Tears, wails mark arrival of Marines’ remains at camp
Tears and wails of agony from their grieving relatives on Sunday pierced the silence inside Marine headquarters in Fort Bonifacio as the remains of seven Marines killed in an encounter in Sulu last week were brought here.
Even their battle-hardened colleagues, trained to keep their emotions to themselves, were struck by grief, their moistened eyes betraying them.
Navy and Marine personnel lined the streets in the camp to pay their last respects, snapping salutes as each of the seven hearses passed by on the way to the auditorium.
The seven were 2nd Lt. Michael Baladad, Sgt. Desiderio Serdan Jr., Corporals Ramsel Laynesa, Claro Lapasaran III and Freddie Castellano Jr., Private First Class Juanito Evasco Jr. and Private Nico Tinambunan.
They were killed during an encounter with the Abu Sayaff in Patikul, Sulu.
Baladad’s widow Michelle broke down upon seeing her husband in his casket, her wails bringing relatives and friends to tears as well.
Michelle said she last saw her husband in March when they tied the knot.
“He was supposed to come home in August for a rest,” she said. “We planned to bring our kids to the Manila Zoo and the children were looking forward to it.”
While serving in Mindanao, Michelle said her husband often kept in touch with her, informing her of the operations of his team. She last spoke to her husband on Wednesday.
The junior officer left behind his wife and children Macky, 6, and Mikayla, 2.
“They haven‘t grasped the situation yet,” she said, looking at her children. “What I told them was that their daddy is in heaven already.”
“But what I don’t know how to do is to explain to them what happened to their father when they grow up,” she continued.
She always expressed her concern to her husband, “but Michael would tell me that I should be prepared for anything.”
“The question on my mind right now is how would I raise my children?” she said.
The families of all the fallen Marines would receive a pension and all financial obligations due them, said Lt. Cherryl Tindog, acting public affairs chief of the Marine Corps.
They will also receive P250,000 each from the President’s Social Fund, according to Malacañang.
President Aquino last night presented the Gold Cross, the third highest posthumous award, to the slain Marines for their “gallantry in action.”
The Marines were also posthumously promoted to the next rank, with Mr. Aquino presenting their rank insignia to their loved ones.
The President condoled with the families at the Marines auditorium last night. He was accompanied by Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Eduardo Oban.
Navy spokesperson Lt. Col. Omar Tonsay clarified that only two of the Marines were beheaded.
Two others were “severely hacked,” he said.
Five of the caskets were open for viewing, while two others were closed per the familes’ request.
Tonsay said all top-level Navy and Marine officials in Manila and Cavite attended the welcome rites for the dead, the highest heroes’ honor given to soldiers who died in combat.
Naval stations across the country flew their flags at half mast to mourn the Marines. With a report from Christine O. Avendaño
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.