LAPU-LAPU CITY—The last time Petty Officer 3 Jose Audrey Bañares sent a text message to his wife, Nene, from Zamboanga City on Sunday night, he said he was with his Navy unit on its way to a mission in Basilan province.
The next morning, Nene received a call informing that her husband was among those killed in a skirmish with armed followers of Nur Misuari.
Bañares’ body was brought back to his family in Cebu province in a wooden coffin on a C-130 plane, which landed at Mactan Benito Ebuen Air Base here on Tuesday afternoon. Navy SEALs in tiger uniforms carried the coffin.
“He was OK when he left. Now he’s in a coffin,” Nene said, sobbing. “He’s a very good man, and now he’s gone too soon.”
Bañares was given a hero’s welcome by Lt. Gen. Roy Deveraturda, chief of the Armed Forces Central Command (Centcom); Commodore Reynaldo Yoma, Naval Forces Central (Navforcen) chief; and Brig. Gen. Edwin Manuel Remotigue, 2nd Air Division deputy commander.
“The courage and the heroism he showed manifests what a Filipino soldier is. We (soldiers) are ready to sacrifice our lives to serve our fellow Filipinos and our country,” Deveraturda said in an interview.
“He is a hero. We should be proud of him. I am sad [about his death] but what I can say is this proves that the Filipino soldier will not hesitate to fulfill his duty even if it means losing his life.” he added.
A native of Barangay (village) Cansagibo at Tabuelan town in northwest Cebu province, Bañares was the youngest of nine children, two of whom are serving in the Philippine Navy, one in the Philippine Army, and another in the Philippine National Police.
Bañares served in the Naval Special Operations Group (Navsog) for 18 years.
He and Nene met in Lapu-Lapu City in 2011 when he was assigned to Navforcen. They married a year later.
On March 3, Bañares was reassigned to Zamboanga, separating him from his family, who lived in Barangay Canjulao.
Banares’ first child, a boy, was born on June 22. He was away on duty.
He saw his son for the first and last time in July when the child was baptized. He and Nene named their son Kent John.
Nene said her husband always told her where he was. He told her he planned to ask to be sent back to Cebu so he could be with his family.
At 8:41 p.m. on Sunday, Nene received a text message from him that he and his team were about to go on a mission to Basilan. At 8 a.m. the next day, she called him up, but no one answered.
An hour later, a soldier called her up using her husband’s cell phone to inform her that he had been killed in action.
According to Lt. Mark Anthony Colina of Navsog, Bañares was the gunner of the unit ordered to secure a river in Zamboanga City to prevent the entry of the “main force” of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) faction led by Misuari.
The group encountered around 100 MNLF members in 10 boats. Bañares was killed and six other Navy men were wounded in the fighting.
Colina has served with Bañares in Navsog for four to five years. He described Bañares as “a brave soldier who is dedicated to serving his country.”