Sunday, January 2, 2011

Marines home for holidays after 10 years in South

By Alexis Romero
The Philippine Star, Thursday, December 16, 2010

Marine Cpl. Amando Marquez, who has been assigned to critical areas like Lanao del Norte and Basilan, is excited to celebrate the holidays with his mother and siblings.

Marquez, who hails from Tanza, Cavite, has not celebrated Christmas with his family for a couple of years since he has been deployed to the South, which is said to be the lair of various armed groups.

“We plan to eat together on Christmas. I will make up for the times that I was not with them,” Marquez, who has been in the service since 2006, told The STAR in Filipino.

Marine S/Sgt. Albert Ekid, who got enlisted in 1995, wants to visit his wife and three children in Zamboanga City as well as his father and siblings in his hometown in Mt. Province.

While Ekid was lucky to have been given the chance to visit his wife and children every Christmas, he has not seen his family in the North for years.

“We have not seen each other for a long time and we hope we can gather together (this holiday season),” said Ekid, who was involved in various operations against the Abu Sayyaf.

Marquez and Ekid are members of the Marine Battalion Landing Team 6, which returned to Manila the other day for retraining after 10 years of battling lawless elements in Mindanao.

The battalion members were honored in a ceremony led by Navy chief Rear Adm. Danilo Cortez.

Lt. Col. Robert Velasco, commander of the 380-strong battalion, said his soldiers will be given the opportunity to visit their loved ones during the holidays.

“It feels great that we are returning (in Manila) during the Christmas season. All Marines are happy. They will be given the chance to be with their families,” Velasco said.

“When they were in the field, they celebrated in far-flung detachments. We also hang lanterns but it feels different if Christmas is celebrated with your family,” he added.

Velasco nevertheless said the Marines are already used to celebrating the families away from their families.

Members of the battalion will undergo retraining in various Navy headquarters, including those in Manila and Cavite. They will be replaced in Basilan by the Marine Battalion Landing Team 9.

Among the battalion’s achievements was the killing of key Abu Sayyaf leader Albader Parad last February in Indanan, Sulu.

The team was also instrumental in the release and subsequent rescue of Red Cross workers Mary Jean Lacaba, Eugenio Vagni, and Andreas Notter in 2009.

The battalion also saw action in Basilan, Tawi-Tawi, North Cotabato, and Lanao del Norte.

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