Marawi heroes: Soldier brings home brother killed in Marawi
LEGAZPI CITY, Philippines – It's been years since Private First Class Rojero Rayco returned to his native Albay, but a dark cloud hung over his homecoming on Friday, October 20.
Rojero, 26, brought home the remains of his older brother, 28-year-old Private First Class Romeo Rayco. The Rayco brothers hail from Barangay Tobog, Oas town in Albay. Both fought in Marawi.
Rojero and the casket bearing the remains of Romeo were transported from Marawi City to Albay on Friday afternoon, through a Philippine Air Force nomad aircraft. Rome was given full military honors at the Tactical Operations Group 5-Philippine Air Force headquarters in this city.
Rojero said his brother was killed during clearing operations in Marawi at 2 am on Thursday, October 19 – two days after President Rodrigo Duterte announced that Marawi had been "liberated from terrorist influence."
Rojero served in the Philippine Army for 6 years while Romeo belonged to the 8th Special Forces Company, Special Forces Regiment (Airborne), Special Operations Command of Philippine Army. The older brother served the military for nearly 4 years.
Rojero, who is part of the Army's anti-terrorism task force, was deployed to Marawi City when the war broke out on May 23. His older brother was sent to Marawi on September 25 for a test mission before he could graduate from his schooling.
Rojero said even though they were both in Marawi, he and his brother only saw each other once – and only for 10 minutes – on October 12. He went to Romeo to bring him food.
“We were able to see each other for just 10 minutes when I brought him food. That’s a short period of time. We hugged each other before parting ways,” Rojero told Rappler in between sobs.
During his 5 months in Marawi, Rojero saw 7 of his fellow soldiers dying right in front of him. The war in that city was the worst he had ever seen, he said.
“I was assigned in Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao, whenever there is a chaos, as member of the Philippine Army’s anti-terrorism task force. The war in Marawi is the worst not only because of numerous soldiers were killed but due to big number of Filipino casualties, specifically civilians who lost their precious lives and paid the price of ISIS-linked terrorism activities in Mindanao,” he said.
“I’m lucky as I survived the bloodiest battle and still alive but I’m unhappy sending my elder brother back home lifeless. My brother is a loving and caring brother not only to his kin but to his friends,” he added.
Romeo's wife, Carol was with 3-year-old daughter Rhian to meet her fallen husband at PAF headquarters. Carol, overcome by grief, lost consciousness during the ceremony.
Legazpi Mayor Noel Rosal, chairman of the Regional Peace and Order Council, said that Romeo Rayco was the fourth soldier from Albay killed in Marawi.
“Romeo’s contribution to liberate Marawi from the hands of terrorists is an ultimate sacrifice. Rest in peace our hero,” Rosal said.
Major General Manolito P. Orense, commanding officer of the Army’s 9th Infantry Division said in a statement read at the ceremony: “Every soldier knew what risks they would take when they were in combat and that is the risk they are willing to give even their lives are at stake. Giving one’s life for your country is the highest act of patriotism."
“His bravery and valor are evident. He died defending the freedom for the country he loved and made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of his country,” Orense added.
To date, 7 soldiers from the Bicol region had been killed in the war in Marawi.
Rojero returned to his mother unit after bringing his brother's remains to Albay. – Rappler.com