Heroes’ welcome prepared for ‘warrior peacekeepers’
MANILA - If the "greatest escape" was turned into a movie, which Pinoy actors should play the Filipino peacekeepers who pulled off the daring escape from Syrian rebels at the Golan Heights?
In a video conference, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief of staff Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang asked Captain Nilo Ramones, one of those who refused to surrender to the Syrian rebels, who would play his leading lady if the “greatest escape” was turned into a movie.
Ramones immediately answered: "my wife."
Catapang then rephrased his question: “Who would portray you in a movie?”
Ramones playfully answered “Coco Martin." This drew laughter from those present during the video conference.
Catapang then asked who would play his wife, Ramones answered, “Angel [Locsin],” drawing more laughs.
The AFP chief joked he will also send beer via freight forwarder LBC. Alcoholic beverages are not encouraged in Muslim countries.
The scene was in direct contrast to the incident the Filipinos, whom Catapang called warrior peacekeepers, faced in the past few days.
Last week, Syrian rebels captured peacekeepers from Fiji and then tried used them to force the Filipinos, stationed at positions 68 and 69, at the Golan Heights to surrender their firearms.
After a more than 24-hour standoff, the rebels attacked and a firefight ensued.
Those in position 69, numbering 35 Filipinos, managed to leave and reposition at a nearby area through the assistance of Irish peacekeepers.
Those in position 68, totaling 40 Filipinos, were trapped in the firefight that lasted seven hours.
Finally, on Sunday midnight (Syrian time), when the rebels were fast asleep, the 40 peacekeepers began their escape on foot.
“The rebels were deeply asleep around the area. That was the time when we got out. They planted landmines but we know where they were placed,” he said.
“We walked straight for one hour and 30 minutes until we reunited with our companions who were waiting,” added Ramones.
The soldiers are already at the Philippine contingent headquarters in Camp Ziouani.
AFP CHIEF SALUTES PEACEKEEPERS
Catapang told the soldiers that the story of their escape made it to the headlines of local newspapers.
He said many Filipinos are proud of the peacekeepers and are “very glad and grateful that you are safe.”
He said a heroes’ welcome is being prepared for the peacekeepers.
A privilege speech will also be delivered in Congress to congratulate them, he added.
Before the video conference ended, Catapang read a message to the troops for their service to global peace.
“You have shown to the world and to the Filipino people that you can hold on to your sworn duties to maintain the peace in the Golan Heights and pursue your UN mandate of peace amidst adversaries,” said Catapang.
“It was never easy, but the calming courage and resolve you have displayed was undeniably world class and this will be forever remembered,” he said.
“We watched as you stood your ground against groups that seek to destroy the peace in this world. Indeed, you have shown so much competence and professionalism during this crisis."
“I join the Filipino nation, the Armed Forces of the Philippines and your respective families in congratulating all of you for a job well done. Mabuhay kayong lahat. Mabuhay ang Armed Forces of the Philippines. You are a source of national pride. As your chief of staff, I salute you all."