MANILA - The enemy gave every bit as good as what they got.
This is how Second Lieutenant Amor Bungay described on Sunday the Islamic-State linked extremists that her military platoon battled for 5 months in Marawi.
Bungay, platoon leader of the Philippine Army's First Infantry Batallion, said she and her men were deployed to the main battle area in Marawi on June 1, about a week after Maute and Abu Sayyaf gunmen stormed the southern city.
"Kinakabahan, natatakot kami kasi hindi namin alam kung ano ang aabutan namin doon," Bungay told DZMM.
(We were apprehensive, scared because we did not know what we would find there.)
What they found were extremists that showed no apparent fear in the battlefield, said Bungay, a soldier of 8 years whose first assignment to a conflict area was Marawi.
"Iba ang pinapakita nila sa aming tapang... Kung puputok ang tropa, puputok din sila. Minsan, makikita mo sila, tumatakbo, lumalabas sa mga area nila. Buong-buo ang loob nilang makipaglaban," Bungay told said.
(They showed us a distinct kind of bravado. When troops shoot at them, they fired back. Sometimes you would see them running, flitting out of their lairs. Their resolve to fight was intact.)
Bungay said the most difficult part of the battle is losing her comrades.
"'Pag may tropa kami na nasusugatan o natatamaan, andoon iyung takot at galit... Kahit nagsi-serve kami para sa taumbayan, nasasktan din kami kasi naging kasama na namin iyun magtrabaho, kumain," she said.
(Whenever our comrades get injured or hit, there is fear and anger. Even though we are serving the country, we feel hurt because we have worked with them, eaten with them.)
Bungay herself sustained a minor injury, but refused to leave the war zone, which also served as the troops' temporary home.
"Hindi na kami umaalis doon, Doon na kami kumakain, doon na kami nagsti-stay, nagbibihis, natutulog," she said of the battle area.
(We didn't leave the area. We ate there, stayed there, changed clothes, slept.)
The government declared an end to the hostilities in Marawi last October 23, when terror leaders were killed in a fierce final stand.
The fighting has taken a heavy toll, reducing buildings to skeletons of mangled steel and rubble, and killing more than 1,100 people, mostly extremists.
Some 6,000 residents returned last week in a phased repatriation, a fraction of the 77,000 that fled to evacuation camps or nearby towns. Many face a lengthy wait for vast swaths of Marawi to be rebuilt.
Bungay said she looks forward to spending time with her family in a trip to Hong Kong promised by President Rodrigo Duterte to the liberators of Marawi.
The military meanwhile warned residents to be on the lookout for extremist stragglers in the war zone. With Reuters