Capt. Roy Trinidad, officer and gentleman
Shouts of excitement in the newsroom of radio station dwIZ greeted the mention by US President Barack Obama of Philippine Navy Capt. Roy Trinidad on Tuesday.
The shouts came from my staff at “Isumbong Mo Kay Tulfo” who were watching Obama on TV at ceremonies held at the American War Memorial in Fort Bonifacio as my program was on the air.
I was inside the radio booth but I heard the shouts of my staff in the newsroom.
They recognized Trinidad as the energetic, good-looking uniformed military officer walking with a swagger—as most military officers do—who put some sense into the chaotic government relief efforts, or lack of it, in the few days immediately after Supertyphoon “Yolanda.”
I’m sure the doctors at St. Luke’s Medical Center, led by Sammy Tanzo, would also have reacted the same way as my staff did had they caught the US President mention Trinidad as one of the main characters in “an incredible story that captures the strength” of US-Philippine partnership.
We were witness to how Trinidad, in the very early days of the government relief efforts in the devastated places of Leyte and Samar after Yolanda, commanded American and Filipino troops sent to Eastern Visayas.
I saw how Trinidad apportioned the limited food supply in his hands among the American and Filipino soldiers who were at the Tacloban City airport or what remained of it after Yolanda.
When the Philippine Airlines plane that carried the medical and mercy mission, which Dr. Tanzo and I headed, landed at the Tacloban City airport in the early morning of Nov. 11, 2013, three days after the strongest storm on earth pummeled Leyte, Eastern Samar and some parts of the Visayas, Roy Trinidad was there to meet us.
Trinidad assigned us at the foot of the leaning airport tower which we turned into a hospital to treat the sick and injured jostling for a ride out of Tacloban.
While Dr. Tanzo and his St. Luke’s doctors treated the patients assisted by my staff who served as nursing aides, I was able to closely observe Trinidad at work.
Calm in the midst of the pandemonium around him, Trinidad did the Philippines proud when elite American troops assigned to help in the relief efforts followed his orders.
As a Navy captain, Trinidad’s rank is equal to a full-fledged colonel in the Army and Air Force, but some American officers who followed his orders were of the same rank as he.
Trinidad dispatched US and Philippine helicopters to remote areas with ease, supervised the landing of military aircraft from other countries which unloaded troops and relief supplies, and assigned men to control the huge, unruly crowd.
He consoled some civilians among the crowd leaving Taclo-ban City who had lost their loved ones.
Trinidad’s demeanor was not lost on the St. Luke’s doctors and my staff, especially the women, who found him charming and “very handsome.”
The captain somehow moderate my anger at the Aquino government for its slow response to Eastern Visayas—as opposed to the very quick response of the United States—because he made the government presence felt with his leadership in that neck of the woods.
How very ironic that it took President Obama to recognize Trinidad’s Herculean efforts in Tacloban City in the wake of Yolanda.
Roy Trinidad, who graduated from Philippine Military Academy in 1991, is a member of the country’s elite military unit, Special Warfare Group (Swag), the counterpart of the US Navy Seals.
When I congratulated him yesterday on the phone, I was touched by the humility of the Iligan City native.
“Sir, it was teamwork. I was just part of the team of soldiers from the US and the Philippines who did even more than me. They should also be recognized,” Trinidad said.
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