MARAWI CITY, Philippines – First Lieutenant Geraldo Alvarez of the 5th Mechanized Infantry Battalion, Philippine Army is now ready to go back to the front line after recovering from the wound he sustained from the main battle area here.
On the first day of the siege, Alvarez led the rescue mission across the Mapandi Bridge, where the Daesh-inspired extremists blocked government troops with a bomb car while civilians were passing by to escape to a safer place.
He said he was with 20 soldiers and two armored vehicles as they crossed the bridge.
“Inisip ko, iyon na ‘yong killing zone. Sabi ko dapat mawala na kami dito sa killing zone na ‘yun (I thought about it, that it was the killing zone. I said we should be able to get out of this killing zone),” he said in an interview with the media.
Soon, a rocket-propelled grenade was fired and hit one of the vehicles. “Sumabog, parang minaso ‘yung sasakyan namin, umuga, tapos lahat nakasigaw ‘Sir, may tama ako..’ Tapos may sumisigaw na kasi ng Allahu Akbar, ipi-finishing na kami (Our vehicle exploded. It was so loud like we were hammered and everyone shouted ‘I’m hit’. Then there were those shouting Allahu Akbar and were about to finish us),” Alvarez recalled.
He said the attack was deadly that when he shouted “dismount” to his men, he saw one of them cannot walk anymore.
“Di na pala maka-dismount ‘yong mga tao ko sa sasakyan. ‘Yun na ‘yung time na napansin ko na si Sgt. Wa-o di na pala makalakad. Sabi niya, ‘Sir, may tama ako Sir!’ Dahil gusto niyang sumunod, nilaglag nalang muna niya sarili niya dun sa may armored vehicle para gumapang siya, i-secure niya ang harapang bahagi ng armored vehicle ko (My men cannot dismount from the vehicle anymore. That’s when I saw Sgt. Wa-o who cannot walk. He said ‘Sir, I’m hit’. He tried to come with us so he let himself fall from the armored vehicle and crawled and secured the front part of the vehicle),” he said.
“Pagtingin ko dun sa may ano, may isa na nakahandusay na tao ko si Private Purlas. Pagsandal ko sa kanya wala na pala siyang pulso tapos nakita ko humiwalay na ‘yong baywang niya (Then I saw one of my men Private Purlas was lying on the ground. I let him leaned and found out he has no pulse and I saw his waist was dismembered),” he added.
Alvarez said, one of his men was also badly wounded and lost his foot but still wanted to fight as he looked for his gun and asking where his “sector” was until he expired. “Sabi niya, ‘Sir saan ‘yung sector ko, sabi ko huwag ka munang makialam sa sector, kami na ang bahala dito. Pero nung time na ‘yun, naayos niya ang sarili niya hanggang sa nalagutan na siya ng hininga (He said ‘Sir where’s my sector?’ I told him don’t think about it we will handle it. But at that time he died too),” he continued.
Lt. Alvarez said they were trying to clear some houses where they could position themselves but around a hundred enemies were firing at them coming from different positions. Some fighters were children, he said.
“Pero may dalang baril. Ayaw namin tirahin pero agresibo silang tumira. Sabi ko, no choice tayo (They have guns. We don’t like to fire at them but they were aggressive, I said we have no choice),” he recalled.
After five days, Alvarez group was rescued but lost four comrades: Technical Sergeant Jessie B. Santos who was killed by the enemy’s sniper, Private First Class Angelo Estores, Jr., Private Junie Berth R. Purlas, and Pvt. Roel M. Cabonita, Jr., who were killed in the rocket-propelled grenade explosion.
“Iyong apat na nagbuhis ng buhay, sabi ko hindi po sila nasayang kasi sila po ‘yong lalong nagpatibay sa akin, na lalo nilang ipinaalala sa akin ‘yong will to fight na habang may mga sugat sila, naghahanap sila ng sector. Iyong mga wounded ko po kahit na may mga tama na sa mata, lumalaban pa rin (I lost four men but their death is what makes me strong and gives me the will to continue fighting. Even if they are wounded they still want to fight),” Alvarez said crying.
Alvarez is now a candidate of Medal of Valor.
On the 76th day of the Marawi crisis, August 5, the death toll on the side of the government troops has risen to 125. The Joint Task Force Marawi claimed more than 500 were killed from the
terror group and more than 600 firearms were recovered by the government forces from the Maute group’s former position.
The military said more than 40 civilians were killed by the terrorist group while more than 1,700 civilians were rescued.(davaotoday.com)