After Zamboanga, soldiers prepare for homes wrecked by quake
ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines – Sergeant Aimer Salamanca smiled as he boarded the military C130 plane that was to take him and other soldiers back to their base in Samar at noon Wednesday.
After fighting Moro National Liberation Front guerrillas here, Salamanca, a member of the 1st Scout Ranger Battalion, said he was psyching himself up for his eventual trip to a home wrecked by Tuesday’s killer quake.
“We are going home to a province in ruins after the earthquake,” said Salamanca, who had been in Zamboanga since September.
Salamanca’s family lives in the town of Dagohoy, just four kilometers from Carmen town, the epicenter of the magnitude-7.2 earthquake.
“I immediately called my wife and kid. They are safe but they are staying outdoors,” he said, adding he planned to ask for clearance to go home to Bohol as soon as he got back to his unit’s headquarters in Samar.
Like Salamanca, Pfc. Alejandro Bautista, 27, of Danao in Cebu, was worried about his parents and brothers.
“My brother’s house collapsed and cannot be lived in. I’m worried about my parents,” Bautista said.
He said his mother was extremely worried when he was sent to Zamboanga last September 11 to fight the MNLF forces. Now, it’s time for him to feel the same.
“I want to go home. I’m glad we are returning to our camp. It’s closer to Danao. I want to help my family,” Bautista added.
He said his parents and other relatives were staying outdoors. “They are like evacuees. They have no electricity and they constantly feel the aftershocks. What’s important is they are safe even if they have no place to live in,” Bautista said.
The 1st Scout Ranger Battalion helped secure the Zamboanga districts of Santa Barbara, Santa Catalina and Rio Hondo, considered the main conflict areas in the 23-day standoff with MNLF guerrillas. The soldiers also assisted residents when floods submerged large sections of the city last week.
Salamanca, Bautista and the rest of their battalion left for Samar at noon Wednesday. Two more Scout Ranger battalions, the 3rd and 4th, will be staying behind while clearing operations continue.
The soldiers “paid a very high price for saving our city,” Mayor Maria Isabelle Climaco Salazar said at Wednesday’s send-off ceremony.
At least 19 soldiers were killed and 167 others were wounded in the fighting that lasted for three weeks.
“My gratitude, my thank you is not enough,” the mayor said.
For Salamanca and Bautista, going back to their bases in Samar was good enough as, for one, they would be nearer their hometowns.
“That’s good enough,” Bautista said.
Salamanca said he would immediately ask for permission to visit his family in Bohol.
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