MARAWI CITY – In the midst of battle to retake the Lanao del Sur capital, fearless female soldiers stand alongside men at the front lines to defend the Islamic City from terrorist groups.
Last Thursday, June 29, the News5 team had met some of these soldiers who accompanied them in order to catch a glimpse inside ground zero where the heat of battle was taking place between government troops and the joint forces of the ISIS-inspired Maute and Abu Sayyaf groups.
Among the female military officers with the News5 team were Lieutenants Sarah Bagasol and Rodessa Bungay.
Bagasol is the team leader of the Philippine Army’s Quick Reaction and Medical Team, who also led the group with the News5 team inside ground zero.
One cellphone video showed Bagasol bravely firing back against the enemies. Despite the dangers, the military officer said it was a great honor to serve her fellow Filipinos.
“Kinakabahan po pero bilang isang babae isang karangalan po na makapag lingkod or makapag-save ng buhay na nandon po sa delikadong lugar [I was nervous, but as a woman, it is an honor to serve and to save lives in dangerous areas],” Bagasol told News5.
As for Lt. Bungay, the battle inside ground zero was the most dangerous operation she had encountered in her eight years in the military service because of the presence of enemy snipers.
“Mahirap lang kasi ‘yong kalaban natin snipers. Hindi katulad no’ng direct na putukan makikita mo ‘yong kalaban mo. ‘Yong snipers kasi nakatago sila so habang puputukan mo sila, nagka-counter din sila sa ‘yo,” she said.
[It’s difficult to fight enemy snipers unlike in direct encounters where you can fire back at the enemies in plain sight. Here, snipers are hidden, so while you are battling the enemies, snipers also do counter-attacks.]
Bungay said that in order to survive, it was really crucial to be completely kept from sight during encounters.
“Dapat talaga kahit konting silip sa katawan mo nakatago ka talaga. Ganoon ka-delikado kasi konting labas ng katawan mo matatamaan at matatamaan ka kasi mga skilled sila na snipers,” she said.
[Every part of the body should be concealed. That is how dangerous the situation is because if a small part of your body is revealed , you will certainly be hit because they are skilled snipers.]
Nevertheless, Bungay warned the enemies against underestimating female soldiers as most women today no longer subscribe to the Maria Clara image.
“Kaya na naming makipaglaban kagaya ng mga lalake. Buo na ang mga loob ng mga babae ngayon [We can also fight like men. Women today are dauntless],” she said.
In recent years, many women had taken an interest in joining the ranks of the male-dominated military with a number of female cadets finishing their course at the Philippine Military Academy with honors.
According to Joint Task Force Marawi spokesperson Lt. Col. Jo-Ar Herrera, both men and women in uniform have equal responsibilities when it comes to public service.
“Kung ano ‘yong kayang gawin ng mga kalalakihan, especially ‘yong mga men in uniform, ay dapat gan’on din ‘yong ating mga sundalong babae [Whatever the men can do, especially the men in uniform, should also be done by female soldiers],” he said.
WATCH VIDEO REPORT by NEWS5’S KAYE IMSON: