When FVR saved the day for Marawi

As a tribute to a departed boss, mentor, kumpadre and occasional golf buddy, I am reprinting an article I wrote earlier about him.


The recent celebration of National Heroes Day… brings back memories of that fateful day when the Maranaws of Marawi came face to face with near death and mayhem. The date was 21 October 1972, exactly a month after the declaration of martial law (21 September 1972), which shocked and awed the nation, so to speak. It was the day when the first shot that defied martial rule reverberated all over the land, unmasking a chink in the armor of martial law administrators. A group of Moro mujahideens identifying themselves as “Iklas” (loosely translated as total submission to fate) declared their revolt against the government. (I have not confirmed to this day if they were affiliated with the mainstream secessionist Moro National Liberation Front.) The local government security forces were caught, literally, with their pants down.

It was a deceptively calm morning while we were walking briskly toward home after our Soboh (dawn) prayers from the mosque, when we met a ragtag group of young boys in full battle gear shouting “Allahu Akbar” (God is Great), parading our streets, led by a certain Commander Mino. They overwhelmed the local police force and overran the government installations, including the government-owned radio station, DXSO, where young boys, some of them my students at the Mindanao State University, took turns declaring on air the start of the Moro revolution and… broadcasted non-stop Moro grievances against the government. The city almost fell into their hands, but for Camp Amaipakpak where government forces who were greatly outnumbered dug in and fought valiantly and ferociously.

There was clearly a stalemate, a scene one sees in movies. The Moro rebels had massed and reorganized their main forces targeting the camp, while the government forces stood their ground. The situation promised to be a long-drawn battle, but for the timely arrival of then Brig. General Fidel Ramos on the third day of battle. The news which spread fast about the “reinforcement” of Gen. Ramos had reached the rebels, which dampened their fighting spirit, and deterred the reinforcement of other rebel groups, believing that Ramos came with battalions of government forces to defend the camp.

It was psywar in action. I learned later based on official documents that Ramos at that time was “on routine inspection of the local constabulary units based in Cebu City,” and flew to Marawi City with only his handful of staff when he learned about the siege.

The presence alone of Gen. Ramos was the tipping point in the battle. The camp defenders were visibly relieved to see their chief fighting side by side with them, which fired up their flagging morale for being outnumbered. Their patriotic fervor resurged. True to his sobriquet, “Steady Eddie” was in his element commanding and rallying the camp defenders to fight on. He “personally reorganized the defenses by strengthening fighting positions and realigning the troops in key areas, and rallied the men to carry on the fight….” The rebels eventually withdrew and Marawi City was liberated.

For this singular feat of bravery, Gen. Ramos was awarded the “Distinguished Conduct Star” on 1 July 1986 “for conspicuous courage and gallantry in action during an attack by over four hundred Muslims… of Camp Amai Pakpak… in Marawi City on 23 October 1972.” The text of the citation described in detail the gallantry of Gen. Ramos.

That FVR is an authentic EDSA hero is a given. But before EDSA, he was already our hero. His daring act of rescuing Marawi from the clutches of an eminent subjugation by the rebels will immortalize his name in our history, and secure his heroism in the Bantugen folktales of the Maranaws.

It was no less significant a feat as EDSA. Marawi at that time was in total chaos. There was a breakdown of peace and order. The Chief of Police defected earlier to the rebel group, and I sensed that our leaders and top government officials, seeing the number and firepower of the rebels, were clearly dillydallying and in fact ambivalent whom to support.

Imagine if the rebel group succeeded in capturing Marawi, it would have a domino effect to the other rebel groups, including the mainstream MNLF, who will be emboldened to raid other government installations and encampments. And the country could have lost Morolandia and eventually Mindanao to the rebels. The singular heroic act of then Gen. Ramos may be a mere ripple in the political equation at that time, but it certainly helped save this country from disintegration.

Eternal peace my friend.



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