We were the first to reinforce friendly forces in the MBA. On the 20th of May 2017, three days prior to the siege of Marawi City, we had set out to conduct combat operations against communist terrorists (CTs) along the boundaries of Maguing, Lanao del Sur, and Talakag, Bukidnon. It was the start of the first 13 days of our painstaking trek through the dense jungles of Maguing when we were called back to rescue distressed comrades in the MBA in Marawi City. We had set the first three days as a grueling trek to infiltrate the hideouts of CTs in the jungles of Maguing. It was in the afternoon on the 23rd of May that I, as the Commanding Officer, was informed of what had happened to Marawi City. Our mission was aborted so that we could reinforce and rescue the trapped soldiers of the 51MIC who were surrounded by numerous enemies in the MBA.
We walked nonstop across hills and rivers, day and night, so that we could reach our pick-up point. On the 26th of May, we arrived at the MBA. I estimated the number of enemies to 1,000 fighters, with a fraction of foreign nationals who displayed the same fearless aggression. My troops and I prayed Psalm 91 for protection before engaging in any operation. Our prayers became our source of strength.
We noted that the battlefield was in an urban center in the heart of the City of Marawi, which had many restricted areas and presented a host of challenges. Compared with our other battles, I reiterated to my troops that our winning edge was our passion to do well and fulfill our duty. My battalion penetrated deep into enemy lines in order to rescue the trapped soldiers. It took 13 days of combined rigorous trekking under extreme conditions coupled with intense firefights in an urban terrain in order for us to rescue our comrades. This was our first victory.
I confirmed winning the initial battle, but it resulted in losing 16 lives. The first mission of rescuing 16 soldiers from the 51MIC was accomplished. During this rescue, the four dead crew members of the 51MIC onboard their burned armored vehicles were recovered.
— Lt Col Sam Yunque
(This entry is part of Chapter 3: Stories from the Frontline.)