29th January 2015. It was the saddest, most painful welcome to a homecoming. Together with the grieving families and friends, my husband and I watched as one by one the remains of 42 of the fallen SAF44 were brought to the multi-purpose hall in Camp Bagong Diwa. Attached to each coffin is a number. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5…30…40… It was hard to believe that behind each number is a life lost. It was even harder to accept that some of the lives lost were our friends’.
“How could we have lost so much lives in an encounter that should never have happened?” I asked my husband. There was nothing but silence on his part…and I understand. He was grieving; he was angry. Three of the men killed in Mamasapano, Maguindanao were my husband’s classmates in the Philippine National Police Academy.
These are three young and very promising men. PSI Erana is their class baron. He was a nice man who was a friend to everyone. “Di nga marunong mag take-life yan,” one of their classmates joked as we recalled our memories of the fallen. Arjay said he wouldn’t be surprised if Erana rose to be the Chief of Police one day.
Tabdi is known to be a quiet person and a loving husband. Tria, on the other hand, was known to have tiger-like bravery. In fact, reports say that he could have been the last man standing on that fateful day. My memory of him, however, was when I joked about how vain he is after seeing his photos in their yearbook. While his classmates shared photos of their loved ones in their spread, his was full of his own. Hehe!
We have so many good memories of these guys. I’m sure the families and friends of the other members of the PNP-SAF who sacrificed their lives for our normalcy also have numerous good memories to share. They were sons, brothers, husbands, and fathers. To see them inside a box, lifeless, was a painful sight. They could have done so much more for our country.
Although they left us so soon to be with our Creator, the short time they spent with us will always be remembered. I salute them for their bravery. I thank them for their sacrifice. I thank them for reminding us who were left behind to treasure the time we have with our loved ones.
To their families, know that we are your family, too. We are grieving with you and we will be here for you even after news about this tragedy fades.
Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so;
For those whom thou think’st thou dost overthrow
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,
Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee do go,
Rest of their bones, and soul’s delivery.
Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,
And poppy or charms can make us sleep as well
And better than thy stroke; why swell’st thou then?
One short sleep past, we wake eternally
And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.