaneously.

tamontaka bridgeWhen I was travelling going to school, I could still vividly recall the Tamontaka bridge connecting Cotabato City and Datu Odin Sinsuat Municipality wherein the Philippine Marines conducted checkpoint on the edge of the bridge while the group of MNLF was also conducting their own checkpoint on the opposite edge of the bridge. I’ve heard there were incidents that they were sniping each other during their past time. I’ve also seen MNLF fighters paraded in Cotabato City Plaza when peace talk was on its final stage. They flaunted their weaponry. That time, it was only a rumor that Cotabato will be under the leadership of the MNLF Chairman. I didn’t give a damn about it. I didn’t understand about the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao or ARMM before. It was a stalemate. Philippine soldiers were not even visible in the city. That was the environment where I grew up. I’ve also heard tales of bloody battles. My father told me that when he was still young, a battalion of Philippine Army was massacred in an ambush when they tried to cross a marshland. The battle was so intense that the impact of explosions has broken their windowpanes.

When I rode my BMX bike going to Grotto, I could still remember seeing M35 trucks with loads of dead Philippine Army soldiers covered with banana leaves going to the 6th Infantry Division at Awang Airport. I’ve felt sorry for them. “When will the fighting stop?” it was a question that I believed nobody could answer for the next hundred years.

The C130 was in a steady flight. It was a nice feeling. Still, I closed my eyes. I continued visiting my past.

I belonged to a Christian family living in a predominantly Moslem village. We were minorities in that place. Police never existed in our village. Philippine Army soldiers and Philippine Marines were our greatest allies. I looked up to them like our messiah. They were prophets of peace and justice. They were ready to sacrifice their lives just to protect helpless Christian communities.

I could still recall the incident during the early 90’s that changed my life forever.

(To be Continued)

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A Tribute to a Fallen Comrade (Part 9)

On the last night of our preparation, I couldn’t sleep. I felt a lot of trepidation. It was 2100H. We needed to take a nap since we had to move out as early as 0100H the next day. Everybody seemed to be awake. I still heard voices rumbling inside the tents of my classmates. After a while, my buddy arrived with a military map of Jolo, Sulu. He borrowed it from PFC Benlot, our only classmate who was formerly assigned in that wretched island. I was curious because we were not yet formally briefed about the details of the Test Mission. I wanted to check the map so I instructed my buddy to produce one. All of a sudden, my original teammates went inside my tent. They were also curious. They’ve heard that PFC Navarra had a map of Jolo Island. My team was composed of  3 members from First Scout Ranger Regiment’s finest Battalions and another 3 including me came from Regular Infantry Battalions. I also had a teammate who was a member of the Philippine National Police Special Action Force or PNP-SAF.

SAF Commandos are one of the elite fighters of the PNP. They were deployed in hostile areas like their Philippine Army counterparts. They also conduct counter-insurgency operations. That’s why they send qualified SAF members to undergo SR Training to harness their skills in combat. The only remaining SAF member of our class was PO1 Bonifacio Bonghanoy. He was a member of my team. He was the only survivor of the whole squad. The rest of the squad either failed in subjects or resigned from the course. The SAF squad sent to SRTS was assigned in Metro Manila before they underwent the training.

Military Map

Sample of Military Map

I took out a pack of skag from my pocket and shared it to my teammates while we discussed extra preparations for the Test Mission. For the first time, my tent became a gas chamber. We were already authorized to skag anyway. That night, we all thought that our RI’s were also busy preparing their stuff. Eventually, we all seriously verified the map. The terrain looks adaptable compared to the areas where I’ve been formerly assigned. There are few mountainous areas. The island looks like a pile of sh%#!t from aerial view based on the map. It seems that as you go nearer to the center of the island, the elevation rises. While I was checking the contour lines, I could imagine the Abu Sayyaf waiting for us somewhere. I studied every single detail of the map and conducted initial terrain analysis.

https://wisefilipinosoldier.files.wordpress.com/2013/08/forest-creek.jpgI observed that there are few creeks in that island. Creeks are important water source for the soldiers conducting combat operations. You need to drink at least 5 Liters of water especially if the weather is hot and you have to walk more than 3 clicks every day. That means we will be doing a lot of water discipline. As a result, we all agreed to bring at least 5 liters of water using Coca-Cola plastic water bottles. We preferred using these empty bottles than water canteens because of expediency. Also, we were issued mini portable gas stoves for each squad. We would also bring at least 3 Liters of Kerosene. For every operation, we agreed to bring at least 7 days ration with 4 days wet and 3 days dry rations. Wet rations consist of rice and “rekados” for cooking while dry rations consist of Skyflakes biscuits and canned goods. Nobody slept that night.

SR Test MissionWe discussed everything from rations to supplies. We haven’t noticed that it was already time. “This is it!” I thought to myself. It was the climax of our Scout Ranger Training. We packed up and mounted M35 trucks. We moved out from SRTS then proceeded to Fort Magsaysay at Nueva Ecija. It’s still dark when we arrived at the airfield. The C130 was already waiting for us. We were all restless that day.

Time was finally ripe to test what we have learned from the portals of Camp Tecson.

(To be Continued) 

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Filipino Soldier from Saver to Investor

Philippine MoneyDo you consider yourself as a saver? Are you willing to take risk and invest your hard earned money? Well, before you answer these questions, let me ask you again, why are you interested to read this article anyway? Are you just plain curious or you really want to learn tips on how to level up your current financial status? Whatever reasons you might have, I would say that you have a potential to level up from being a saver to become a successful investor.

Get Rid of Debt

This is the first thing you should do. If you have a negative net worth, you will have a hard time to save. Eliminate debt as early as possible. It’s like being tied up by a rope. Escape from it and you can have your financial freedom.

Save, Save and Save!

Every successful investor starts being a saver. Like everybody else, Filipino soldiers would also like to have a brighter financial future. Even with a seemingly unending loans and expenses not mentioning the effects of inflation, most of them still save some of their money. Time has changed. Gone were the days that newly assigned soldiers in the field were financially irresponsible. Most of them were actually taught financial management by their seniors or superior officers during their military training.
In this connection, officers are already considered responsible for the financial status of their men. By the way, commanding officer’s approval is needed in order for the soldier to apply for loan. They sometimes disapproved loan applications if they noticed that the soldier is just wasting his money for unnecessary expenses. As a matter of fact, this is a very unpopular policy but I believe it is a necessity. This could even trigger an animosity between the officer and his subordinates especially if the officer wasn’t able to explain the reason why he disapproved the loan application. Fortunately, more Filipino soldiers are becoming aware of the importance of saving. Nothing is wrong being thrifty.

Know Your Objectives

How much will you set aside for your savings every month? For how long will you save that specific amount? What’s your objective? That’s some of the indispensable analysis that you should take into consideration when you save your money. Know your objectives and let it be your guide. Is it your objective to save for emergency funds only? If yes, then it doesn’t need to have an interest. Emergency funds need to be accessible anytime and anywhere. If you plan to purchase a high cost purchases like house and cars, you need longer time to save. How much and how long? Also, record everything including monthly and future expenses. In short, you will be the master of your own fate when it comes to crafting of your financial future plans. When everything seems to go smoothly according to your plan, you will definitely enjoy the fruits of your hard work and perseverance.

Increase Your Financial Literacy

If you become interested to get higher returns out of your savings, you are in the verge of entering a different level. First, learn how to invest. Go back to your objectives. If you already have an emergency fund and you feel secured enough with what you have, then this is the best time to level up. Filipino soldiers usually invest their money to military financial institutions like AFPSLAI, AMWSLAI and PAFCPIC to get passive income through dividends and interests. It is the safest investment for Filipino soldiers. You just let your money work for you. As time goes by, you build up your wealth. The money you invest accumulates and you will look for other investment institutions like commercial banks. This is the crucial part. Never invest in something you never fully understands. That’s why you have to increase your financial literacy. Study and learn. Read and interview. Now, I learned about investing to UITFs or Unit Investment Trust Funds offered by banks. BPI and BDO have the greatest performances so far. I would suggest you will try to study UITF and choose the best investment fund for you. Also, it’s also good to invest in Mutual funds. Just always put in mind that every time you increase your appetite for wealth, the risk of losing your money also increases. Bad investments are usually a product of bad decisions and little knowledge of the subject.

Finally, the most important question is when will be the best time to invest my money. If you think you already levelled up, my answer is- Now Na! The earlier, the better!

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A Tribute to a Fallen Comrade (Part 8)

As usual, I wore my black panther. I brought my toiletries, towel and M16 rifle. The trail was slippery so I used my combat boots. It’s a narrow trail. I ran towards the direction of the firing range. The bathing area is more or less 300 meters away from the tent city. Normally, we were only given 10 minutes. I have to run for 2 minutes going to the river. I will take a bath for another 2 minutes, take a dump and skag for another 2 minutes, wash my black panther for another 2 minutes, then the last 2 remaining minutes to go back to the tent city. It was our 10-minute bathing time. For the past four months, it was part of our morning routine every day!

Philippine CarabaoWhile traversing the paddy field, I saw my fellow scout ranger students stranded near the river. It looked like something was blocking their way. I didn’t mind it. I continued running. As I expected, our long-time enemies were already there. It was really bothersome. I stopped running and acted like a prey who met its predators. The two big, notorious and hot-tempered carabaos were standing in the middle of the trail. It was their favorite spot. They were munching their breakfast. Damn! I hated their masters for letting them roam near our bathing area! If they locked their eyes on you, better change course quickly or else, you might get rammed by their gigantic sickle-shaped horns. As a precautionary measure, my classmates used an alternate route towards the river. That time, I never followed them. I would like to take my chances. I moved towards the black beasts like a mad matador. Astonishingly, these creatures moved away from the trail. They never looked me in the eyes. They just bowed their heads and ate the grasses far from the trail. There was no usual chasing moment. Perhaps these animals also knew that we would be leaving. I felt something strange. I felt like I would be missing our good old times. They usually gave me adrenaline rush during bath runs. I thought that those were one of the happy moments that made me laugh in the morning.

Maybe, those water buffaloes didn’t really hate us. They were just protecting their territory. That day, I felt like they befriended me.

Finally, I’ve reached our bathing area- Rocky Madlum River.

Madlum river

This is only a part of the Madlum River in Bulacan. Scout Ranger Students undergo Rope Courses, Combat Swimming and Echo Echo in that river. It’s sacred to them.

The river was so refreshing. I always wished if I could stay there for a long time. I felt serenity. It was a sanctuary of peace. The rushing river current seemed to hypnotize me. It was the only calm place near the SRTS. There was no shouting. It was the only time I felt like a normal person during the SR’s rigid training. It felt like home. No pressure. It felt so free.

Eventually, the state of tranquility faded away. It was just a privilege. I’m an Army soldier, I thought to myself. I finished taking a bath. I went back to the tent city.

I checked my list. I’ve withdrawn 4 fragmentation hand grenades, 4 rifle grenades, 2 basic loads for my M16 A1 rifle, 200 ammo rounds of M60 Machine Gun and 1 ammo of M67 90mm RR Bazooka and a Motorola radio. I had no choice. Everybody was instructed to bring 1 ammo each for either Bazooka or 81mm mortar. I’ve chosen to bring ammunition of Bazooka.

I looked at my jungle pack. It was so heavy. I didn’t even know if I could carry all of those ammos including my rations. I observed that most officers had M203 grenade launchers attached on their M16 rifle. Based on Filipino soldier battle experiences, it’s far more reliable than rifle grenades. I had 2 personnel in my Section who had M203 GL attached to their rifles. I thought it’s already enough.

Around 1000H, we went to the town proper of San Miguel, Bulacan. We bought extra things we needed for the Test Mission. Also, we stormed a carenderia and ate delicious Filipino native dishes. It was like a fiesta. One of my mistahs was kidding and told us that it felt like it’s our last meal. Nobody laughed. After treating ourselves with heavenly boodles, we proceeded to Dau, Tarlac. We bought new bandoleers, extra rifle slings, ropes, ponchos and other important stuff. Everybody was busy looking for anything that seemed useful for the operation. We all bought bolos. We went back to Camp Tecson. Everything was all set.

(To be Continued)

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A Tribute to a Fallen Comrade (Part 7)

We went back to our tent city. It was already 0600H. Miraculously, the sun smiled down on us. We ate our morning mess. Everybody was so excited. We could go outside camp and see normal people again. We love the scent outside the premises of Camp Tecson. It smells like home. It makes me feel like a normal person. We felt so much joy that time. We almost forgot that we will be sent to Jolo the following day. I prepared to take a bath. I opened my duffel bag. As instructed, we only brought 2 pairs of civilian attire and the rest were all Philippine Army uniforms. I would be wearing my brown khaki cargo pants and white T-shirt. It’s always reserve for passes and official business.

Scout Ranger worn-out combat bootsAs I was preparing my clothes, I’ve noticed a pair of worn-out combat boots in my duffel bag. I pulled it out. It became white with a lot of stitches all over it. It looked so battered. I didn’t throw it away. It had sentimental value. I placed it on top of my bamboo bed. My combat boots were my buddies too. I could still recall the last time I went outside the camp premises.

I was brought to a provincial hospital due to a severe infection on my right foot. I couldn’t wear my combat boots that time. Boils or skin abscesses are one of the most common skin diseases during the SR training. It is one of the greatest enemies of every scout ranger students. It can hit you anywhere. My boils started to come out during the 2nd phase of our training. Almost every Scout Rangers have experienced this nightmare. Days after our Echo Echo, my back was already infected. The wounds I incurred during that haunting night became my nightmare for the whole duration of FTX. It was painful. The pain was annoying. I always had fever every night. I felt weak every road runs. I never wanted to take any pain relievers and antibiotics. Alas! I didn’t have any choice. Every time I took those meds, I felt so weak the whole day. The higher the dose, the greater were the side effects. Initially, my immune system has won that first battle. I never expected that it was just the beginning of my sufferings.

During our FTX KUTING, the blister on my left ankle became infected. After several days, my foot had swollen. It was awful. I self-pitied. I had to wear my sandals during FTX. I had no choice. As a result, the infection worsened. I had to cut my combat boots on the part where my ankle was infected. I couldn’t bear the agony anymore. It was a desperate move. I forced myself to wear my combat boots.

The RI finally told me that there was a student who never graduated because of a severe foot infection. It totally worsened because the bones in his foot was also infected. He never survived the training. If he would continue the course, his foot might get amputated.

I would rather have an amputated foot than to quit the Scout Ranger course. That was my resolve.

“Okay! If that’s your decision, I will recommend that you will apply for a sick-call. There will be no confinement if you want to continue.” The RI suggested. I agreed with him. Confinement for 48 hours is considered as disqualification. The student will be recycled to the next class. If you will get sick during training, you will not graduate.

The clinic within the Scout Ranger Training School was not capable to treat my condition. They brought me to a civilian hospital. When I was there at the hospital, the doctor told me that I should not continue the course. His words stung like a bee. I felt very disappointed. I begged him if I could get more powerful dose of antibiotic shots. I even requested if I could bring a syringe during the FTX. I’ll inject it to myself every hour if necessary. I was so desperate. He was laughing. “You are really determined to become a Scout Ranger, huh?” He asked me. “I would rather die than not finishing the course, sir.” I told him with a resentful tone. He gave me a higher dose of pain relievers and antibiotics. He gave me antibiotic shots. “Good Luck, Lieutenant! I wish you could survive.”

God is good. I survived the FTX with a battered foot and combat boots.

I survived because of my determination. I took my worn-out combat boots and put it inside my duffel bag. I was ready to swim and take a bath in the river.

(To be Continued)      

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