By Rhaydz B. Barcia
LEGAZPI CITY --- Private First Class Rojero Rayco, 26, was not alone when he came back home after a few years of being away in the battlefield. On that fateful day, he brought with him the remains of his fallen elder brother, PFC Romeo B. Rayco, 28, who was killed in the strife-torn Marawi City in Mindanao.
Rojero and his elder brother were home a few days after President Rodrigo Duterte declared the liberation of Marawi City from the hands of Islamic State-linked terrorist group Maute.
The Raycos hail from Barangay Tobog, in Oas, Albay.
Rojero and his brother’s cadaver were flown Friday (Oct. 20) afternoon from Marawi to Legazpi City through the
Philippine Air Force nomad aircraft. Full military honors were given upon the soldier’s body’s arrival at Tactical Operations Group 5-Philippine Air Force headquarters here.
According to Rojero, his elder brother was killed at 2:00 a.m. on October 19 at 2:00 a.m. while the government soldiers were about to finish their clearing operations in war-torn Marawi.
Rojero has been with the Philippine Army for six years now while his elder brother Romeo had served nearly four years as member of the 8th Special Forces Company of the Special Operations Command of the Philippine Army.
As member of the Philippine Army’s anti-terrorism task force, the younger Rayco was sent to Marawi City when the war broke out in May while Romeo,his elder brother, came to Marawi in September 25 for test mission before graduating from his schooling.
Before arriving in Marawi, Rojero said that Romeo informed him of his re-assignment in Marawi.
“He told me that he will be sent to my area. So, I’ve given him tips before arriving in Marawi for his safety. While in Marawi, we were positioned in higher grounds, some 100 meters away from his post,” Rojero said.
Rojero also disclosed that while in Marawi, they were able to meet for about 10 minutes. Rajero said that during their stint in Marawi they were able to meet only for about 10 minutes on October 12. He was to bring him food, Rojero said, because Romeo was restricted from buying food outside as normally imposed on soldier under training.
“That’s short period of time we hugged each other before parting ways,” Rojero said.
During his five months stay in Marawi, Rojero said seven of his comrades in arms were killed right before his eyes while in the middle of urban warfare.
“I was assigned in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao whenever there was trouble as member of the Philippine Army’s anti-terrorism task force. The war in Marawi is the worst, not only because of numerous soldiers being killed but because of big number of civilians who lost their precious lives in the hands of ISIS-linked terrorists in Mindanao,” he said.
“I’m lucky as I survived the bloodiest battle but unhappy that I have to bring home a dead brother who is a soldier like me. My brother is a loving and caring brother not only to his kin but to his friends,” Rojero lamented.
Carol Rayco, 23, Romeo’s widow, lost conscousiness while military honors were being conducted on her husband. Together, they have a daughter, three-year old Rhian.
Legazpi City Mayor Noel Rosal, chair of Regional Peace in Order Council in Bicol, said that PFC Romeo Rayco is the fourth Albayano hero who offered their lives in Marawi City.
For every fallen Bicolano soldier in Marawi, Rosal attended the full military honors being tendered by the Armed Forces of the Philippines here as chairman of RPOC.
Major Gen. Manolito P. Orense, commanding officer of the Army’s 9th Infantry Division in a statement read by Col. Patrick Cinco before the troops here, said that PFC Romeo N. Rayco of 8SRC, FSRR, SOCOM died in the line of duty against ISIS-Maute terrorist group in Marawi City.
“Every soldier knew what risks they would take when they were in combat and that is the risk they are willing to give even their lives are at stake. Giving one’s life for your country is the highest act of patriotism,” the general said.
The other Bicolano soldiers died in Marawi City with their boots on were identified as PFC Reymar Carloto (Philippine Army) from Gubat, Sorsogon; Sergeant Ruddy Espelimburgo (Marines) from San Jacinto, Masbate; Army Corporal Roland H. Sumagpong (Philippine Army); Private First Class John V. Lunas (Marines) from Hindi, Bacacay, Albay; Army Corporal Jojenes Mebato of Pili, Camarines Sur, and; Army Sergeant Antonio B. Pareja.