LANAO DEL SUR, Philippines – One by one, the names of the soldiers and police officers killed in Marawi were called. The bell was rung each time.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, standing at attention, listened with a pensive face. Behind him was Armed Forces chief of staff General Carlito Galvez Jr.
Guns were fired in salute to the fallen men and Taps was played. The two men lifted their right hand in salute.
A wreath-laying ceremony was held on Thursday afternoon, May 24, inside the 103rd Brigade Headquarters where the military unveiled a Heroes Wall inside the camp.
"We owe it to the people to erect a memorial for them so we always remember their heroism here," said Lorenzana, a retired Army general.
"I wish it didn't happen... It happened because of the actions of terrorists. We had to deal with them in a way to stop them and wipe them out," Lorenzana said.
It was a reunion of some sort. Lorenzana and Galvez were joined by officers who led the fighting in the city from May to October last year.
They're all back in Marawi to honor their men – a total of 168 soldiers who were killed in the battles to stop armed groups from establishing a caliphate in Marawi.
"Huwag mo ako interview-hin. Baka umiyak ako," an officer told Rappler. (Don't interview me. I might cry.)
Photo by Bobby Lagsa/Rappler
The officers also attended the two separate events that allowed them to mingle with local officials they used to work with during the war.
The Marawi generals who now lead the military promised the local government and residents that they will make sure the rehabilitation of the war-ravaged city will be successful.
"We will not leave you," said Galvez. He assigned officers, who "gained the people's trust" during the siege, back to Marawi.
Galvez was the commander then of theWestern Mindanao Command, the unified command focused on fighting violent extremism.
Lieutenant General Rolando Bautista, the Philippine Army chief, was the ground commander in Marawi. Lieutenant General Danilo Pamonag, the chief of the Southern Luzon Command, was the ground commander who succeeded Bautista at the tail end of the war. – Rappler.com