Monday, October 24, 2016

A tribute to a forgotten soldier

Angel "Bulaw" Gutierrez resting in bed at home.
After parking my pen for a while,  the urge to get back to what I was doing since my semi-retirement in 2004 has again rekindled within me upon learning that a close relative is suffering from a serious ailment.

I thought that the fire that's burning inside me has been extinguished completely. Admittedly, I was wrong.

In fact, I forgot about it already until I got a message from a first cousin whose husband is currently stationed in Shanghai. Amie broke to me the sad news that his father needed a bypass surgery. Doctors at the Philippine Heart Center first diagnosed his father's ailment to be needing an angioplast surgery. However, further examinations revealed that something more complicated needed to be done.

According to Amie,  she thought that it was okay to proceed with the heart operation. But the doctor who examined him said that it's no longer possible to push through with the impending surgery because his chance of survival is only 10 percent. In short, he's back to square one.

Had the heart operation went through, it would have been worth a fortune for a retiree who's solely dependent on his meager pension as a former non-commissioned officer of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). Had he not worked in the United States for a couple of years, life would have been much harder for someone whose penchant for a good life was his enjoyment. But despite this edge, the man is still groaning under the weight of the social ill's that gripped most Filipinos. And had the surgery pushed through, the cost was almost worth of a brand new car. What's money anyway compared to extending one more life?

As immediate members of the family exhausted all means to resolve the problem at hand,  a silly question cropped up in my mind asking why should a government hospital like the Philippine Heart Center (PHC) whose budget comes from the government's general appropriations, charge so much even from indigent patients?

And who can question the Hippocratic wisdom of heart surgeons who may or may not invoke their Code of Silence in so far as revealing the true medical information of patients that they intend to treat? I couldn't imagine that from angioplast surgery, the case was elevated to the level of bypass surgery. Was this also meant to bleed the poor patients so that they could live a few more years? Surely, nobody knows!

Just for a brief backgrounder, the person I'm referring to in this article is none other than Mr. ANGEL MANUEL GUTIERREZ. But who is Mr. Gutierrez? Many of us don't have the complete idea as to who this man is? What are his exploits and contributions to his beloved country?

To those who don't know him, Angel "Bulaw"  Gutierrez is a living witness to the atrocities of wars in Korea and Vietnam, where he served as a member of the 14th BCT, and the Philippine Civic Action Group (Philcag).

Prior to these, he enlisted in the military at a very young age, where he first saw action during the Kamlon Campaign in Sulu. His sterling career was tested in the battle fields of  Lebak, Cotabato where he fought side by side with then Maj. Gringo Honasan (now a senator) when they were both members of the Ist Composite Infantry Battalion in Camp Aquinaldo in the fight against the Moro  National Liberation Front headed by Prof. Nur  Misuari. He was supposed to receive a gold cross for gallantry in action but it never happened, a feat that he is always proud to share to his family circle and friends alike. Still he's thankful to the Almighty that he was able to retire. But only to be remanded to the sideline later on.

Popularly known to his townmates and comrades in the military as a good leader and a field tactician, Bulaw's military career remains as colorful as ever, whose boyhood life was nurtured in the countryside of Leyte province.

He wasn't only considered a professional soldier, but he's also earned the respect of his senior officers and peers simply because of his abiding faith in the principles that he's fighting for. To sum it all up, Bulaw is proud to say that he became part of the military as a young man to serve the best that he could for his country.

He was trained as an Airborne paratrooper, a Scout Ranger, a member of the Special Forces, a counter-intelligence operative, an ASAC agent, and a paramedic. These are just some of his accomplishments when he was still active in the service.

In the Korean War, he rubbed elbows with then Fidel V. Ramos who eventually became president. In Vietnam, he made it to the top eight of the graduates of the Reconnaissance Commando Course (Recondo) conducted by the elite "Green Beret". Former AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Lisandro Abadia was his classmate. They both made it with flying colors.

Honestly, I felt a bit guilty for holding it for so long in my brain. But as I had promised him over several cases of beer before, I find it an auspicious moment for me to ponder and recollect our previous conversations to come out with this exhaustive and memorable piece about the person whom I looked up to with deep respect. To all of us, whom he harbored during those critical years of our existence, I salute you once more for old time's sake.

Most of all, thank you for being a father-figure to us. Honestly, we cherish every moment we shared together while we're under your wings.Our only wish right now is for you to overcome the pain you're going through. We will continue praying for you so that the Unseen Hand will bring a miracle to heal you completely.

Lastly, we're all proud of you. Thanks for everything, uncle! I knew that you didn't retire but you only faded away. I knew, too, that the souls of your siblings, including mother, are looking down upon you as you battle it out with that malady. Be strong and you'll get through with it, with God's blessings!

Again, thank you for everything!

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