THE night is very cold and damp. We are in position on the hilly portion of the road leading to San Leonardo waiting in ambush for the enemy to come out from the bushes. A tip from one of our informants tells us that a group of New Peoples Army communist rebels would be passing our area tonight en route to a plenum of the provincial party committee in the hinterlands of Nueva Vizcaya.
It is now close to 10 in the evening and our unit has been in position since 5 in the afternoon. But nary a sign of life except for the usual movements and chirpings of night birds and the sound of leaves of the trees brushing against each other as the monsoon winds sweep through their branches.
The sky is dark and it looks like the Philippine rainy season will start tonight. A perfect camouflage for our unit tasked to neutralize the enemy.
Then the night birds stop chirping. From a distance we could hear the dogs barking. There is a deafening silence among the members of the 7-man Army Scout Rangers team with their fingers ready on the trigger of their M-16s and M-14s as their eyes focus on the trail leading to the road from the jungle.
Another minute passes, then another long minute of anxiety for the rangers in the darkness. The tension is so strong that all you could hear is the sound of your own heart beating but the enemies are nowhere in sight.
Patiently, we wait . . . All of a sudden their presence is announced by the smell of burning tobaccos from their cigarettes. In fact, the air is heavy and filled by its aroma that only an untrained soldier and a fool would miss them.
From the bushes come the lead scout followed by their kumander and the rest of the kadres. Since our eyes are already adjusted to the darkness we are able to identify their leader as Ka Greg, the head of the provincial party committee. The rebels come out in groups of four and we estimate their strength to be about 30-strong, majority of which are only in their teens with three amazons.
As soon as the last kadre emerge from the bushes, I fire my baby armalite hitting Ka Greg in the forehead signaling my men to fire at the rebels at will.
The skirmish lasts about 15 minutes.
After the smoke of the gun battle clears, Ka Greg and 10 of his men including an amazon lay dead on the unpaved dirt road.
The rebels retreat while firing their guns at us to the nearby forest undercover of darkness carrying with them their wounded comrades.
We stay put and wait for our reinforcements to arrive and at sunrise return to our command post for a hot breakfast of fried tuyo, kamatis and sinangag.
The encounter is no big deal for us, for in the next few days, we will again embark in a search and destroy operations for the remnants of Ka Gregs unit. This is our life. Our story.
‘Walang personalan. Trabaho lang, ika nga. ‘
'We Strike and other soldier tales'
The Sunday Times Magazine
October 19, 2003