Sunday, May 26, 2013

‘He’s more like a father to us,’ says sister of slain soldier

Inquirer Mindanao
May 27th, 2013

ZAMBOANGA CITY—“No one’s going to say ‘good morning.’ No one’s going to ask if we still have food in the house.”

This was how Rosalyn Lorin described life without her younger brother, 2nd Lt. Alfredo Lorin VI.

The 26-year-old Marine officer, “Limboy” to his family and friends, was one of the seven soldiers killed in a clash with Abu Sayyaf bandits in Patikul, Sulu, on Saturday.

“He sent text messages asking if our parents still had food. He always said that if we were running short of food, he could always send us money. Every time he visited us, he left every penny of his allowance and he would always assure us that he could manage,” Rosalyn said in Iriga City in Camarines Sur.

In a telephone interview with the Inquirer, Rosalyn said Limboy’s salary went to their mother and he made sure that the parents were all right while he was away.

Lorin was the sixth among eight siblings. His four elder brothers are married and have since left home. He also supported the education of his two younger brothers.

“He’s more like a father to us, even if I am older than him,” Rosalyn said.

Limboy graduated valedictorian in elementary school and secured a high school scholarship.

“At a young age, he was already a working student. We are very poor. His dream was to have a good job and build a decent home for my parents. Our parents are jobless and are already old,” Rosalyn said.

Breaking the news to their parents was hard, Rosalyn said. “One of the older brothers agreed to break the news gradually. Unfortunately, the one who was tasked to speak to my mother was the first to cry. My father is still in shock right now,” she said.

Rosalyn said even if they were devastated, they have to accept their brother’s fate.

“Maybe that’s the only task given to him by God—the task to touch everyone’s hearts and to remind us that life is precious and we need to strive harder,” Rosalyn said.—Julie S. Alipala

Monday, July 23, 2012


Whenever I am bored, one of my pastimes is visiting eBay to look for something that interests me. The online auction site is a treasure trove for collectors of various sizes and colors. It is the fantasy land for every hobbyist worth his salt. And once you learn how to navigate the website and become adept at 'treasure hunting' I can guarantee you that there is no turning back.

But I am not the greedy big-time bidder type who will engage anyone just to get his hands on a particular item. I am more of a bargain hunter, favoring more bang for my buck than a foolish dreamer who will empty his pockets just to finally grab his holy grail.

In fact, most of my acquisitions were more on the $10-20 range but nevertheless, they are all treasures safely hidden in my man cave. I have pegged my limit to $100 at the most no matter how I am smitten with a particular object, and if it is beyond the ceiling that I set up for myself, I just have to let the object of my desire pass and move on to the next one.

I am more of the sniper type of, the one who will watch a particular auction but will bid only during its last few seconds. This adrenaline-pumping vis-a-vis testosterone-deflating strategy is what the game is all about. There is no greater thrill than being in a kind of 'hope for the best but expect the worst' situation wherein you could snatch a gem from the hands of the other bidders or be left empty-handed.

 As they usually say, "it's not the kill, it's the thrill of the chase." Amen.

Most of the time, I always end up grabbing my prey, probably to the chagrin of my fellow eBayers, but the god of fortune frowned on me today. Somebody outbid me to the 53 pages of lithographs by World War II artist E.J. Dollriehs, who served under the U.S. Army's 37th Infantry Battalion in the Philippines wherein many of his wartime sketches were made.

But that's life: you win some, you lose some.

The pictures below are some of the beautiful sketches that got away today. I will look at them for one last time and move on.

Another day, another prey.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Filipino soldiers’ story of Korean War: Valor redux

 By Art Villasanta
Philippine Daily Inquirer

In an astonishing act of humanity and selflessness, the Philippines sent its soldiers to defend South Korea against a massive communist invasion despite its having to contend with a communist rebellion of its own and the painful challenge of rebuilding an economy crippled by World War II.

The Philippines was the first Asian country to send combat troops to the Korean War that began on June 25, 1950. Its soldiers protected South Korea until 1955.

The first Filipino warrior set foot on Korea at the port city of Busan (formerly Pusan) on Sept. 19, 1950. The 10th Battalion Combat Team (BCT) was the first of five BCTs that would serve in Korea until June 1955 under the flag of the elite Philippine Expeditionary Force to Korea or Peftok.

Over 7,400 officers and men of the Philippine Army served in Korea. Five of these warriors—all in their 80s—recently returned to Korea for the first time since the Korean War. The Korean government sponsored their visit as part of the “Revisit Korea Program” for the Filipino war veterans and their families.

These veterans were accompanied by 15 other Filipinos who were either their children or grandchildren. Their host was South Korea’s Ministry of Patriots and Veterans Affairs.

These veterans were all astounded at the massive progress Korea had made over the past six decades. One veteran noted that our present economic situation is the reverse of what it had been in the 1950s.

The Philippines then was Southeast Asia’s leading economic and military power and Asia’s second largest economy after Japan. From being one of the world’s poorest nations in the 1950s, South Korea is now one of the world’s 30 richest in per capita gross domestic product.

Oldest war veteran

“I can’t believe how fast South Korea has improved since the Korean War,” said Jesus Dizon, who at 86 is the oldest Korean War veteran among the “revisitors.” “It’s a tribute to the Korean people.”

His unit was the 20th BCT, the second Filipino BCT deployed to Korea. Dizon was a forward observer or FO, the most dangerous of allied soldiers, whose job was to identify targets for the six 105mm howitzers of the battalion’s field artillery battery.

FOs got their deadly job done with a field telephone; a pair of powerful binoculars, maps—and a great deal of courage. They normally occupied well-hidden positions on hilltops or other dominating terrain near the enemy and spent days searching for enemy activity. The power of life or death held by an FO was terrifying.
In North Korea one morning, a large number of communist Chinese soldiers suddenly appeared below a ridgeline Dizon had been observing for some time. Dizon located the enemy unit on the grid map spread before him.

He calmly picked up his field telephone and called in the target coordinates to the battery’s fire direction center of the battalion’s artillery battery emplaced a few kilometers behind him.

“Fire!” he ordered.

A single high-explosive 105mm round exploded away from the Chinese unit. Dizon noted the fall of the ranging round through his binoculars. He reported the adjusted range over the phone and commanded the entire battery to open fire.

Six 105mm howitzers manned by Filipinos unleashed shell after shell into the Chinese. Dizon saw the bewildered Chinese engulfed by horrifying explosions as murderous blasts tore apart their unit.

The inferno was over in about a minute. A dirty pall of dust and smoke from the barrage lingering over the tragedy served as the gravestone for dozens of dead Chinese.

Wounded in action

“All of this was flat,” exclaimed Luminoso Cruz, referring to the thriving and crowded city of Suwon, 30 kilometers south of Seoul. “It was flat and gray. This city was totally destroyed.”

Suwon was where Cruz’s unit, the 10th BCT, spent its first Christmas in Korea. That was in 1950 and the 10th was the first of the five BCTs that served in Korea.

Cruz, a member of Recon Company, was the gunner of an M24 Chaffee light tank armed with a 75mm cannon. He took a shrapnel wound to the head along the banks of the Imjin River and was visibly moved as the bus crossed the river north during his visit to the Demilitarized Zone.

“This was where I was wounded,” he said, pointing to the bank of the Imjin, while holding back his tears.
He fought in a two-man foxhole at the great Battle of Yuldong, which he recalled as a night of incredible terror.

“The Chinese attacked us in waves all night. My buddy and I just kept firing and firing our rifles,” he recalled of this gory battle, which was fought on April 23, 1951.

He doesn’t know how they survived the murderous hell of Yuldong. But his buddy had to be sent home afterwards. His nerves had given way under the terror of too much savage combat.

They called it “shell shock” then. We call it “post-traumatic stress disorder” today.

The Battle of Yuldong was the greatest Filipino victory in the Korean War. A mere 900 Filipino fighting men withstood the night attack of an entire communist Chinese army that numbered 40,000 men at peak strength.
In standing their ground at Yuldong, the Filipinos fatally slowed down the largest Chinese offensive of the war, and probably helped prevent the destruction of the United Nations forces and the communist conquest of South Korea.

One man’s handiwork

Amiable and talkative, Florendo Benedicto served in both the 10th BCT and the 20th BCT. He decided to “re-up” or reenlist in the 20th BCT because he loved combat.

Benedicto stands almost 6-ft tall. In the Army at the time, tall men generally wound up becoming gunners in the belief they could carry heavier loads.

Benedicto’s weapon was the M1919 Browning .30 cal. medium machine gun that could fire up to 600 rounds a minute. The gun itself weighed 14 kilograms and it was Benedicto’s job to lug the gun onto the battlefield and fire it at the communist enemy. He did this on many occasions in two years of fighting.

He believes that South Korea’s enviable economic blessings are due mostly to the strong unity pervading South Koreans.

“Their national unity is worth emulating,” he said. “Filipinos should learn from the South Koreans. We have to establish love in the heart of every Filipino. We must love one another.”

It is a startling transformation for a formerly fierce warrior. It is all the more surprising if one knows what he did in the Korean War.

“I know I killed about 200 Chinese,” he said calmly when we talked about this. “I probably killed 300 more. I counted their dead bodies.”

Benedicto’s feat is all the more astounding since only 112 Filipino soldiers died in three years of combat in the Korean War despite almost constant fighting.

Winter experience

Constancio Sanchez turned 24 on the historic day the 10th BCT arrived by ship at Busan on Sept. 19, 1950, less than three months after the start of the Korean War on June 25.

Knowing this, his officers allowed Sanchez to become one of the first Filipino fighting men to set foot on Korean soil. His mates then treated him to merienda at one of the restaurants in the port city then being besieged by the communist North Korean People’s Army.

Sanchez served in the Headquarters & Headquarters & Service Company, the command group of the 10th BCT. The battalion was founded and first commanded by Col. Mariano Azurin. Col. Dionisio Ojeda replaced Azurin in the spring of 1951.

Of all the dangers he faced in the war, Sanchez remains awed by that phenomenon alien to Filipino experience called winter. It was December 1950 and the battalion was in Pyongyang when the communist Chinese intervened and hurled the United Nations Command (including the 10th BCT) out of North Korea.

The winter of 1950-1951 was Korea’s coldest in two centuries but this did nothing to dispel the savage fighting that actually intensified with the Chinese intervention.

“We were shocked when the Chinese came and advanced so quickly,” he said. “We had to withdraw rapidly to avoid encirclement and it was terribly cold.”

Things would have been far worse for the battalion if the Chinese had attacked earlier, Sanchez believes. The onset of winter a month earlier immobilized most of their motor vehicles.

The intense subzero cold froze the water in engines and shattered engine blocks. This paralyzed most of the battalion’s vehicles, including those in the transport-heavy HQ & HQ & Service Company.

Adding antifreeze to the water solved the problem, however, so that when the Chinese came, the battalion’s trucks, jeeps and armored vehicles kept running despite the intense cold.

“We probably wouldn’t have escaped from Pyongyang if we had to march on foot through the snow.”

Rediscovering God

Prudencio Medrano served in the HQ & HQ & Service Company of the 19th BCT, the third Peftok unit deployed to Korea, and re-upped for another year with the 14th BCT. And this was because of his friends.
“I re-enlisted because we were ‘buddy-buddy,’” he said. “Five of my buddies in the 19th BCT decided to extend. They asked me if I wanted to extend and I did because they were my buddies.”

In both BCTs, Medrano served as a radio operator of their battalion commanders—Col. Ramon Aguirre of the 19th and Col. Nicanor Jimenez of the 14th.

With the 19th, Medrano recalled he was often in the advanced command post with Colonel Aguirre. His job was to transmit and receive voice messages and telegraph messages via Morse Code. Lives depended on the accuracy of his messages.

Medrano rediscovered God amid the horror of the Korean War. The long spells between action and boredom along the static front line gave him time to reflect on things spiritual.

(Editor’s Note: The author is a historian of the Korean War. Among his stories published in this newspaper is one about the P500 bill being a memorial to the Philippines’ involvement in that war. His Korean War website is

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Military honors fathers in its ranks, 37 of whom die each year on average

By DJ Yap/ Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines – Perhaps nobody appreciates better the preciousness of Fathers’ Day than the children of soldiers who know that every moment they stay alive is a blessing.

Some 70,000 fathers comprise over half of the workforce of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, and each year, an average of 37 of the “soldier dads” get killed in action, making military service one of the deadliest jobs for Filipino fathers.
“It’s a hard life to be a soldier and to be the child of a soldier. You have to make every moment count,” said Private First Class Ilyser Infante of the Army’s 82nd Infantry Battalion based in Miag-ao, Iloilo.
The 25-year-old soldier could only wish for more time with his dad.
Four years ago, Infante lost his father, Technical/Sergeant Abraham Infante, to communist New People’s Army guerrillas, who shot and killed him near his home in Moises Padilla town in Negros Occidental. The older Infante was only two years away from retirement when the ambush took place.
Then 21, Infante, who had been unsure of what he wanted to do in life, made a vow to follow in his father’s footsteps and signed up at the Philippine Military Academy, where he lasted only seven months after failing some academic subjects.
“But I was determined to be a soldier so I still enlisted in the Army,” Infante told the Philippine Daily Inquirer on the phone.
His motivation, he said, was not to avenge his father, but to continue what he had started. “At first, there was anger but the longer I am in the service, it just becomes all about wanting to serve my country,” he said.
On the eve of Fathers’ Day on Saturday, the 125,000-strong AFP saluted all the fathers in its ranks.
In a statement given to the Inquirer in lieu of an interview, the military top brass congratulated these fathers “for their continued dedication and commitment to the fulfillment of their mandated duties and responsibilities to the nation while at the same time working very hard to be responsible fathers in their homes.”
“Being a soldier dad is probably the most dangerous and difficult occupation in the world,” AFP spokesman Colonel Arnulfo Marcelo Burgos said.
But “the most challenging thing for a Pinoy soldier dad is striving to be the best father he can be while keeping in mind that his duty and service to the country should always come first,” he added.
The AFP chief of staff,  General Jessie Dellosa, said in the same statement: “I would like to pay tribute to all the Filipino Soldier Dads who guard our skies, patrol our seas and secure our lands so that all the other fathers in the country may be able to celebrate Fathers’ Day with their families peacefully.”
For Infante, Fathers’ Day will be spent quietly at the camp reflecting and remembering the good times with his father, who left behind a wife and five children.
“I will light two candles and remember the kind of father he was to me,” he said, speaking in Filipino.
Infante said the life of a soldier’s son was “completely different” from that of a civilian’s son.
“When your father is a soldier, your time together is so limited. That’s why you just have to make sure that you spend your time together well,” he said.
Recalling his times with his father, Infante said, he would usually have time off only about 10 days in a year.
“Every time he was home, the family would gather together. We would just stay home, talk about a lot of things, laugh together over dinner,” Infante said. “We didn’t go out that often because he would just want to relax and enjoy our company.”
Infante said he has no immediate plans to become a father himself, but when he does, “I will do as my father did.” “I will focus on raising my children and make sure that they finish their studies,” he said.
Stories like Infante’s are not rare in the Philippine military.
Another soldier-son whose father was killed by enemies of the government is the current chief of the Philippine Army, Lieutenant General Emmanuel Bautista.
He was a freshman cadet at the PMA when his father, Brigadier General Teodulfo Bautista, and 33 other unarmed officers and men gathered for a meeting with rebels about a year into a formal ceasefire, were gunned down by Moro National Liberation Front rebels in Patikul, Sulu on Oct. 10, 1977.
Speaking of his desire to achieve lasting peace, Bautista often refers to the experience of his own father.
“We have been fighting for too long. Too many have died. The statistics include my father. How many more will suffer?” Bautista said in an interview with the Inquirer last year. “My own father was killed trying to reach out. If I am able to overcome it, who can contest me?”
Burgos said the AFP strove to honor the memory of the fallen fathers in the ranks through the conferment of posthumous honors to those who were killed in action and providing for the education of their children.
“The Educational Benefit Systems Office of the AFP continues to provide scholarships to dependents of soldiers including those killed in action,” he said.
Currently, there are 4,206 children who have received grants. Of these, 1,896 were the children of soldiers who were killed in action. Some 385 are in elementary school, 525 in high school and 986 in college, Burgos said.
AFP Chief of Staff Dellosa said: “The AFP lauds all FIlipino soldier dads for their unrelenting service and unswerving loyalty to our country.”
“Let us continue to do our utmost best in performing our duties to our nation and our families, keeping alive the Bayanihan spirit as we altogether strive harder to attain a just and lasting peace for our country,” he added.

Monday, June 4, 2012

US Navy hopes stealth ship answers a rising China

By ERIC TALMADGE | Associated Press

SINGAPORE (AP) — A super-stealthy warship that could underpin the U.S. navy's China strategy will be able to sneak up on coastlines virtually undetected and pound targets with electromagnetic "railguns" right out of a sci-fi movie.

But at more than $3 billion a pop, critics say the new DDG-1000 destroyer sucks away funds that could be better used to bolster a thinly stretched conventional fleet. One outspoken admiral in China has scoffed that all it would take to sink the high-tech American ship is an armada of explosive-laden fishing boats.

With the first of the new ships set to be delivered in 2014, the stealth destroyer is being heavily promoted by the Pentagon as the most advanced destroyer in history — a silver bullet of stealth. It has been called a perfect fit for what Washington now considers the most strategically important region in the world — Asia and the Pacific.

Though it could come in handy elsewhere, like in the Gulf region, its ability to carry out missions both on the high seas and in shallows closer to shore is especially important in Asia because of the region's many island nations and China's long Pacific coast.

"With its stealth, incredibly capable sonar system, strike capability and lower manning requirements — this is our future," Adm. Jonathan Greenert, chief of naval operations, said in April after visiting the shipyard in Maine where they are being built.

On a visit to a major regional security conference in Singapore that ended Sunday, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said the Navy will be deploying 60 percent of its fleet worldwide to the Pacific by 2020, and though he didn't cite the stealth destroyers he said new high-tech ships will be a big part of its shift.

The DDG-1000 and other stealth destroyers of the Zumwalt class feature a wave-piercing hull that leaves almost no wake, electric drive propulsion and advanced sonar and missiles. They are longer and heavier than existing destroyers — but will have half the crew because of automated systems and appear to be little more than a small fishing boat on enemy radar.

Down the road, the ship is to be equipped with an electromagnetic railgun, which uses a magnetic field and electric current to fire a projectile at several times the speed of sound.

But cost overruns and technical delays have left many defense experts wondering if the whole endeavor was too focused on futuristic technologies for its own good.

They point to the problem-ridden F-22 stealth jet fighter, which was hailed as the most advanced fighter ever built but was cut short because of prohibitive costs. Its successor, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, has swelled up into the most expensive procurement program in Defense Department history.

"Whether the Navy can afford to buy many DDG-1000s must be balanced against the need for over 300 surface ships to fulfill the various missions that confront it," said Dean Cheng, a China expert with the Heritage Foundation, a conservative research institute in Washington. "Buying hyperexpensive ships hurts that ability, but buying ships that can't do the job, or worse can't survive in the face of the enemy, is even more irresponsible."

The Navy says it's money well spent. The rise of China has been cited as the best reason for keeping the revolutionary ship afloat, although the specifics of where it will be deployed have yet to be announced. Navy officials also say the technologies developed for the ship will inevitably be used in other vessels in the decades ahead.

But the destroyers' $3.1 billion price tag, which is about twice the cost of the current destroyers and balloons to $7 billion each when research and development is added in, nearly sank it in Congress. Though the Navy originally wanted 32 of them, that was cut to 24, then seven.

Now, just three are in the works.

"Costs spiraled — surprise, surprise — and the program basically fell in on itself," said Richard Bitzinger, a security expert at Singapore's Nanyang Technological University. "The DDG-1000 was a nice idea for a new modernistic surface combatant, but it contained too many unproven, disruptive technologies."

The U.S. Defense Department is concerned that China is modernizing its navy with a near-term goal of stopping or delaying U.S. intervention in conflicts over disputed territory in the South China Sea or involving Taiwan, which China considers a renegade province.

China is now working on building up a credible aircraft carrier capability and developing missiles and submarines that could deny American ships access to crucial sea lanes.

The U.S. has a big advantage on the high seas, but improvements in China's navy could make it harder for U.S. ships to fight in shallower waters, called littorals. The stealth destroyers are designed to do both. In the meantime, the Navy will begin deploying smaller Littoral Combat Ships to Singapore later this year.

Officially, China has been quiet on the possible addition of the destroyers to Asian waters.

But Rear Adm. Zhang Zhaozhong, an outspoken commentator affiliated with China's National Defense University, scoffed at the hype surrounding the ship, saying that despite its high-tech design it could be overwhelmed by a swarm of fishing boats laden with explosives. If enough boats were mobilized some could get through to blow a hole in its hull, he said.

"It would be a goner," he said recently on state broadcaster CCTV's military channel.

___ AP writer Christopher Bodeen contributed to this report from Beijing.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Super Secret Hypersonic Aircraft Flew Out of Its Skin

It turns out that tearing through the atmosphere at 20 times the speed of sound is bad for the skin, even if you're a super high-tech aircraft developed by the government's best engineers at its far-out research agency.

DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency, has made public its best guess about what might have caused its unmanned arrowhead-shaped Hypersonic Technology Vehicle (HTV-2) to suddenly lose contact and crash in the Pacific just a few minutes after slicing through the sky at Mach 20 last August: it was going so fast its skin peeled off.

After an eight-month investigation, DARPA concluded that even though the HTV-2 was expected to lose some of its skin mid-flight, "larger than anticipated portions of the vehicle's skin peeled from the aerostructure," the agency said in a statement Friday.

The agency said it expected the HTV-2, which goes so fast it can make the commute from New York to Los Angeles in 12 minutes, to experience "impulsive shock waves" at such speeds, but shocks it experienced last August were "more than 100 times what the vehicle was designed to withstand."

While the test was very public, the details of the HTV-2's design, stability system and potential purpose remain highly classified.

Two months after DARPA's test, the Army tested its own hypersonic aircraft - this one a long-range weapon system called the Advanced Hypersonic Weapon (AHW) designed to strike any target in the world in just a couple hours.