MANILA- The battle for Marawi City is not like any other.
This was the message of 1st Lt. Kent Fagyan to hundreds of lawmakers during the joint session of Congress Saturday, when they convened to deliberate on the extension of the implementation of martial law in Mindanao until the end of the year.
Fagyan, a wounded commanding officer from the Philippine Army's 1st Infantry Division, detailed the harsh realities facing soldiers battling for the liberation of Marawi City from the clutches of Maute extremists.
Firefights have raged on in the once bustling city for two months, leaving at least 571 dead, among them 99 state troops and 45 civilians. The conflict has left much of Marawi in ruins.
And in the eyes of the 29-year-old soldier, who battled Moro rebels at the Zamboanga siege in 2013 and Maute terrorists in Butig, Lanao del Sur last year, nothing is worse than the Marawi war.
"Comparing sa mga previous encounter sa Maute group, upgraded po 'yung dito sa Marawi kasi marami na silang 50-caliber, radio frequency scanner, may drones, tapos parang unlimited 'yung bala nila," he said in a speech at Batasang Pambansa.
While taking questions from Sen. Richard Gordon at the joint session, Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea called on Falgan and asked that the soldier be given a chance to speak of his experience in the battlefield.
Fagyan was wounded on his right arm during a clearing operation in Marawi City. He said he was standing inside a building when he and 2 of his fellow soldiers were hit by enemy fire from a nearby structure.
Narrating the experience of soldiers in the conflict zone, Fagyan said soldiers have had to break walls to move around the city as Maute terrorists already got hold of defensive positions and could easily shoot soldiers walking on the streets.
"Hindi namin kailangan magpakita sa mga kalsada kasi titirahin kami, so kailangan naming butasin yung mga pader, dun kami papasok," he said.
"As much as possible, iniiwasan namin 'yung casualty sa amin, pero magaling din po 'yung kalaban, so 'yun po 'yung ginagawa namin," he added.
Fagyan also recalled an incident where he nearly died while clearing one of the houses in Marawi.
He said a fellow soldier sat on a chair in the house and felt something hard underneath, only to discover a homemade bomb left by extremists.
"Bago sila umalis, naglalagay silang IEDs (improvised explosive devices), so very observant kami. Mahirap po talaga 'yung ginagawa namin," he said.
But despite the difficulties and constant threats to their lives, Fagyan thanked the public for their support to the military, saying they never felt alone in battle.
"In behalf po sa mga kasamahan kong lumalaban pa sa Marawi, nagpapasalamat po kami sa patuloy na pagtulong niyo sa amin kasi nararamdaman po namin na hindi kami nagiisang lumalaban sa kanila," he said.
"Sa konting pagbigay niyo sa amin ng mga damit, tubig, malaking tulong na iyon sa amin kasi doon po sa loob 'di ka makakain ng tamang oras, 'di ka makatulog kasi palagi kang magising, putok dito, putok doon," he said.
But despite the risks, Fagyan said he is still willing to go back and help liberate Marawi, earning the praise of a teary-eyed Gordon.
"I would just like to commend you for your bravery," Gordon told Fagyan.