Day: June 15, 2017
Marine Private Bernie John Lunas, 21, from Barangay Hindi, Bacacay town in Albay, one of the youngest of 13 Marines killed in action on June 9 in battle-scarred Marawi City has come home.
Bernie, who turned 21 last April 5, was the second son of Barangay Captain Juan and Jocelyn Lunas. The couple has three other children.
Cut down in his prime by a cruel war, Bernie was like any other young man from a family of modest means. An artist, he had dreamed of being an architect one day.
He took the entrance exams at Bicol University in Legazpi but did not make the cut because there was a quota for architecture. Instead, he enrolled in industrial design so he could shift to architecture later. Taking advantage of all opportunities available to him, Bernie also attended a Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) program in San Francisco, Malilipot town but was encouraged by a kababayan (townmate) to enlist in the military service.
Last Christmas Day, he went to Metro Manila to report to Fort Bonifacio and from there he was sent to Ternate, Cavite for military training.
His aunt, Evangeline Lunas-Baseloña, told The Manila Times that Bernie would have graduated in August from the rigid training at the Marine Corps.
She added that Bernie went home three times from the time he started military training. “His last visit to his family was last April during Holy Week break just before going through another schooling to be promoted.”
Private Bernie was first assigned to Marine Battalion Landing Team 7 in Sultan Kudarat but two weeks before completing his schooling he was pulled out on June 4 and sent to Marawi.
Six months before his death, Bernie posted a photo on his FB wall with signage 37th Marine Company, Marine Battalion Landing Team-7, Kalamansig Sultan Kudarat. Its caption – “die to be a hero.”
On Monday, Independence Day, Bernie’s father and his three younger siblings proceeded to Tactical Operations Group 5-Philippine Air Force headquarters along with other relatives and friends including Mayor Dinky Romano of Bacacay town to bring Bernie back home.
Like the other 12 Marines who fell in Marawi City, Bernie is home, a hero. But to his family and friends, it was not the homecoming they would have expected for this young man in uniform.
On Tuesday, Bernie’s father made the last journey home from Manila with his son as well as Bernie’s brother-in-arms Marine Cpl. Roland Sumagpang of Ocampo, Camarines Sur.
Their remains were flown home to Legazpi City on a C-295 flown by Philippine Air Force first woman pilot-in-command Maj. Geraldine Abigail Matienzo and co-pilot Maj. Floraine Reyes.
The fallen heroes were given arrival honors by members of the Southern Luzon Naval Forces led by Navforsol deputy commander Capt. Toribio Adaci Jr.
At home, Bernie’s mother Jocelyn and elder brother Aron John, 22, who recently passed the certified public accountancy board, silently waited for him.
Jocelyn could not come to terms with Bernie’s fate. She said the last time she talked to her son was on the night of June 8. “I was praying so hard for his safety and that the conflict in Mindanao will be resolved soon. That like the other young soldiers, he would be home soon,” she told The Manila Times.
On June 9, a Marine officer called her up saying that something happened to Bernie. Just like any mother, she held on, kept praying, hoping that her son was only wounded in the firefight. But the Marine officer gently broke the news – Bernie was one of 13 soldiers killed in action against the Maute group.
“My son was part of the clearing team in Marawi City when killed by the terrorists. I prayed hard that he will make it home to us,” she said in between sobs.
Private First Class Gener Tinangag never said anything about the hardship of his work as one of the Marines who risked his life in war-torn Marawi City at the height of the fighting between the government troops and the Maute Group last week.
“It’s okay now. At least my younger sister finished college” were the last words of the young Marine, according to his comrades, who then relayed them to his eldest sister Novelyn.
Novelyn described her brother as a sturdy young man, well focused in his responsibilities to his family, but he would not be dissuaded from his wanting to join the Marines.
“It’s a job and I am going to take it. Don’t worry. If it’s God’s will for me to die as a Marine, so be it. Everybody has to face death in their lifetime,” Pfc Tinangag told Novelyn and their mother when he learned that he was going to be stationed in Cotabato after his finishing his Marine basic training in Taguig.
His mother Marcia said she pleaded with him to finish his studies as a fourth year criminology student at the University of Baguio. She said her son only needed to finish one semester, a few months of on-the-job training (OJT), and then he would graduate with a Bachelor of Science in Criminology degree. But when he passed the exam at the Marine recruitment unit, he focused on joining the corps.
“He was so eager to work and help his siblings to finish their education, and he was also about to become a father to his now two-year-old son,” Marcia recalled.
“‘Ma, I do not like hunting for a job later after graduation,’ was his answer to me,” said his mother.
“I never thought he would be gone so soon, but now it is real,” she said. She added that she and her husband are still devastated over the death of their only son.
His father, Aram Tinangag, went ahead to their hometown in Kadaclan, Barlig, Mountain Province, to arrange for the burial site for their son, Marcia said. Pfc. Tinangag, 24, left his wife Jasmin Joy and two-year-old son Clark Mayner.
His comrades lauded him for his bravery in saving several wounded fellow Marines in the battlefield before he was shot by a sniper bullet during the Marine operation in Marawi. He was among the 13 Marines who lost their lives that day.
Sister Novelyn said his death pains their family so much. He was the only male in a brood of five “He was the third child. I never had any problems with him. He was always obedient, and focused on helping his family,” she added.
“We shared financial responsibilities in our younger siblings’ education; that is why maybe his last words were about our sister Jet, who recently graduated from college with a BS in Political Science,” Novelyn said.
Novelyn added that before the Marawi incident, Pfc. Tinangag was eager to have his few days vacation to see his family and son, whom he missed so much.
“I do not know how little Mayner can handle this,” Novelyn said. “Before we learned of his death, his son was heard saying, ‘Papa Boom,’”
“His comrades who rescued him said that he was still breathing when they carried him to the ambulance, after which he said to his comrades his last words before expiring at the hospital,” Novelyn. Said.