My Retirement Speech

I retired on June 7, 2021, after more than 36 years of active military service. Despite the COVID threat and the many prohibitions, I was honored to be tendered with a ceremony at the PA Grandstand and a testimonial dinner at the Ricarte Hall. For this alone, I was very thankful. Most social gatherings were disallowed and many collegues were allowed to simply retire unceremoniously due to the onslaught of the pandemic.

So I drafted my speech. I realized it was not as easy to write a speech days before retirement – in fact it was difficult to focus, think and do. I was overwhelmed, mainly emotionally – the thought of leaving the life you lived the past 36 years.

I wanted it to be short, direct and simple. Don’t forget those to whom credit is due and some balancing there. And so it was.

Appropriate Greetings . . .

This is the second time that I am making a valedictory address. The first one was in my elementary graduation (I will not divert there) and now. In both situations, I did not graduate as the valedictorian. As in the first time, I am not saying goodbye either. This organization, the Philippine Army, her officers and men, particularly those who were with me are our family the past 36-years, 3-months and 15-days and they will remain our family, our friends.

I will not talk about my accomplishments. I have nothing personally. Those attributed to me were that of my units, the collective efforts, dedications and sacrifices of the men and women; the leadership and guidance of my Commanders and the support of higher headquarters and other stakeholders.

Today simply marks the inevitable change. This is made special (you see we are all in bush coat and nice clothes) to remind me that tomorrow, I am no longer required to rise up early. There is no need – it now comes naturally. I am no longer required to wear uniforms – even if I would like to; and my hair, they stay – they will not grow long even if I’d like to because I lost my options already.  And the best – tomorrow, I will now earn pay daily even if I don’t work. They call it pension.

Today I will say what I’d like to say every day. From a grateful heart, my BIG! BIG! thanks:

To God for giving me life.

To my parents and relatives: Tatay died early so Nanay heroically raised us alone since I was three along with my Ate Fury; my brothers Roy and June. My Ate died in May 2019, my brother Roy is in Baler and June, our youngest is craving to come from London. They both could not come due to COVID prohibitions. My mother also died in 2019 but her legacy for honesty and integrity continue as my inspiration and guiding light.

To my grandparents Dade and Ina, my aunts and uncles, who helped us survived through the most trying times of our lives. My many cousins, my staunchest allies and friends. We grew up like one big family and we remain close to this day. My life would have been different without them.

To my teachers, classmates and friends from Baler Central Elementary School and Mount Carmel High School in Baler Aurora. They are the foundation of my formal education. Many of them remain friends to this day.

To the Philippine Military Academy for nurturing me to become an officer in the Army and for giving me the Makatao Class of 1989 – my extended family. My life in the service was made easier and fun because of them. Many mistah helped me along the way. Many of them consistently – all the way. It is funny to recall how wonderful they were: Cadet Nono Plaza used to iron my white pants and black shoes for Saturday Inspection while I was doing those of others. Cadets Ric Bayhon and Nick Driz, my room mates helped tempered my excesses (maganity). Cadet Alex Luna was my very persistent academic coach who helped me passed my removals. Truly, I could not survived the Academy without them.

Another mistah, Lt Lowell Tan, now Brigadier General, submitted housing application in my behalf- without informing me – and that is why I have a quarter since 2000. Cpt Juvy Max Uy, now Major General and the Commander of 6th Infantry Division helped me get the UNMISET post in 2001. Many other mistah willingly gave and helped without being asked. I cannot mention each of you but you know who you are. You are just wonderful! I could not thank you enough but just be assured I will be here for you too.

To Cpt Ricardo Banayat PAF and Cpt Felicisimo Khu, our tactical officers. After graduation, they handed me two-inch thick Delinquency Reports, awarded but not effected. Otherwise, I surely would not have graduated. I remember I swore to prove they did the right decision. I believe they do not regret.

In the active service, I have my former Commanders who entrusted me with critical posts that had set the trajectory of my career.

To BGen Danilo Olay Sr. PMA 65 who was the Commander of 8ID. He introduced me to Intelligence and made me the Chief of the Division Analysis Center in 1994. He was like a father to me and had he not died in that fatal helicopter crash, I could have had a different career path. In his honor, we inaugurated last 15 May 2021 the Olay Lounge. This is a lounge at the PA Lawn Tennis Court for tennis players. He was known to be an avid tennis player.

To Colonel Sonny Cachuela PMA 76 He designated me as his Administrative Officer at OG1 in 2002. I got the UNMO post from there where I had a fulfilling experience working with United Nations with other international officers and among the people of East Timor.

To Colonel Rodolfo Santiago, my first Commander at 12ISU in 1996. He got me at DISG in 2004 and designated me as Assistant Chief of Intelligence, G2, the Commander Special Project Unit and Executive Officer all at the same time. It surely was rotting but I learned a lot. When he was Commandant of the AFPCGSC, he took me again as the Chief of Staff of AFPCGSC in July 2015 until his retirement in November 2016. He remained a mentor, coach, friend, brother and inspiration to me.

To General Vic Porto, I am grateful for his trust and confidence. He designated me as Commander 11IB in Negros Island in 2010. His leadership was so inspiring you would not want to fail him.

To General Emmanuel Bautista, who retired as Chief of Staff, AFP and Major General Pio Q Dinoso, the Commander of 8ID who were instrumental in my designation as the Deputy AGSMO post, the Chief Promotion Division OJ1 and my War College and Master of Arts in Strategic Security Studies at National Defense University Washington DC. These were fulfilling assignments, schoolings and experience that had impact on my career and personal life. 

To General Glorioso Miranda made me his G1, PA in 2017 through the recommendation of then MGen Elmer Pabale who was my Chief at Army Modernization Project Management Office or AMPMO (which later became AGSMO). It was not easy being G1 during the entire Marawi Siege and under Gen Miranda. Those of you who were with us during that time understand what I mean.

It may have been rotting to say the least but the G1 post paved the way for my designation as Brigade Commander of 803Bde in Samar by then CGPA Lt General Rolando D Bautista to whom I also owe gratitude.

To MGen Raul Farnacio, then Commander 8ID for being a good Commander and friend.

These are all inter-related and never a single man in each of the decision point, so I am sure there were others who gave me favors and made my life easier – some staff officers, underclass, Non-Commisioned Officers, Civilian Human Resource, like Ma’am Letty Lacanienta, who I could not mention. I thank you anyway and pray God repay you ten-fold for what you have done. . .

To LtGen Gilbert I Gapay then CGPA who appointed me as the Commander Installation Management Command, which I have just relinquished. I am also thankful to the Commanding General Philippine Army Major General Andres C Centino and to the immediate past CGPA Lt General Jose Faustino, General Cirilito Sobejana. Their support enabled IMCOM to perform and accomplish its mission and rise to relevance. IMCOM is now much better because of them and their supportive staff.

My IMCOM family – thank you all for your support and friendship. I have said this before, we could not have accomplish anything at all without your professional attitude and dedication to duties and responsibilities.

To the Philippine Army, to whom I owe so much. She nurtured me to what I am now and gave me all: education, training, travels around the country and abroad, friends from within and those I met along the way and there are many. Friends I hope to keep for life. I am privileged to have been part of many meaningful changes: the modernization, the Army Transformation Roadmap, the Special Operations Team that used to be the primary tool in all campaigns to Peace and Development Teams, the Enhance Comprehensive Local Integration Program to the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC). I had it all and I am retiring with a contented heart.

Of course to my in-laws: the Ong Family of Baler and Baltimore who gave me Beth, my wife. Tatay Ben and Nanay Ofie, Ellen, Edith, Edna, Noel, Benjoe and Elmer. Your support morally and financially and more importantly your love, have strengthened us. Hope to see you soon.

Finally, amidst the peculiar call of duty the past 30-plus years, I owe it all to my family for their support, sacrifices, understanding and love. To my only wife Beth and only son Elimar, and my two new inspirations Elijah and EZ, you are God’s blessing. Thank you!

Danny O

I considered myself blessed for being given the rare opportunity to hear mistah Danny Olay and extend a helping hand when needed most just before he died.

I saw him last 15 May 2015. He was our guest during the blessing of Olay Lounge, – a tennis players’ lounge near PA Tennis Court. It is named in honor of his father – BGen Danilo Olay Sr PA who was a known avid tennis player.

Two days ago, Monday 28 Jun 2021, around 7pm, while at PA Lawn Tennis Court, I received a call from DannyO. He was slurring and I could not understand what he was saying except for the “bok”. It was raining so we were at the shaded bleacher. I initially thought it was the noise from the roof. I strained my ears to no avail but I already sensed something was not right. The line was cut off and I dialed several times before getting connection. I still could not understand him so I inquired if anyone in the house who I can talk to. I got a lady’s voice and learned that Danny (symptomatic) and the lady I talked to (asymptomatic) were both positive with COVID for two weeks already. SHE INTRODUCED HERSELF AS DANNY’S GF. I inquired if they would like to be hospitalized. I heard her convincing Danny. I sensed Danny was reluctant but was already weak. I shared the information to Col Arvin Lagamon COM CMOR who was closed by. He immediately contacted FBGH. Meantime, I contacted AlexL, MannyS and RowenT to request assistance. As a retired officer, I needed their “active” powers. They all responded calling contacts to expedite actions. We had exchanges of calls and txt. In around two- hours Danny was evacuated to VLuna. We got initial update. It was not good. Danny was immediately intubated.

Yesterday, we were receiving updates. We thought he was getting by. I contacted Jun Morales and informed him of Danny’s predicament. He immediately coordinated for financial assistance.

Today, Wednesday 30 Jun 2021, I learned, Danny returned to our creator due to COVID.

This should impressed upon us all that life is short indeed and COVID is real.

Let us all be more cautious.

Watch our Conduct During COVID

This COVID spike is actually frustrating to say the least. We thought it is getting better. We were expecting it was already under control and diminishing. The ongoing vaccination boosted our hope and expectation.

False hope! we lowered our guard prematurely.

And now the sudden rise!

We get frustrated. This frustration affects our moods – heightening anxiety that reflects on our actuations and actions. No one is exempted. So this time of heighthened anxiety, be on guard with everything we say and do, from our homes to offices and in whatever we do. This is extra-ordinary times. We are more prone to commit mistakes in words and deeds so better be more watchful. Everyone is suffering. Everyone is sacrificing. Be more understanding and forgiving. Let us not add up to this burden. Instead, stock up on patience and share… We should all get through it smiling.

Travelling is Enriching

Listening to the retirement speech of Major General Rey M Aquino PA last 23 October 2020, I realized how similarly lucky I am. The feeling of thankfulness suddenly overwelmed me.

Indeed, I should be thankful to this organization that nurtured me to where and what I am now. It just gave me so much in all facets of my life.

I have met many people. I have talked and consoled with the poorest, shook hand with the powerful, the rich and famous and even played with celebrities.

It gave me so many friends, too many to mention here. Mostly, friends I would not even meet had I taken a different path. Many are for keeps, supporting me, inspiring me, sharing me their lives, from Cadet days to present. There are much more I met along the way who I cherish to this very day. They are my life’s treasure.  I cannot imagine a different life without them.

Looking back, I realized I have traveled extensively. I have been all over the Philippines, in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.  And as an Army officer, I have been to many remote places and communities that even the  locals have not visited nor seen.

I have been to many countries. Mainly, official travel, therefore mostly on my organization’s account.
I have been to Estonia 2018 (Talinn). I have been to USA (at least 14 states – many multiple times), Germany 2016 Berlin, Hamburg), Singapore (2: 2008, 2016), Japan 2016, Indonesia (Bali 2003 – 4 times, Jakarta), Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur 2008), Thailand (Pattaya 2008),  East Timor 2002, South Korea, Australia 2002 (Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra, Darwin 2003) .

In some travels, both local and abroad, I was able to bring along my family. More than the perks, travelling is educational and fun: visiting unfamiliar places that otherwise I only read, meeting new friends including those who are ordinarily only seen and heard, and learning cultures of other peoples and places.

Travelling is certainly much more than the schools and books can ever offer. The experiential learning is much more fulfilling, meaningful, lasting and enriching.

No regrets. There is not even an iota of doubt that I would choose this career path again.

Eulogy for Nanay

The best gift we can give to show our love is TIME. And so, to those who unselfishly shared their precious TIME to our beloved nanay Lucy that brightened her every day, lightened her loads and soothed her pain during her lifetime particularly during our absence, and unto her death, commiserated with us during our bereavement, we would like to express our most profound gratitude. That means so much to us and if we cannot reciprocate with the same act of kindness, we pray to God to grant unto you the prayers of our hearts. Words are not enough but still . . . Thank you.

Empower the Barangays – Dislodge the NPA

There are many barangays that can only be reached by trekking for days: no road even for habal-habal, no electric power and no signal.

There are few that have schools. In these barangays, public school teachers spend Mondays coming and Fridays leaving. That leaves mere three days for classroom instructions. I imagine the quality, how would these students fare outside. Why don’t I hear barangay officials complaining against the teachers and neither of the parents. I guess they would not dare as they are just as worse – coming only for sessions and honorarium. As usual, it takes two to tango. And the parents just as helpless have no choice.

Even worse, many do not have school. Where there is no school, and barangay officials rarely come there is no semblance of governance except for the occasional patrolling Army. In these barangays, the shadow government dominates: the NPAs nest, breed and rule. When the Army comes, they just sidestep. When the Army is gone they return. Sadly, the Army cannot stay long term, and the Army cannot be all over.

It’s not the people – they are the victims- they don’t have any choice. Its more “us” because we are supposed to protect and insulate them but we could not.

If we connect these barangays, install power, communication, TVs internet, the schools – we give the people choices – we educate them, we empower them. When the people have choices – when they are empowered – they cannot be deceived and the NPAs would not thrive.

We are getting there but rather slowly. If we want to expedite, we have to shift our priorities. That’s why I frown to see road repairs – sometimes even of perfectly usable roads, road widening only to be used as parking space, unfinished projects such as roads, bridges and schools and other government infrastructure projects that do not prioritize the poor and the marginalized particularly those in the geographically isolated and disadvantaged areas.

Insurgency Quotables

• If the enemies do not mind you; you are irrelevant. Soldiers cannot be a fence sitter. It’s either you are for or against. Never be complacent, all soldiers are legitimate targets.

• The road ends where insurgency begins.

• CTG extortion is a substantial fraction of corruption. No one gives from their own hard-earned money. Stop corruption to stop CTG extortion.

• If we drain their resources, they will simply stop or banish. No organization exists without funds.

• Who are the NPAs? Ask the barangay officials. The barangay officials know in person all their constituents, including CTG personalities and their families. It’s naivete to believe denials.

• If only the various government agencies have done and are doing their respective jobs properly, there should be no insurgency and there is no need for the Army at all.

• It’s injustice and not just poverty that fuels insurgency.

• The problem is not the people; it is the government! The people is the victim of the government’s incompetence and inadequacy. The NPA just fill the vacuum.

• Good parenting is the best counter- insurgency tool. Nothing equals training at home.

• Filipino culture and religion are anathema to communist ideologies. That is why communist intent is to weaken first these two institutions and employ deception to facilitate recruitment.

• Education and information campaign could frustrate the NPA’s recruitment efforts. Uninformed individuals are the most vulnerable to deception and manipulation. Most of the educated ones are motivated by selfish interests and in rare case, misguided patriotism.

Protect our family. Help our country

It’s not just the government. There are simple ways or actions ordinary folks can do to help the government do its job to ensure peace and protect the people.

1. Educate our family and community on the deception of NPA and its impact to local peace and security, now and in the long term. Solid families frustrate NPA recruitment.

2. Convince our family, our local leaders and the entire community to exert social pressure to eject and reject the NPA at the very first instance. Once rooted, they are difficult to uproot.

3. Good parenting is the most effective and reliable counter- insurgency tool. Good parents are able to raise children who cannot be deceived and manipulated by the NPAs.

4. Be vigilant. Makialam. Report to authorities suspicious new faces and activities. The person we are protecting could be ours.

5. Do not give in to NPA extortion. Ang pinagsama-samang piso ay nagiging madaming piso. Educate our family and community that small amounts could buy ammunitions that could be used to kill their targets, including yourself. NPAs are like chicken: when we feed them in the morning, they all come, including those from the neighborhood. If we don’t feed them, they go to our neighbors, including our own chicken.

6. Do not vote NPA supported candidates and party- list groups. They will only serve the NPA and not the people.

7. Be concerned. Report corruption, abuses, inactions and neglect of our government officials. They should know we care.

How individuals can help themselves be good citizens and help solve insurgency?

1. Follow God’s commandments.
2. Love your family. Protect your children
3. Respect and listen to your parents.
4. Respect the laws.
5. Be a good student.
6. Be a good citizen.
7. Stay healthy.
8. Avoid bad influences.
9. Dream BIG! Study hard, work hard, play hard.
10. Help when you can with what you can.
11. Pay your taxes.
12. Don’t tolerate corruption, incompetence and neglect..

Matthew 18:30

Today’s sermon, which focused on Matthew 18:3 “And said, Truly I say to you, Except you be converted, and become as little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.”, prompted me to ponder. The word of God often requires a deeper contemplation to get its meaning. It looks simple but it is not. Often we take it literally and get lost. So how to become as little children? I would not belabor the point and try to clarify by directly describing the characteristics of children.

Children are humble. They don’t have pride or ego to feed.

Children are honest, often to a fault. It is not yet within their mental capacity to analyze the impact of what they say to themselves, to other people and even to their love ones.

Children are simple. They just want to eat play and sleep.

What else? Are these all that God wants for us to become to enter his kingdom? These look ridiculously simple as requirements to enter the kingdom of God. Perhaps we should look at what the children are not.

They do not inflict harm. They are just physically incapable being too weak and small compare to adults.

They do not lie, cheat or steal. There simply is no need. They are so simple they are already contented eating, playing and sleeping.

They do not lust for wealth and power and even for beauty and love. Children are innocent with malice towards none.

Still doable, right? Be humble, honest and simple. Do not harm others; do not lie, cheat or steal; and do not lust. I am actually surprise that these are all we have to do or strive for us to enter the kingdom of God.