The heroes of Charlie Company

Patricia Evangelista, John Javellana

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Seven of Charlie Company’s soldiers were lost in Andap, New Bataan, all of them trying to evacuate residents from a flooded town. The soldiers who survived promise to return in the name of fallen brothers who lost the fight against a typhoon named Pablo.

HERO. Charlie Company Commander 1st Lt Marvin Deazeta at the V. Luna Hospital. Photo by Patricia Evangelista

COMPOSTELA VALLEY, Philippines – There is a field of rocks where the Charlie Company detachment used to be. The basketball court is gone. A new river cuts across the rubble. Tourists come, in cabs driven from 4, 5 hours away, to look at the site. The village is quiet at dusk. Small fires burn debris. Groups of small boys run for home in the dark. Many of them are new orphans.

In the morning of Dec 4, 2012, 1st Lt Alex Marvin Deazeta and the men of Charlie Company shepherded residents of Bgy Andap, Compostela Valley into two army trucks for evacuation. When the first of Typhoon Pablo’s flashfloods ripped through the village, both trucks were swept away by the rush of water, carrying boulders, tree trunks and surging mud.

Deazeta is the 27-year-old Company Commander of Charlie Company, under the army’s 66th Infantry Battalion. He is young, leading much older men, and he says it meant he could not be afraid in the face of Pablo.

He had hoped his trucks could stand against the water, and when they didn’t, he jumped into the water to save the residents. The rest of his men followed. Children were passed along, one soldier to the next, all the way to the single standing structure left, a stage built to one side of the village’s basketball court.

As his men attempted to reassure the panicked residents, Deazeta climbed to the roof to assess the situation. The village hall floated like a shoebox, homes were ripped from foundations, and tin roofs were whipping along with the current. Everywhere, he said, there was water.

When the stage collapsed, residents and soldiers were flung into the heaving floods. There was little to do except try to survive. Deazeta found himself trapped under a log beside Pfc Mark Hingosa, who attempted to free him until Deazeta managed to pull himself from under the fallen coconut.

The next wave pulled Deazeta to a log, and Hingosa sideways into the flood itself. He was dragged by the current until Deazeta caught his hand. Both soldiers were tiring, and the next wave ripped Hingosa away from his commander. 

Deazeta floated 4 kilometers downriver, bleeding from cuts on the leg and forehead. He was found clinging to a tree root, and later learned that the body of the soldier whose hand slipped from his was found a kilometer downriver.

Seven of Charlie Company’s soldiers were lost on Dec 4, 2012. SSg Maximo L. Oivares, Sgt Dennis P. Conejos, Pfc Ryan Mark S. Hingosa, Pfc Guina C. Batua Jr, Pfc Fermin H. Segapo, Pvt Jhonard C. Armodia and Pvt Raul B. Aranes lost their lives to Pablo. 

Four more, SSg Rufino F. Catague, Sgt Agustin C. Panague, SSg Rommel H. Cabillon and Pfc Mark D. Hopeda remain missing.

The residents of Barangay Andap remember their soldiers. They know the names of the dead, they hope the living will return. They say New Bataan will rise again. From a room in V. Luna Hospital in Quezon City, the limping commander of Charlie Company promises the same. –

On December 27, 21 Charlie Company soldiers were awarded with the Bronze Cross Medal for acts of heroism. “Deazeta and his troops courageously and fearlessly risked their lives, and evacuated the populace of Brgy Andap to higher and safer grounds at the height of typhoon Pablo,” says the award citation. “Their ultimate display of heroism, dedication, devotion to duty and selflessness greatly contributed to the great desire to save human lives whom the Battalion has sworn to secure and protect.”

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