6th Marawi Liberation Anniversary AVP

Celebrating Brotherhood, Camaraderie in Adversity | 6th Marawi Liberation Anniversary AVP presented during the fellowship meeting of veterans on October 23, 2023, in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City. #MarawiAndBeyond

6th Marawi Liberation Anniversary | Veterans Celebrate Brotherhood, Camaraderie in Adversity

Posted on October 23, 2023

Soldiers and stakeholders who served to end the Marawi crisis in 2017 gathered in a simple fellowship meeting to commemorate the 6th anniversary of Marawi Liberation with the theme: “Rebuilding Marawi: A Journey of Hope” on October 23, 2023, at Camp Aguinaldo Golf Course Lounge, Quezon City.

“The brotherhood and camaraderie of soldiers and stakeholders during the Marawi crisis is an unparalleled bond that only those who have experienced it can truly understand. Amidst the chaos and dangers of the battlefield at ground zero, the Philippine Army, Philippine Army Navy, Philippine Army Airforce, Philippine National Police, Philippine Coast Guard, and the entire Philippine government machinery, together with civilian stakeholders and volunteers, forged firm connections built on trust, loyalty, and a shared sense of purpose. It is a victory well-fought and well-deserved by the more than 12,000 troops from the AFP, PNP, and PCG, who continued to soldier on until the day that all hostages were safely rescued and the whole of Marawi liberated and secured,” said Lt. Gen. Rolly Bautista (retired), former commander of the Joint Task Force Marawi.

Enduring a grueling 147 days of war in Marawi, from May 23 to October 17, 2023, was an arduous and emotionally demanding experience that tested the resilience, fortitude, and character of those involved. It encompassed not only the physical hardships of enduring harsh conditions, constant danger, and exhausting battles but also the psychological toll of witnessing violence. As government security forces face prolonged periods of separation from loved ones and prolonged exposure to stress without respite, their relentless pursuit of victory strengthened their unwavering commitment, discipline, adaptability, and teamwork to overcome obstacles and achieve objectives amidst the chaotic environment.

“In the face of adversity, they become each other’s pillars of strength and support, relying on one another to survive and fulfill their duty to protect their comrades. This bond transcends differences in rank, background, or beliefs as we come together as a unified force driven by a desire to achieve victory and safeguard one another’s lives. Through this unwavering connection, soldiers find solace in knowing that they are never alone; even in the darkest moments, their brothers-in-arms stand shoulder-to-shoulder with them. The profound brotherhood and camaraderie formed in the Marawi crisis war contributed to the overall effectiveness and resilience of a united military force,” former DSWD secretary Lt. Gen. Bautista said.

“We continue to celebrate and cherish the liberation of Marawi. We reminisce about our brotherhood and camaraderie while trying to build a foundation, one that is more lasting and with a genuine purpose of helping our wounded brothers, their families, and those who offered the ultimate sacrifice. We document, continue to live with the lessons, share, talk, and sustain the brotherhood built during those five months of battle. We celebrate the victory and honor the sacrifices of the more than 12,000 troops from the AFP, the PNP, and the PCG. In addition, we recognize the sacrifices of the people who supported us all the way to victory. Today, we are part of the rehabilitation not only of the physical structures but also of the hearts and minds of the people of Marawi. For our senior leaders who have strived well, who have always been there to make all these things possible, though retired, still, they continue to take care of us, we will forever be grateful,” said Col. Jo-ar Herrera and Maj. Castillo Cyrus Castillo, organizers of the activity.

The highlights of the meeting included the formation of Marawi Campaign Veterans Association Inc. (MCVAI) to create an association and foundation institution that will provide a range of services, especially for the battle casualties and their families. “This will become a voice to continuously honor those who have sacrificed, to commemorate their participation, even the people who have supported us, and to continue to have an active online presence where we can always communicate,” Col. Herrera said.

“Leaders who took good care of their men went beyond the normal thing in Marawi. Not only assuring that men have good food, water, and shelter while they soldier on, Leaders went out of their comfort zones. They went to the very frontlines to be with their men, to talk to them, and check them personally how they were doing. Leaders did not place themselves “above” the troops. Rather, they worked and fought alongside them. We will all retire and give up the positions we hold, but one thing will remain, which we have developed through the years, and that is character. It is the ability of getting people to do what they do not want to do. Wherever we will be, these two will remain: Leadership and Character, and be grateful as well for all the lessons learned in Marawi and the fruitful years we spend in the service,” Lt. Gen, Danilo Pamonag (retired) said.

“I still feel the warm enthusiasm as I remember the times we shared and the experiences we cherished together. The pictures evoke vivid memories, transporting us back to those moments and reminding us of the important lessons we learned that must be passed on to the next generation. Let us never forget the sacrifices made, the victories earned, the brotherhood forged. We are witnesses to this rich history and will cherish it forever,” Maj. Gen Rene Glen Paje (retired) said.

“I always take this opportunity to express my warmest appreciation for the opportunity given to the PNP during the Marawi Campaign. In a Martial Law setting, the PNP is supposed to be on the side, and some do not appreciate our assistance. But to Gen. Bautista and everyone there, thank you for recognizing us and considering that we can fight alongside the AFP during this battle. We truly felt that we had also become the warriors expected of us despite the lack of ammunitions, grenades, smoke grenades , and other capabilities. And we are grateful, too, that you openly and readily shared your ammos with the PNP, which enabled us to sustain us until the liberation. Thus, let us share these wonderful lessons of brotherhood and expect that the PNP will give everything for the country,” Police Brig. Gen. Rolando Anduyan (retired) said.

“As commander of the Armor unit from the Marines, we put a premium on jointness as we work with Col. Goyena. We do not compete. Rather, we complement. A lot of violations on the employment of the armor may have been committed, but still, we were able to survive as we supported each other as we shared operation procedures. We came not as “bakal”, but as “kahoy” as we covered our light armor with woods as an added armoring and concealment. We collaborate with the army armor units to win despite the challenges,” Col. Ronald Virtudzo said.

Masarap balikan ang Marawi. We are thankful we had that rare opportunity to lead despite being pressed to the wall. There, we complement, as your weakness is my strength, and your strength is my weakness. The war was won by ordinary soldiers doing extra-ordinarily well. Masarap lumaban, mag-giyera, especially if you have the whole nation and the President at your back, like what happened in Marawi. We continuously learn and evolve while we fight to adjust our procedures. We are very thankful that we can cherish that rare opportunity and live up and battle it out despite the odds. To the soldiers, you are a very important part of the team, as we will only be leaders if we have the people we lead. With that, let us all continue to make it a calling to attend every Marawi event as we continue to celebrate and honor the sacrifices of every one during this battle,” Brig. Gen. Ramon Flores said.

“We provide technical and special communications support during the battle. At first, my officemates, who knew where I was, asked what I was doing or why I should be there. It was hard to understand that a banker like me would choose to be in an area where civilians would not dare to go. And then I realized it is not only the hardship then, but also the dilemma of losing my job just in case I won’t be back on time. But with fellow reservists, we were there, like in Basilan when we also volunteered before Marawi happened. I hope the foundation we are creating will grow and we reservists will always be there to give our best support,” Reserve Maj. Happy Mañalac said.

“Let us continue advocating what happened in Marawi, especially the success stories and the strong bond that was built that led us to victory. All government forces, the AFP, PNP, and PCG, enjoyed the highest approval ratings from the public during the Marawi crisis, which has been maintained until now. The crisis gave us that kind of synergy that despite the differences in SOPs and tactics in combat, we were able to synchronize our actions and fight as one. We chose to set aside our differences, especially when we incurred casualties, and support our buddies to help them win the battles. Looking forward, those still in active service should always look at the individual soldiers, their needs, uniforms, and equipment. While we modernize, let us not forget the basic needs of our soldiers as these are small things but very important as we take care of them while we lead them to battle. We will continue to commemorate, celebrate, honor the sacrifices, and cherish that brotherhood until the last Marawi soldier, police, or coast guard retires,” Lt. Gen. Bautista said.

“Through these commemorations, we pay tribute to the brave men and women who fought valiantly for our beloved country. By acknowledging these milestones, we honor their sacrifices and demonstrate our gratitude for their unwavering dedication. And educate future generations about its historical significance. We can learn from past experiences to build a more peaceful world. The liberation of Marawi serves as a reminder of the resilience and courage displayed during times of strife but also reinforces our collective commitment towards building a harmonious Filipino community that promotes unity and understanding,” Lt. Gen. Bautista said.

The Philippine Senate passed Resolution No. 109 on May 28, 2018, officially recognizing and honoring the gallantry, bravery, sacrifice, and heroism of the men and women in uniform under Joint Task Force Marawi, especially those killed and wounded by designating them “Heroes of Marawi.” The Filipino soldiers of Marawi was acknowledged by Manila Times as “Man of the Year in 2017.” The Philippine Army received the Palladium Global Recognition for its effective strategy in the Marawi siege. Memorial Markers were erected in Marawi City and Libingan ng mga Bayani in Fort Bonifacio. Operations Research Center, Philippine Army, published historical Marawi crisis books. Partnerships for services delivery include Makati Medical Foundation, Kilos Kabataan Foundation, Tarlac Heritage Foundation, and Teach Peace Build Peace Movement.

Among the infrastructure rebuilding include the Transcentral Road by Japan International Cooperation Agency, 4-storey school buildings, Marawi Convention Center, Sarimanok Sports Stadium Marawi Sports Complex and land development, Peace Park, and restoration of landmarks including the Grand Mosque and Masjid Dansalan Bato Mosque, restoring the peace and glory of Marawi City for a brighter hope and better future.

Read Marawi and Beyond Book Series.