Ilonggo soldier slain in Basilan too young to die
Marine Cpl. Angelo Abeto came home to his family last April 27 and told his mother and siblings of his plan to to go back to civilian life soon after being deployed in the battle field for around five years.
A week before he came home, Angelo, 30, married his girlfriend Daisy Parcon in Palawan. The couple had simple plans—raising a family, putting up a business and perhaps buying a tricycle.
But these plans died with Angelo last Monday after he was mortally wounded in a firefight with suspected Moro Islamic Liberation Front rebels in Basilan.
"He was too young to die. He just got married," Angelo's mother Sonia said in a telephone interview from Fort Bonifacio after his son's remains arrived at the military camp yesterday.
Angelo was among the soldiers wounded when MILF members attacked the Marine Battalion Landing Team 10 in Tipo-Tipo, Basilan early this week.
He was given military honors at Fort Bonifacio and was awarded the Gold Cross medal, the second highest military honor for gallantry in action.
But Sonia said this has not lessened the pain of losing her eldest child.
"No amount of praise and assistance could bring my son back," she said.
Angelo had served as the family's bread winner even before he came a soldier and had helped the schooling of two of his three other siblings, according to Sonia.
He worked as a construction laborer to help feed the family. His father Alexander, also a laborer, died years back while Sonia is a barangay health worker.
Angelo took up Criminology as a working student at the University of Iloilo and with the help of a family friend. But dropped out on his junior year sometime in 2001 after he took and passed the examination for the elite and battle-tested Marine Corps.
"I had urged him to just finish his course and become a policeman because the work is safer than becoming a soldier but he always believed that there was no escaping fate if it was his time to die," said Sonia.
Anne Grace, Angelo's only sister and the youngest of the four siblings, said her brother joined the Marines because he wanted to help their family.
"He wanted a stable job and steady pay so he could let us finish college," said Anne Grace in an interview at their residence in Sitio Calubihan, Barangay Airport in Mandurriao District here.
Anne Grace, blind from birth and a winner of two bronze medals in the 2008 Southeast Asian ParaGames in Thailand, said her brother was very thoughtful and always sent text message or called even if he was in the frontlines.
"He never neglected us and did not fail to send money every month even after he got married," she said.
Sonia said he would not fail to text her to always remind her to take care of her health. "He would always tell me to do some walking for my hypertension."
But since two weeks before he died, Angelo was unable to communicate with his family because of signal problems.
His family was later shocked when they learned that he died in Basilan.
The pain has been made deeper by reports and accounts that Angelo died after fours while waiting in vain to be evacuated by government helicopters.
A weeping Sonia hugged the television set at their house while footages of Angelo gasping and asking to be taken to the hospital where shown over GMA's "24 Oras" last Tuesday.
Anne Grace said she also heard her brother's appeal while other family members described to her what was shown in the video footages.
"He was struggling hard to live. But the evacuation came too late. Kulang katama ang bulig sang gobyerno (The government support was too lacking)," she said.
GMA 7 reporter Jiggy Manicad earlier said that he saw Angelo bleeding for four hours begging to be evacuated but no Philippine Air Force chopper arrived. Angelo and three other wounded soldiers were picked up by a US military helicopter.
Military officials had denied that they failed to send choppers to extract Angelo and the other wounded soldiers. They said bad weather prevented the helicopters from evacuating the wounded soldiers.
"It's painful and we have to accept it. But his death has become painful because he was still alive for four hours. Why was there no help for four hours and why was he evacuated by a US helicopter and not one of ours?" said Anne Grace.
She said the government should have been better prepared to help its troops. "If he was evacuated earlier, he could have survived because he died four hours later on board (the US helicopter)."
Anne Grace also pointed out that the US helicopter was able to fly in even if the military officials said bad weather prevented them from evacuating the wounded soldiers.
"The government knows that their soldiers put their lives on the line every time they go to battle. They should have been prepared to give support," she said.
The family has not yet decided when to bring Angelo's remains here and on the date he will be laid to rest.
But family members and neighbors are already preparing for Angelo's final homecoming.
At their house measuring around 15x20 feet and made mostly of plywood, dilapidated floor slabs are being repaired at the spot were Angelo's coffin will be placed for the wake.
"We cannot bring him to life but we hope lessons will be learned so this won't happen again," said Anne Grace.