BY GILBERT P. BAYORAN
Armed Forces chief, Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, started what he called his “nostalgic visit” to Brgy. Cabacungan, La Castellana, Negros Occidental on May 13, where he started his military career, and was honored yesterday by the provincial government of Negros Oriental as the first NegOrense Medal of Valor awardee, commanding general of the Philippine Army, and as AFP chief of staff.
Sobejana said he started his military career in 1987 as platoon leader of the 11th Infantry Battalion Charlie Company, with headquarters in Brgy. Cabacungan, La Castellana.
Recalling that it was at the height of the insurgency problem in Negros Island, Sobejana, who is a native of Zamboanguita, Negros Oriental, said they used to be engaged in armed skirmishes with the New People’s Army every day.
That was more than three decades ago, Sobejana said as he led the unveiling of the bust pedestal and marker of Medal of Valor posthumous recipient, 1Lt. Lolanito To-ong, of Brgy. Cabacungan, La Castellana, Thursday.
“I’ve seen today a lot of improvements and I am very happy,” Sobejana said, noting also a marked improvement in the peace and order of La Castellana.
Sobejana recalled that it was his first assignment as junior military officer in La Castellana where he met and married his wife, Edna Iturriaga, of Brgy. Bulad, Isabela, Negros Occidental.
Because of the chaotic peace and order situation at that time, Sobejana said he had to bring his wife to his barracks, a day after their wedding. “It was a combat wedding, it was a combat honeymoon,” he recalled, with a smile.
After his assignment in La Castellana, he was transferred to northern Negros as commander of the 11IB Alpha Company, and moved to the Scout Ranger Regiment.
He got his Medal of Valor during his 1995 assignment in Basilan that almost cost his life. He and his 16 Scout Ranger troops fought against almost 200 Abu Sayyaf fighters in four hours of gunbattle.
LOST RIGHT ARM
Forty-two terrorists and seven of his men died in that clash. And he lost his right arm.
Sobejana was again honored yesterday by the provincial government of Negros Oriental, led by Gov. Roel Degamo, after he was recognized in 2012, for his dedication and service to the AFP, and the country as a whole.
Having been assigned in troubled areas of the country, Sobejana admitted, tested his tenacity, bravery, courage, heroism, and combat leadership. As a NegOrense awardee, Sobejana said this will further motivate him to do more for his countrymen.*