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When fathers bury their sons

In the normal course of human events, a father is witness to the birth of his son. He picks him up, often from his mother’s arms and holds him close to his chest, aware of how fragile and delicate is the new life that has just joined the family. Sometimes the newborn is screaming loudly; at times, the infant is quiet, unmoving, and even smiling. And the father is full of joy and happiness, exultant over the new addition.

As the years go by, the father sees the son grow up and after a while, perhaps sooner than he expected, the son is already a young man raising his own family. And the usual ending of the story sees the son caring for an ailing father and eventually burying him.

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There are times when the ending is different. It is the father who buries the son.

Maj. Gen. Fortunato Abat and son Tito. Second Lt. Tito Abat was the second boy of Gen. Fortunato Abat, former commanding general of the Philippine Army, and wife Cora. Of the two Abat boys, Tito was the most enthusiastic about a military career, having been a corps commander during his high school days. His parents were not too keen about the whole idea since his older brother, Victor, was already at the Philippine Military Academy (PMA).

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Tito Abat graduated with the Class of 1978 a year after Victor, and soon married his “kaydet” girl, Sigrid, the daughter of Col. Epifanio Reymundo, Class of 1955. He joined the Army and opted to undergo Scout Ranger training. In February 1979, four days short of his 23rd birthday, Tito was killed in action against New People’s Army (NPA) rebels in Samar.

Brig. Gen. Edgardo Alfabeto and son Ray. Second Lt. Ray Anthony Alfabeto was also the second son of Brig. Gen. Edgardo Alfabeto, former commander of Regional Command 9, based in Zamboanga City, and wife Maud.

Ray Alfabeto graduated from the PMA with the Class of 1983, and chose the Philippine Constabulary (PC) as his branch of service, following in the footsteps of the father. Although with the PC, he underwent Scout Ranger training with a number of his classmates. On combat patrol in Abra, Ray fell victim to the perfidy of an NPA surrenderee who was acting as guide for his team. He was killed in action on Sept. 21, 1983, the 11th anniversary of the proclamation of martial law. The road in Camp Crame where he used to play as a young boy is named after him—Lt. Ray Alfabeto Street.

Brig. Gen. Felix Brawner Jr. and son “Boboy.” Lieutenant Felix Brawner III was the only boy of Brig. Gen. Felix Brawner Jr., former commander of the Northern Luzon Command, and wife Rita. General Brawner Jr. graduated No. 1 in his PMA Class of 1957 and Felix Brawner III, Boboy to family and friends, decided early on that he was going to be just like his dad.

Boboy graduated with the Class of 1984 and shortly after, reported for Scout Ranger training. He was assigned to Mindanao and later, to the Bicol region where he served as head of a Ranger fire support company. In February 1988, while conducting operations against NPA rebels, his truck hit a landmine. He was killed in action against an enemy force in ambush position following the mine explosion.

Brig. Gen. Rene Dado and son “Randy.” Lieutenant Rene “Randy” Dado Jr. was the firstborn and only boy of Brig. Gen. and Mrs. Rene Dado, Class of 1966. Rene Dado was the first in his batch to be general and Randy was determined to equal, if not surpass, the record of his idol.

Randy entered the PMA in 1987 and graduated with the Class of 1991. In his senior year at the academy he was awarded the Bronze Cross Medal for his role in saving the lives of 87 persons in the aftermath of the earthquake that hit Baguio City in July 1990. In May 1991, he joined the Scout Rangers and was assigned to Mindanao. A year later, he was killed in action against Muslim rebels on the outskirts of Camp Awang in Cotabato City.

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Brig. Gen. Quintin Alcudia and son “Toto.” Lieutenant Quintin “Toto” Alcudia Jr. was the second of three sons of General Alcudia and wife Maria Luz. The elder Alcudia served as 4th Infantry Division commander based in Camp General Evangelista, Cagayan de Oro City.

“Toto” Alcudia graduated from the PMA with Class of 1992 and chose the Army as his branch of service. After undergoing Scout Ranger training, he was deployed to Quezon province. In November 1992, he became the first casualty of the class when he was killed in combat operations against NPA rebels. A younger brother is Lt. Col. Ronald Alcudia, Class of 1993, also of the Philippine Army.

Chief Supt. Roberto Damian and son Francis. Lieutenant Francis Damian, Class of 2007, was the son of Police Chief Supt. and Mrs. Roberto Damian. He joined the Army after graduation and was killed in action during the siege of Zamboanga City in 2013. His father recalled that “Francis was not only my son, he was my best friend.”

Six young men, all PMA graduates, all lieutenants, all Scout Rangers, all sons of general officers with four bearing their father’s first name—all fell under combat conditions while in the service of the nation. They could have easily stayed on safer grounds; instead, they chose the difficult path.

The normal cycle of life is reversed. It is the old man who buries the young boy he once held in his arms.

As we move toward the holiest period in the Roman Catholic calendar, we are reminded that centuries ago, an Almighty Father chose to sacrifice His Only Beloved Son in order to save mankind and reopen the doors to His Kingdom in heaven.

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TAGS: Edgardo Alfabeto, Felix Brawner III, Felix Brawner Jr., Fortunato Abat, Francis Damian, Quintin Alcudia, Quintin Alcudia Jr., Ramon J. Farolan, Ray Alfabeto, Rene Dado, Rene Dado Jr., Reveille, Roberto Damian, Tito Abat
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