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.
BEFORE IT STARTED
If Batman will fade into the dark, if Man of Steel himself debilitates of kryptonite and Wonder Woman is afraid of being in love then, Private First Class Eddie Carodona Jr. a fearless Marine who died in Marawi siege, somehow knew that he was going to die and yet, he’s ready for it.
Fourth in brood of seven, when he was young he wanted to be a law enforcer, known as a good brother, friendly and generous.
Eddie pursued his dream to protect his country. He studied at the Philippine College of Criminology in Manila. But in year 2012 he decided to join the Marines.
But behind every great man, stands a brave woman. Before he was assigned to Mindanao, Eddie visited the father of his girlfriend, who was working abroad, to ask for her hand in marriage. Because Eddie felt that they are destined to each other and he was so excited to give his “apelyido” surname to the woman he loves.
It’s a gloomy day of 29th of May in Manila, Eddie was unusually happy when he met his 28-year-old brother, Ronel.
That day, he showered a variety of jokes. The jokes sounded as if Eddie was leaving for good. Or as Ronel puts it together, “something that he had not done in the past.”
Eddie said to his brother that they should take advantage of his short break to take a selfie together. Saying it might be their last time together.
Before leaving for Marawi, Eddie washed all his clothes kept in his barracks in Fort Bonifacio and left his ATM card with his friend for his relatives. Showing that he really knew that he was going to die giving his ATM card for financial aspects for his beloved family.
During the fighting, Eddie texted his brother Ronel and their relatives telling them that they should call him now because they might not be able to call him again.
Ronel remembered sending Eddie a message asking him about his situation in the morning of June 09 but his brother failed to reply.
Eddie had also told him in earlier message that gunfire would not stop and that they had no chance to sleep.
Who would’ve thought that after that day, his brother will be sleeping forever?
THE DAY IT HAPPENED
Ronel revealed that he learned about his brother’s death on June 10 when the wife of another killed Marine soldier posted the photographs of those killed in Marawi siege on social media.
At first, they thought it was not Eddie. In denial. But when reality hit them, they finally realized that it was really Eddie.
Then a military officer called them that afternoon to confirm that Eddie was one of the 13 Marine Soldiers who were killed in the battle to retake Marawi City from the Islamic State- allied Maute terror group.
It may have burned down a deep hole in their hearts. In reality, losing a love one was never easy. A ton of pain and agony pushes you down that they just can’t find the way to move forward or forget. But Eddie’s family know for a fact that he died because he fought for his country.
Everyone looks up for a hero, everyone needs a hero. And a hero does not need to have extraordinary superpowers or capes… But those heroes who are just always there, these are people who are just as normal as we look like, but we always don’t have the time to take notice.
These kind of people needs to remember not just because they offered their time to protect our country but because their love, patriotism and loyalty are worth to remember.
“Just bomb my location, Sir!”
These were the last words of 24-year old Private First Class Dhan Ryan Bayot when he called his commanding officer before he succumbed to death in the hands of the Maute-ISIS terrorists.
Bayot’s team–consisting of 9 soldiers from the 51st Infantry Batallion—was stationed in a detachment in Barangay Lilod, Marawi City on the 2nd day of the Marawi siege, May 24. They were dispatched to the said post upon the request of a town mayor for added security as his residence was just above the detachment.
Moments later, they were attacked. A survivor said that aside from the shots from both sides of the road, gunfire also came from above. Apparently, the official’s house was already overtaken by the terrorists. The soldiers were too surprised that the volley of fire came from all directions.
Not long enough, five of his companions were dead. For some reason, three soldiers managed to escape and abandoned the post. (It was only learned later that the three were shot just the same, killing one and wounding the two).
Now alone and with nary a scratch, he radioed his commanding officer for reinforcement but no one came. A few hours later, he called again. The commanding officer told him that reinforcements attempted twice, but they couldn’t get through as the only passage to him was heavily entrenched by the enemies.
This time, sensing that death was more imminent than being rescued, he then gave his coordinates, and requested his commander to bomb his location so the enemies surrounding him will get hit too. “Bombahin nalang ninyo ang location ko Sir!,”(Just bomb my location Sir!) he told his commanding officer.
His dead body and of six of his comrades were retrieved on May 28—four days after they were killed.
One of those who retrieved his dead body was his father, Sgt. Larry Bayot of the Division Reconnaissance Company of the 1st Infantry Division. His father said that it took four units from different battalions of the Philippine Army to retrieve their bodies given the difficult terrain. He understands now why it was really hard to rescue his son.
Surprisingly, the father saw no bullet wounds on his son’s body that might have caused his death. Instead, he saw his son’s heavily deformed face and a deep bolo cut around his neck. Presumably, when he ran out of bullets the terrorists might have taken turns of bashing his face before slashing his neck in an attempt to behead him.
Although pained so much for the dastardly manner of his son’s death, the father never showed it. To a soldier, it’s always a ‘do-or-die-but never-question-why’ attitude.
The next day, the father brought his son’s body to bury him in the family’s hometown in Barangay Upper Pangi, Ipil, Zamboanga Sibugay. On June 2, a day after the burial, President Rodrigo Duterte went to his barangay to personally console him on his loss.
The president gave him the posthumous medal for his son, P250 thousand cash, and a pledge to fund for any young surviving family member’s education.
“Unsa pa man akong matabang nimo?” (What else do you need that I can be of help?) the President asked Sergeant Bayot. Bayot replied that his 18 year-old youngest son, who is the late PFC Ryan’s younger brother, wants to join the Army too. Maybe you can help him enlist in the army, Bayot told the president.
“No, not yet, he has to finish his college first, then after that maybe we can let him enter the army or even the police,” said Duterte.
The sergeant relented to his commander-in-chief.
Now, he is busy preparing the documents of his dead son while waiting to be called anytime for duty to the 1st Infantry Division whose jurisdiction includes Marawi City. His younger children will be off to college.
Ironically, the word bayot in Visayan means gay or coward. But for this particular family and for the neighbors who know them in Upper Pangi, Ipil, the word simply means ‘valor and patriotism’.
A good life for children whose parents were killed or injured in military operations can only happen with a good education. Presented by the AFP and EBSO, this run has always been an advocate of the joined forces between soldiers and civilians.
For registration, click here: Run for Orphans
Contact persons for Inquiries:
For Civilians contact: ZARINA at 09165217400 or email at email@example.com
For Military personnel and dependents contact: Major Michael James Navarro at 09778219300 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Camp Navarro, Calarian, Zamboanga City- November 23-26, 2016 – Fifty children coming from the province of Sulu will participate in the four-day educational tour launched by the Western Mindanao Command, Armed Forces of the Philippines, in collaboration with other agencies, organizations, and Malaysian authorities.
The Muslim Youth’s Educational Tour in Malaysia aims to expose the Muslim youth to a predominantly Muslim society that is peaceful and progressive due to adherence to the law and good governance.
The educational tour also seeks to motivate the participants to be advocates of peace, harmony and good governance, and to counter terrorism by being a force for positive and political change in their communities.
The young participants will be accompanied by facilitators representing the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), the National Youth Commission (NYC), the local government unit and the Department of Education (DepEd) of Sulu.
During the four-day educational tour, there will be team-building activities and lectures to be conducted on Malaysian customs and traditions.
Participants and facilitators are also expected to visit the Philippine Ambassador to Malaysia and the local chief executives of Kuala Lumpur. They will also have a tour of the different landmarks, such as the Malay village; the different Hindu, Buddhist and Christian centers; the Putrajaya, where participants will be briefed on the integration of Islamic laws to the legal system; and the Cyber Jaya, where they will be briefed on Malaysian cyber technology.
Participants will also interact with students, preferably from international schools, and other community leaders.
The participants were airlifted via C-130 from Sulu to the Edwin Andrews Air Base (EAAB) in Zamboanga City at around 9am today, November 22.
In summary, WesMinCom hopes that this youth of Sulu will be inspired to bring positive change and give hope, peace, and progress to be seen and experienced in Sulu for the next generation to cherish.
Photo credit: Fred MRM3N2 / #AARM2016
Capas, Tarlac– The ASEAN Armies Rifle Meet (AARM) 2016 kicked off after the joint flag raising ceremony of combat shooting contingents from (10) ASEAN countries at the AARM Grandstand in Camp O’Donnell, Capas, Tarlac at 7:30 a.m., November 21, 2016. The competing contingents are Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore, Vietnam, Brunie, Philippines, Laos, Myanmar, and Cambodia. After the flag raising ceremony, the army shooters started their controlled practice at the machine gun and pistol ranges. This international combat shooting event will culminate on December 7, 2016.
Commanding General Philippine Army Lt. Gen. Eduardo M. Año was the guest of honor and speaker during the ceremony. Gen. Año, was accompanied by the Task Force AARM Commander Brig. Gen.Herminigildo Franciso C. Aquino and members of the Executive Committee. The contingents were led by respective contingent commanders in honoring the flag of the member-state.
During the speech, Gen. Año said that champions are not born but they are made. “To be a champion, one must have the dream and the will”, Gen. Año said.
Meanwhile, Brig. Gen. Aquino who is also the Commander of the Philippine Army’s Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC), highlighted that this international event will help improve the capabilities of the soldiers as they are exposed in an international shooting match against the best armies in Asia. “Aside from promoting the goodwill and cooperation, the Philippine army soldiers will be able to showcase their marksmanship skills”. Brig. Gen. Aquino said.
The AARM is an annual combat shooting competition of ASEAN armies.
CPT ALBERTO C CABER /Chief, Public Affairs / Email: email@example.com / Facebook Fan Page: Training and Doctrine Command, Philippine Army / Mobile Number +639176308501
Camp Bautista, Sulu, Oct 20, 2016- Abu Sayyaf members must surrender to preserve countless lives. This is the sentiment of soldiers in Sulu as the BaSulTa Sub-Regional Human Rights Commission (RHRC) and Intenational Monitoring Team (IMT) for the peace process visit Joint Task Force Sulu (JTFS) 4pm Wednesday and whole of Thursday respectively.
The ARMM BaSulTa Sub-RHRC led by Atty Edy Lyn Santiago conferred with JTFS officers on status of human rights awareness of troops and was assured of the compliance of soldiers on Human Rights, International Humanitarian Law and the Rule of Law. JTFS officials cited the case of suspected ASG Pauji Asgari who was arrested last Tuesday. Asgari was treated well, brought to the hospital for medical check-up and was immediately given food.
The IMT on the other hand was led by Malaysian Maj. Gen. Datuk Wir Zamrose who conferred with JTFS and LGU officials on the status of peace process in the province.
Soldiers in Sulu are calling on the ASG to surrender in light of successive encounters which resulted to the death of many ASG members including the neutralization of the notorious Muktadil brothers and the arrest of Asgari by Army troops in Talipao, Sulu on Tuesday.
Soldiers said the arrest of Asgari is essentially a surrender since he did not put a fight. Troops of 41st Infantry Battalion pursuing a group of armed men apprehended Asgari on information of local residents and recovered an M16 assault rifle, ammunition, electric cords, combat pack, cellphone, hammock, motorcycle and Marine Battle Dress Attire.
Soldiers speaking in vernacular said “Its good he did not resist. He and his mother are now glad he is alive. We dont want anyone being killed but if he tried to shoot at us, we will have no choice but to shoot back”.
Asgari’s mother showed up a day after his arrest and thanked soldiers for their kind treatment on his son. JTFS officials assured her and all relatives of ASG that surrenderees will be treated well.
It may be recalled that AFP Chief of Staff, Gen. Ricardo Visaya made a call for the ASG to surrender to preserve lives and for them to have a new life. A week after, 21 ASG from Basilan surrendered.
Brig. Gen. Arnel dela Vega, JTFS commander is echoing the same, “We are calling on the ASG to surrender and stop these kidnapings and all un-Islamic activities so that they may be given chance to live, atone for their crimes and be with their families”.
Reports from communities indicate that many ASG want to surrender but are being held and intimidated by their leaders saying they will be killed by soldiers if they surrender. However, authorities say that is far from truth and that is part of coercion and misinformation ASG leaders feed to their members.
Brig. Gen. Dela Vega said “The humane treatment of our soldiers to the arrested ASG is a proof of the commitment of our toops in respecting Human Rights and protecting the lives of others even those of criminals”.
“We are all losers in this war specially the victims and the people of Sulu. Our soldiers die, many more on the ASG are killed and those who suffer most are the victims and innocent people being displaced due to the atrocities of the ASG”, Brig. Gen. Dela Vega concluded.
Since July, a total of 36 ASG were killed in Sulu and scores were wounded while the AFP suffered 15 killed in action and 28 wounded in action.
The focused military operation launched by the AFP since July resulted to the rescue and recovery of 16 hostages while a total of 12 kidnap victims remain to be rescued.
Released by: Information Support Team, JTF Sulu