MANILA— One of the soldiers who perished in the crash of a C-130 transport plane in Sulu on Sunday was planning to retire in two years' time, his family said Thursday.
“Actually, magre-retire na po sana siya sa 2023,” said Razel Maestro, wife of Army Sgt. Butch Maestro.
(He was going to retire in 2023.)
A soldier for 18 years, Maestro, 39, was likely influenced by his father and sibling in his decision to enlist in the military, said Razel.
“Siguro po influence din po sa parents niya kasi 'yung Papa niya sundalo din po tapos 'yung panganay nila nasa SAF po,” she said, referring to the Philippine National Police Special Action Force.
(Maybe he was influenced by his father who was a soldier too, and their eldest sibling who is with the SAF.)
Razel is now transporting her husband's remains to his hometown in Buenavista, Agusan del Norte. The family lives in Misamis Oriental, but they decided to bring his remains to where he was born.
“'Yung parents niya po sa Buenavista, Agusan del Norte. Napag-usapan po namin na doon na lang po talaga siya dadalhin. Taga doon po talaga siya kaya ako na lang po ang nagpapa-ubaya po,” she said.
(His parents are from Buenavista, Agusan del Norte. We discussed it and decided to bring his remains there. That's where he's really from so I'm giving way.)
Maestro was among the 49 military personnel killed in the plane crash in Jolo, Sulu, the worst in the history of the Philippine military. Three civilians also died in the incident, bringing the total number of deaths to 52.
The military said 19 bodies, including Maestro’s, have been identified so far. Authorities are still trying to identify the remaining 30 bodies in Zamboanga City.
“Siguro na-identify siya sa SOCO. Pagkatapos, nakapagsumite po kami para makatulong sa pagka-identify sa kaniya, 'yung bangle niya po. May suot-suot po siyang bangle na tatlo sa right side at sa kabllang side meron din isa na kapareho din ng bangle na suot niya, tatlo sa kabila. 'Yun po ang isinumite namin para mas madali po,” she said.
(Maybe he was identified by SOCO. Also, we sent something to help in the immediate identification of his remains because he was wearing 3 bangles on his right wrist and another one, which was similar to the three, on the other side.)
Razel said her husband would call her every day, and the last conversation they had was on the early morning of Sunday while his group was preparing for their departure for Sulu.
“Sabi ko sa kanya nga, kasi Sunday 'yun, sabi ko aalis din kasi ako papunta sa barangay namin kung saan barangay kagawad din po kasi ako. Mayroon po kaming pahina sa barangay namin, sa chapel namin, kami lahat mga official kaya sabi ko mag-picture ka na lang, mag-video ka sa C-130, 'yun lang po bilin ko sa kanya,” she said.
(It was Sunday, and I said I was also on my way to the barangay where I serve as a Kagawad. We have an event in the barangay chapel so I told him to take pictures and videos when he's onboard the C-130.)
With him now gone, Razel could not help but worry about the future of their three children who are all still in school.
“'Yun ang pinanindigan ko, 'yung pangako ni President [Rodrigo] Duterte po, 'yun na lang po ang pinanghahawakan ko, sana po matutupad lahat ng ipinangako niya kasi alam ko ho, kung ako lang, hindi ko kakayanin kasi gusto ko mabigyan ng magandang kinabukasan ang mga anak ko,” she said.
(I am holding on to the promises made by President Duterte, and I hope that they all come true because I know I won’t make it on my own, and I want to give my children a good future.)
The remains of the soldier is set to be buried on July 15.