Region in mourning: 1 in 3 slain SAF sons of Cordillera

BAGUIO CITY, Philippines (UPDATED) – Many of them still got the warrior's blood from their ancestors. This is how Cordillerans explain why many of their young men have joined the ranks of the police and the military all these decades.

These days, the Cordillera is a region in mourning after a clash between elite cops and Muslim rebels in Maguindanao in the south claimed the lives of its sons.

Thirteen Cordillerans who belonged to the Philippine National Police Special Action Force (PNP-SAF) were among the at least 44 commandos who died in what the government labeled as a "misencounter" in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, on Sunday.

Benguet suffered the most casualties with 4:

From Ifugao province:

PO2 Christopher Lalan, whose name was initially included among the casualties, is now in the hospital and listed as wounded. This caused concern among Ifugao residents when Ifugao Representative Teddy Baguilat said that his cousin, Lalan, had died. Lalan was a cathecist in Ifugao before joining the PNP.

From Baguio City:

From Kalinga province:

From Mountain Province:

Former Baguio police chief Senior Superintendent Jesus Cambay said Cordillerans being "naturally warriors" make them ideal for the elite SAF.

He estimates that "80% of the SAF comes from the Cordilleras," although SAF OIC Noel Taliño pegs it at 65%, based on the number of schools in Cordillera offering Criminology course.

Cordillera Regional Intelligence Division Chief Superintendent Cesar Pasiwen said Baguio City, the region's center, has the most number of criminology graduates. The problem, he said, is that the Cordillera Administrative Region can only absorb a number of them into the police force.

"Most apply with the SAF because it is a good alternative, and many Cordillerans have the endurance for the stringent tests required," Pasiwen said.