MANILA, Philippines?The Armed Forces of the Philippines is reveling in the praise and good publicity generated by the three soldiers who stood at attention for almost nine hours on the adorned truck that bore the casket of former President Corazon Aquino last week.
For a ranking Navy officer, the AFP?s overall participation in the Aug. 5 funeral brought ?vindication? for the military, which Aquino once regarded with ?distrust? because of her bitter experience under martial law.
Rear Admiral Alexander Pama, commander of naval forces in Western Mindanao, said he got goose bumps watching how the military accorded its highest honors to a former Commander in Chief.
In a text message from Zamboanga City, Pama noted the ?profound symbolism and irony? behind the ceremonies performed at the funeral by the AFP, from the honor guard to the generals.
?The military (in 1986) offered Crame for her swearing in as President for security reasons, but she refused because she was distrustful of the military. It was an understandable distrust, given her very bad experience with the martial law military,? the Navy officer said.
?Today, though, the military is vindicated. Mga kamay na naghatid sa kanya, kamay ng sundalo (The hands that brought her to her final resting place were that of soldiers),? said Pama, who also heads Task Force Trillum, an anti-kidnapping and antiterrorist unit operating in Mindanao.
Citing the ?exemplary performance? of the three members of the honor guard on the truck, the AFP is awarding merit medals to Private First Class Antonio Cadiente, Airman Second Class Gener Laguindam and Petty Officer 3 Edgardo Rodriguez, in rites to be held Monday at Camp Aguinaldo, the AFP?s general headquarters.
The merit medal is given to a soldier for heroic achievements in combat or for the excellent performance of one?s duty.
?The AFP is very, very happy because we are able to highlight the military organization?s discipline,? AFP spokesperson Lt. Col. Romeo Brawner said Sunday.
?We are really very proud because through them, the AFP is able to show its discipline not only in [times] of war,? Brawner added.
Hectic week ahead
The three members of the honor guard face a hectic week with scheduled television appearances on morning news programs and even game shows, apart from interviews by local and foreign media, Brawner told the Inquirer.
The three have been invited, for example, to appear on ABS-CBN?s ?The Singing Bee,? a karaoke-cum-spelling contest hosted by actor Cesar Montano.
An upcoming Time magazine issue featuring the late President Aquino would also mention the three soldiers, Brawner added.
Cadiente, Laguindam, Rodriguez and another honor guard, Police Officer 1 Danilo Malab Jr., reaped praises for enduring long hours standing next to Aquino?s casket during the 22-kilometer funeral march.
The escorts stood motionless on the flatbed truck, without food or toilet breaks, as the cortege inched its way through thick crowds from Manila Cathedral in Intramuros to Manila Memorial Park in Parañaque City.
The nine-hour service was, by far, the longest to be rendered nonstop by any individual honor guard in recent history, according to the AFP.