PJ mistook father’s coffin for wide cell phone screen
ZAMBOANGA CITY—“Papa, Papa” was all 11-month-old Peter John, or PJ, could say as he tapped the glass panel of the coffin in a chapel at Barangay Canelar here.
Inside the coffin was his father, Sgt. Jobert Cofino, 28, one of the 13 soldiers killed in the fighting with Islamic State-inspired terrorists in Marawi City on June 9.
“PJ learned to say ‘Papa’ because my husband, when he was still alive, made regular calls, and most of the time video calls, for PJ,” said Pronielyn, Cofino’s common-law wife.
Pronielyn said PJ might have mistaken the glass panel for a wide mobile phone screen, seeing his father there.
A day before he died, Cofino called Pronielyn and spoke to his son.
He also called his mother, Aida, at noon of June 8. “He told me to take care of his son and Pronielyn no matter what happens. I promised him that I will. He said he missed his family so much,” Aida said.
Pronielyn said when she and her husband last talked by phone on Thursday, Cofino said “they were extremely exhausted from running.”
“He said they kept on running and taking cover. There were snipers everywhere,” she said.
Both Pronielyn and Aida said it was the first time Cofino had shared what was happening while he was fighting in Marawi.
Cofino was used to the rigors of military life. He was the family’s breadwinner. His father, an amputee, could hardly support a family of five. When Cofino finished high school, he worked at odd jobs until he joined the Philippine Marines nine years ago.
“It was really my son’s dream to become a Marine. Everyone here in the community knows his dreams. He was young then when he got the opportunity,” said Cofino’s father, Ricardo.
Cofino was supposed to return to work after his Christmas break but he asked for a weeklong extension so he could help rebuild the family house, which was destroyed in a fire in December. He was on marksmanship training in Tarlac province when his company was called to report to Marawi.
Another fallen Marine
On Friday night, Pronielyn and Aida received reports that the 37th Marine Company suffered casualties. They prayed hard that Cofino was not among the casualties. They received the confirmation through a phone call from the Philippine Marines.
“At first I thought it was a sick joke. We were in denial,” Pronielyn said.
On Tuesday, another Marine killed in an ambush in Marawi on Friday, Cpl. John Romulo Caresosa, was taken home to San Miguel, Bohol province, and was given full military honors
Caresosa was given a posthumous military merit award for his gallantry in action. The medal with a bronze spearhead was traditionally pinned on the left chest of the awardee. In the case of Caresosa, his medal was placed on the left side of the glass on his coffin.
The remote town of Barlig in Mountain Province will be welcoming home its first son to join the Marines, another casualty of the Maute group attack on the Marines on Friday.
On Sunday, Pfc. Gener Tinangag, 23, will be buried near the family house in Barangay Lunas in Barlig.
After pulling to safety two of his companions, Tinangag was killed by a sniper’s bullet, according to his family.
“It is hard to accept that he is dead,” Tinangag’s mother, Marcia, said at a funeral home in Baguio where the Marine’s body would lie for a night before the eight-hour trip to Barlig.
A criminology graduate, Tinangag was the only boy among five siblings. His two older sisters were also criminology graduates while the youngest sister is studying forensic science.
Tinangag was set to marry his fiancée, Jasmine Escobido, and witness the baptism of their 2-year-old son, Clark Mayner, next year. —WITH REPORTS FROM KARLSTON LAPNITEN AND LEO UDTOHAN
Inquirer calls for support for the victims in Marawi City
Responding to appeals for help, the Philippine Daily Inquirer is extending its relief to victims of the attacks in Marawi City
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