A member of the Scout Ranger regiment of the Philippine Army on Monday recounted how six of his colleagues were killed defending their comrades in Marawi so that they could reposition themselves and avoid greater casualties in the battle zone.
1st Lt. Bryan Palencia is one of the soldiers who graduated from their assignment in Marawi City Monday, after Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana announced the end of combat operations in the city after the five-month siege.
According to Palencia, his experience in Marawi City proved to him that Filipino soldiers will not let each other down, no matter what happens.
"Kaya ko pong ipagmalaki na itong mga sundalo natin, talagang hindi nag-iiwanan. Kahit doon sa danger pa po, lalo na itong mga Scout Rangers, talagang mga sundalo natin, maaasahan sa oras na mga ganun po. Nagtutulungan, para ito po, maging victorious po 'yung ano, ma-liberate po ang Marawi sa mga terorista," Palencia told DZMM.
Six of Palencia's companions died in Marawi City.
"Nag-hold the line po sila para makapag-exit 'yung iba. Kasi po mostly po 'yung namatay po sa amin, 'yung mga ano po namin, unang pasok po iyon," he said.
"Kailangan pong depensahan habang nagreposition po kami to avoid greater casualty po."
Although grieving, Palencia considered those who died as heroes.
"Nalulungkot po kami pero since sinumpaan po namin 'yun, kailangan po natin tapusin po 'yun," he said.
Palencia also asked for the support and trust of the Filipinos.
"Ang sa akin lang po, we need the support po ng mga tao, ng buong Pilipinas po, na bigyan ng tiwala po 'yung sundalo natin," he added.
The 153-day Marawi occupation, the Philippines' biggest security crisis in years, has triggered concerns that with its mountains, jungles and porous borders, the island of Mindanao could become a magnet for Islamic State fighters driven out of Iraq and Syria.
More than 1,000 people, mostly rebels, were killed in the battle and the heart of the city of 200,000 has been leveled by air strikes.