As told to Ayessa De La Peña.
I could not recall exactly how young I was when I first knew that my father was a soldier, but what made me realize what his job was were the photographs of him wearing a uniform and holding a gun. I always feel so proud of my father whenever I see him in those pictures. I always sense his sincerity and courage in every way, so I always thought my father was invincible as a soldier. And indeed, he is!
I always feel so proud of my father whenever I see him in those pictures. I always sense his sincerity and courage in every way, so I always thought my father was invincible as a soldier.
Being so young back then, I could not fully comprehend the risk in my father's occupation. I could say that the longing my brother and I had to be with him was never comparable to the worry and fear that my mother felt because she was the one in the family who knew first how my father was doing. There were also so many things she didn't and couldn't tell me and my brother because our minds and hearts were still too young to handle the complexity of his job.
But there were also times when my mother didn't know anything at all. There were times when she had to wait for hours and hours until official updates from the authorities were given to soldiers' families.
I remember that time when my father went missing-in-action (MIA) in Basilan. According to my father, that operation happened in an unfamiliar and hostile location where they were outnumbered by the rebels, plus the fact their official insisted on attacking the enemies' camp without sufficient information and planning. He never disclosed the official's name out of respect for him as a soldier. I only found out about that a few years ago, and I have to salute both my father and mother for being so strong in those very difficult times.
Whenever he had to report for duty, my father never bid me and my younger brother goodbye. He always left at dawn while we were still sleeping. During his absence, I just remember asking my mother where my father was when I woke up and noticed that he was no longer around. Every time, she told us he went back to work already. It was automatic for me and my brother that time to think that he's going to be away for a long time again, without us knowing exactly in what part of Mindanao he's rendering his service to the Motherland.
Whenever he had to report for duty, my father never bid me and my younger brother goodbye. He always left at dawn while we were still sleeping.
What I hate most about his job is the fact that we only had very few moments to spend with him. My father had the habit of bringing us a new set of toys or clothes or any material gifts each time he came home to see us, but still none of those could take away the sadness we felt after waking up the next day and not seeing him again.
My father had the habit of bringing us new set of toys or clothes or any material gifts each time he came home to see us, but still none of those could take away the sadness we felt after waking up the next day and not seeing him again.
But what I also love most about his job is his privilege to serve our country, which only a few have the courage to make. It is something my father will have the honor of carrying with him for the rest of his life. I also love thinking about the kind of training that a soldier has to go through, which makes him a superhuman in my eyes. Until now, I am amazed at how sharp and strong my father is.
It's not always sad and heartbreaking to have a soldier for a dad, though. My happiest memory with him was the day I passed the accounting board exam. It was the happiest memory I have with him because I knew then that the man I look up to the most was proud of me. He and my mother have always believed in my capabilities and finally, on that day I was able fulfil their dreams for me. There were many more moments as equally fulfilling and joyful as that day and I always thank God for the moments that He allowed us to celebrate life together with my father.
My father (left), in uniform, carrying around 25kg machine gun and bullets. During operations, he carries at least 50kg of weapon in possession. Imagine carrying that load while constantly keeping watch against the enemies of the State. His team leader (right), also in uniform, carrying a grenade launcher. They were both members of the Scout Ranger. This photo was taken in Sulu.
My father has stopped working now and yet, honestly, there are still times that I think maybe I am selfish to be thankful that my father is no longer in the military service for many years already because that means he is already away from the dangers of his job. I think no child would dream of their father having that kind of life.
Nowadays, I love spending time with him while we talk about his experiences. One thing that I could really not forget was his confession that whenever he and his mates were in combat, they've already accepted that they'd end up dying so they fought without holding back. To him, it was the kind of job that is both a duty and a privilege at the same time.
Whenever he and his mates were in combat, they've already accepted that they'd end up dying so they fought without holding back. To him, it was the kind of job that is both a duty and a privilege at the same time.
After those years of sharing with us what he and his fellow soldiers went through in his eight years of service, I was awakened to the truth that we, the civilians, should be very grateful for the lives of our soldiers who vowed to protect us with their own lives. Isn't it amazing that the war is happening in Mindanao, but it couldn't spread beyond the city or territory where it first broke?
My father and mother today.
I couldn't imagine what life would be here in Southern Philippines if our soldiers aren't here to keep the situation under control. We should always appreciate the freedom and comfort that we experience every day at the expense of our soldiers' freedom, comfort, and lives—and even their families' peace.
To our soldiers who are selflessly laying down their lives for the Motherland and the Filipino people, I'm sorry for all the times I took my liberty for granted. I am sorry if I didn't offer my prayers for you as much as you needed them. I am sorry that we took you away from your families because we need brave men and women like you to keep us safe.
You have big hearts, hearts that are full of courage and hope for our country. All of you are worth our tears and so much more whenever we think about all your sacrifices and hardships. It is not an accident that you are where you are now. You simply responded to God's calling to serve our country with your strength and your lives; He will surely bless you and your families for that.
We honor all the soldiers, especially those who are in Mindanao at the moment, fighting to bring back peace and order in the country while putting their lives at risk. We honor their families and loved ones who are also in this fight with them.