‘Ang ma­matay nang dahil sa ‘yo’

A sol­dier’s story on de­fend­ing Philip­pine in­de­pen­dence

Cebu Daily News - - FRONT PAGE - by Nes­tle L. Semilla

For the coun­try’s sol­diers, there is no bet­ter way to show pa­tri­o­tism than to risk their lives in order to pre­serve Philip­pine in­de­pen­dence.

Trained for ac­tion, mem­bers of the Armed Forces of the Philip­pines (AFP) re­spond to or­ders, al­most with­out miss­ing a beat, to per­form their duty to pro­tect and de­fend the coun­try.

For Lt. Col. Christo­pher Tam­pus, cur­rent sec­re­tary of the Philip­pine Army Gen­eral Office, mem­o­ries are fresh of a war valiantly fought by his men.

It was the war that broke in Marawi City, Lanao del Sur, last year against the Maute group, also known as the Is­lamic State of Lanao.

“For us sol­diers, if the time comes that we are called to do our share then you have to do it. Even to the point on sac­ri­fic­ing your life. That is our pledge,” said Tam­pus, a na­tive of Danao City, north­ern Cebu.

Tam­pus was one of more than six thou­sand sol­diers sent to Marawi to com­bat the rad­i­cal Is­lamic group and ji­hadist fight­ers dur­ing what came to be known as the big­gest ur­ban bat­tle in Philip­pine mod­ern his­tory.

He was then com­man­der of the Philip­pine Army’s 1st Bat­tal­ion based in Lu­zon.

Tam­pus re­called that when they re­ceived the order to go to Marawi, they barely had time to say good­bye to their fam­i­lies.

But say­ing good­bye to his wife and chil­dren was not as dif­fi­cult for Tam­pus as it was for his men.

Ac­cord­ing to the bat­tle-tested mil­i­tary of­fi­cer, his fam­ily had al­ready got­ten used to the na­ture of his job, and he had their full sup­port.

“I’m used to mov­ing to a lot of places so dili lisod (it was not dif­fi­cult) for my fam­ily,” said Tam­pus.

But it was dif­fer­ent for many of his 500 men who were mostly first timers in Min­danao.

After re­ceiv­ing the mis­sion order to go to Marawi, Tam­pus said that they were only given less than a day to pre­pare for the big move.

“We did not have enough time to pack our things, not enough time to see our fam­i­lies or even just call or text them,” said Tam­pus.

“I had to talk to them, ex­plained to them and to their fam­i­lies,” he added.

A few of the sol­diers even asked to be dis­charged from the ser­vice, Tam­pus re­counted.

“Naay mga gag­may lang ni­in­gon nga ‘dili nalang mi mouban, sir. Mo­gawas nalang mi sa ser­bisyo’ (There were a few who said, ‘Sir, we’re not go­ing. We’d rather be dis­charged from ser­vice). But as their com­man­der, I talked to them and ev­ery­body un­der­stood,” said Tam­pus.

Fear of death

Tam­pus told CEBU DAILY NEWS that as they fought the Maute group and Abu Sayyaf ter­ror­ists in Min­danao the sol­diers were in con­stant fear of their lives.

“Naa kay fear sa imong life that you will die. Fear sa life sa imong mga tawo (You fear for your life that you will die. You fear for the lives of your men),” he said.

“But mopatig­babaw sa imoha ang love and re­spon­si­bil­ity to the coun­try. Mo take over sa amoang sense nga we need to pro­tect and serve the peo­ple (But the fears are over­shad­owed by our love and re­spon­si­bil­ity to the coun­try. The sense that we need to pro­tect and serve the peo­ple takes over),” Tam­pus added.

Dur­ing the Marawi siege in which lasted five months fromMay 23 to Oc­to­ber 23, 2017, Tam­pus lost one of his men in bat­tle while at least 20 others were wounded.

“De­spite the dif­fi­cul­ties, we never lost hope be­cause we had the right sup­port and good lead­er­ship; sup­port from the peo­ple, from our Pres­i­dent and from our higher ups,” said Tam­pus in Ce­buano.

Tam­pus ex­plained that as bat­tal­ion com­man­der, he al­ways had to put up a strong front be­fore his men to show to them that the mis­sion can be ac­com­plished.

“We had to fo­cus on our mis­sion,” said Tam­pus, adding that when the 1st bat­tal­ion was called to help govern­ment forces in Marawi, there had al­ready been a lot of hostages that needed to be res­cued.

“It was a dif­fi­cult sit­u­a­tion. We are used to jun­gle fight­ing like the one in the moun­tains of Basi­lan. This ur­ban fight­ing was very rare,” Tam­pus said.

“It was one of the big­gest ur­ban war or fight­ing. So we had to ad­just to the sit­u­a­tion,” added Tam­pus.

Through­out the war, Tam­pus said that the sol­diers were not able to go home to their fam­i­lies, one of the many sac­ri­fices that they had to un­dergo.

“Mis­sion first and fam­ily comes sec­ond for us,” de­clared Tam­pus.

While sol­diers were re­lieved that the bat­tle in Marawi has fi­nally ended after sev­eral months of fight­ing, Tam­pus said they con­tin­ued to be wary about the pres­ence of ter­ror­ists’ sym­pa­thiz­ers in other ar­eas of the coun­try.

Also, a lot of things still needed to be done in Marawi City to re­store the war-torn city.

“It is very sad. A lot of peo­ple died on our side, civil­ians and the en­e­mies. They were also Filipinos,” said Tam­pus.

As the coun­try com­mem­o­rated the 120th an­niver­sary of Philip­pine In­de­pen­dence on Tues­day, Tam­pus spoke from the heart of one who had bat­tled to de­fend it.

“We need the unity of our peo­ple to re­ally stand for our in­de­pen­dence. We have earned this one. We should re­mem­ber our his­tory that many peo­ple sac­ri­ficed a lot for this. When the time comes that we need to do our share, we should all do it,” he said.

When I en­tered PMA, I chose the army be­cause deep in my heart I know I can serve the coun­try more by join­ing the army.

CON­TRIB­UTED PHOTO/ 2ND INFANTRY DI­VI­SION

Lt. Col. Christo­pher Tam­pus (sec­ond from left stand­ing) of Danao City, north­ern Cebu, was com­man­der of the Philip­pine Army 1st Bat­tal­ion in Lu­zon when the war in Marawi City broke out last year.

INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

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