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WE STRIKE

THE night is very cold and damp. We are in position on the hilly portion of the road leading to San Leonardo waiting in ambush for the enemy to come out from the bushes. A tip from one of our informants tells us that a group of New Peoples Army communist rebels would be passing our area tonight en route to a plenum of the provincial party committee in the hinterlands of Nueva Vizcaya.

It is now close to 10 in the evening and our unit has been in position since 5 in the afternoon. But nary a sign of life except for the usual movements and chirpings of night birds and the sound of leaves of the trees brushing against each other as the monsoon winds sweep through their branches.
The sky is dark and it looks like the Philippine rainy season will start tonight. A perfect camouflage for our unit tasked to neutralize the enemy.

Then the night birds stop chirping. From a distance we could hear the dogs barking. There is a deafening silence among the members of the 7-man Army Scout Rangers team with their fingers ready on the trigger of their M-16s and M-14s as their eyes focus on the trail leading to the road from the jungle.

Another minute passes, then another long minute of anxiety for the rangers in the darkness. The tension is so strong that all you could hear is the sound of your own heart beating but the enemies are nowhere in sight.

Patiently, we wait . . . All of a sudden their presence is announced by the smell of burning tobaccos from their cigarettes. In fact, the air is heavy and filled by its aroma that only an untrained soldier and a fool would miss them.

From the bushes come the lead scout followed by their kumander and the rest of the kadres. Since our eyes are already adjusted to the darkness we are able to identify their leader as Ka Greg, the head of the provincial party committee. The rebels come out in groups of four and we estimate their strength to be about 30-strong, majority of which are only in their teens with three amazons.

As soon as the last kadre emerge from the bushes, I fire my baby armalite hitting Ka Greg in the forehead signaling my men to fire at the rebels at will.

The skirmish lasts about 15 minutes.

After the smoke of the gun battle clears, Ka Greg and 10 of his men including an amazon lay dead on the unpaved dirt road.

The rebels retreat while firing their guns at us to the nearby forest undercover of darkness carrying with them their wounded comrades.

We stay put and wait for our reinforcements to arrive and at sunrise return to our command post for a hot breakfast of fried tuyo, kamatis and sinangag.

The encounter is no big deal for us, for in the next few days, we will again embark in a search and destroy operations for the remnants of Ka Greg's unit. This is our life. Our story.

"Walang personalan. Trabaho lang, ika nga."

#Bill Mitsuru T. Shimizu (August 9, 2001)

*published in The Literary Section of the Sunday Times Magazine/ October 19, 2003 "We Strike and other soldier tales."

Emailme: Scoutranger70@hotmail.com

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Philippine Army's First Infantry "Tabak" Division Troopers.

Brothers In Arms

High Noon. The sound of the 21- gun salute for a fallen comrade broke the muted silence of grieving people in the Libingan ng mga Bayani one rainy Saturday of June in the year of the Fox.
 

Taps was being played on a solitary trumpet when the proud Officers and men of the 9th Special Forces Company (Airborne) PA stood in attention as their Commanding Officer gave the folded Philippine Flag to the widow of Lt. Emil Sambajon, the Companys Operation Officer who gave his life for the country in an encounter with Communist rebels in the hinterlands of Negros Occidental.
 
Its been years since that fateful day yet the scenes and the players are very much alive in my mind. Vividly, I remember...

 
Emil and I were buddies and Mistahs at the Philippine Military Academy and both chose to serve in the Army after graduation. After finishing from the SF School in Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija, we were assigned in the so-called CHICKS (Candoni, Hinobaan, Ilog, Cauayan, Kabankalan, Sipalay) area in Negros then the hotbed of Communist insurgency in the country as the Operations and Intelligence Officers respectively of the SF Company in the area with the task of training the Cafgus (Citizens Armed Forces Geographical Units) and other CVOs in counter-insurgency operations.
 
When we arrived at our Command Post, a fuming and grumbling Negros Island Army Commander, Gen. Raymundo Jarque greeted us because the massive military operations against the rebels codenamed: Operation Thunderbolt was getting all the flaks and criticisms from all sectors because of the issue of low intensity conflicts and hamletting being perpetrated by the Army.
 
We then turned to Col. Victor Corpuz Oplan Lambat- Bitag, a plan that focused on the concept of winning the hearts and minds of the people through civic- military actions rather than by military actions alone. We successfully conducted teach- ins, conducted medical missions and fielded SOTs that resulted in the dwindling of support by the people to the guerilla movement.
 
Then it happened. We were conducting reconnaissance patrols when we stumbled into a big NPA camp. A running gun battle ensued with the rebels retreating and dragging their dead and wounded comrades with them. After the smoke of the mopping up operations has cleared, a single shot from an M-14 broke the tense air and I saw Emils head snapped back as a lone sniper camouflaged by the dense vegetation of the forest shot him. We all dropped to the ground and a firefight erupted but the sniper escaped into the dark recesses of the jungle.
 
After my stint in Negros came the next assignment to Bicol then to Margosatubig, Zamboanga del Sur as the Operations Officer of the Riverinne component of our unit fighting on two fronts against the NPA and Muslim rebels in the jungles and marauding pirates and bandits on the waters off the coast of the Zamboanga Peninsula where I was awarded the Gold Cross for Gallantry in Action and promoted to the next higher rank. But after the bloody 1989 December Coup attempt that pitted many of my Mistahs against each other, I left the service disenchanted.
 
I went to hibernation and drifted for a year trying to exercise my demons until an old friend who was in Medical school invited me to take the NMAT and luckily I passed. I then enrolled at the UERMMMC College of Medicine wherein I graduated with a Degree in Medicine. At present, Im doing my Post Graduate Internship at the AFP Medical Center taking care of the brave soldiers who were wounded in the countless battles waged between the AFP on one hand and the NPA & MILF rebels as well as the Abu Sayyaf bandits on the other so that people can live in peace
 
Looking into the eyes of these gallant men in uniforms, some of them are battered and scarred forever-I can say this with great conviction in my heart that its good to be back in the company of my Brothers in Arms.
#063001

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