The challenging journey of a uniformed man
By Ana-liza Macatangay
Outgoing 9ID Commander bids emotional farewell to his “home” for 37 years
“It ends here.”
These were the three poignant words that outgoing 9th Infantry “SPEAR” Division Commander Major General Alex Dela Cruz Luna uttered as he formally wrapped up his 37 illustrious years of service in the Philippine Army (PA)– the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ (AFP) oldest and largest branch.
“Heneral Luna” as he is fondly called by military colleagues and close friends, was joined by his “Mistah’ during the Change of Command and Retirement Ceremony held November 28, Monday at the 9th Infantry Division (9ID) Multipurpose Gym, Camp Elias Angeles, Pili, Camarines Sur.
“My long service in the military ends now. Although it is just part of my long journey in life but it sure tells the story of myself and my life. At the start was very simple, to have a college scholarship that would earn me a degree and be able to have a modest life and be responsible to myself. And lucky enough I got the scholarship that would lead me to a long journey,” Luna said.
Luna speaks about the various “crossroads” that he has to hurdle in order to continue his mission in life – that is serving the country and giving his utmost dedication and commitment to ensure that the life of others will be protected from the threat of terrorism and violence.
Philippine Army Commanding General LtGen Romeo S. Brawner Jr. served as the Presiding Officer during the Change of Command and Retirement Ceremony held November 28, Monday at the 9th Infantry Division (9ID) Multipurpose Gym, Camp Elias Angeles, Pili, Camarines Sur. (PIA 5/Camarines Sur)
A Job Well Done
Philippine Army Commanding General LtGen Romeo S. Brawner Jr., who served as the ceremony’s Presiding General Officer personally graced the momentous turn-over of command.
“Our humble beginnings at the academy, have instilled in us and renew the enduring promise of great leadership which have manifested throughout your designations within the Phil Army and the Armed Forces of the Philippines. Your exemplary performance in combat and intelligence operations made you ascend to the ranks and made you worthy to hold vital positions in the ladder of your career,” Brawner said.
The official also lauded Luna’s expertise that made him land a prestigious award in 2011.
“In fact, Gen Luna was conferred with the PMA Alumni Association Incorporated Cavalry Awards for Operations in 2011. Mahirap pong makuha yon. MGen Luna will also be remembered as the Commander of the Joint Task Force NCR who face all the odds in combating the menace of the COVID 19 pandemic and for having a major role in restoring order in the Metro Manila area during the initial stage of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Brawner added.
It is not surprising then that Luna was conferred with more accolades during the Change of Command and Retirement Ceremony before he officially leave the portals of the Philippine Army.
AWARD OF THE DISTINGUISHED SERVICE STAR
Luna received the Award of the Distinguished Service Star for his “exceptionally meritorious and invaluable services rendered as Commander, 9th Infantry (SPEAR) Division, Philippine Army from 04 January 2022 to 28 November 2022.
Division Public Affairs Office Spokesperson Major John Paul “JP” Belleza said that Luna’s stay may have been short, but he will always be remembered as an epitome of a true leader and a man of excellence.
“As the citation reads, MGen Luna indeed served as an exemplar of principled and committed leadership. He came up with comprehensive methodology in defeating various threats by winning the hearts and minds of the populace in the Bicol Region through massive information operations complemented by the active implementation of government programs that successfully countered the propaganda and narrative of the Communist Terrorist which substantially reduced the armed threat groups mass base, networks and cells, and other support system. I think those words sum it all,” Belleza added.
The said award was signed by Command of General Bacarro.
HPA COMMAMD PLAQUE
As immediate past Commander of the 9ID, Brawner also bestowed the HPA Command Plaque to Luna for his meritorious and invaluable services rendered as Commander of the 9th Infantry (SPEAR) Division, Philippine Army.
THE DAHONG PALAY AWARD
Luna was also conferred with the “Dahong Palay,” award which symbolizes honor, service and patriotism of the “Pangkat ng Magigiting” as guardians of Southern Luzon. The said accolade, which literally is a rice leaf, is a single-edged weapon blade that originated in the Southern Tagalog, specifically in the provinces of Batangas and Mindoro.
It was one of the primary weapons of the farmer-warriors during the Philippine Revolution of 1896 and other major conflicts in our history due to a well-balanced blade optimized for slashing and thrusting.
« The ‹Dahong Palay’ symbolizes the honor, service and patriotism of the “Pangkat ng Magigiting” as guardians of Southern Luzon,” Belleza explained.
4ID COMMAND PLAQUE
For his outstanding service and invaluable support to the 4th Infantry (Diamond) Division, Philippine Army with the deployment of 901st Infantry Brigade and 65th Infantry Battalion in 4ID Area of Responsibility, Luna was handed with the 4ID Command Plaque. The gains of the said division under his leadership greatly contributed to the overall accomplishment of the Command’s mission.
The award was signed by 4ID Commander, Major General Wilbur C. Mamawag PA.
COMMANDER SOUTHERN LUZON COMMAND, AFP COMMAND PLAQUE
For the invaluable services he rendered as Commander, Joint Task Force Bicolandia (JTFB) from 04 January 2022 to 28 November 2022 which contributed immensely to the accomplishment of Southern Luzon Command’s mission, Luna also received the Commander Southern Luzon Command, AFP Command Plaque signed by MGen Efren P. Baluyot.
What a Journey It has been
“For 4 years, the academy prepared me for that journey. Difficult at the start but I always pray then that I hope I could manage to survive on a day to day basis, and lucky true enough, I was able to hurdle the challenge and reach a major crossroad in my journey of life. I joined the Army.
Heneral Luna belongs to Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Makatao Class 1989.
Never contented with just a college degree, he pursued two Master’s degrees- one in Public Administration from the Philippine Christian University and Master’s Degree in National Security administration from the National Defense College of the Philippines. He knew that enriching himself with more knowledge will aid him in making decisive decisions that would address the country’s quest for peace.
True enough, he took these valuable learning to heart and went on to become one of the most respected in the fields of intelligence and combat operations.
He held significant and key positions in the Philippine Army. He led the 801st Infantry Brigade in Eastern Samar as its Commander and co-chaired the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP) Committee. He was tasked as Chief of Staff of the 10th Infantry Division and served as Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence at Camp Aguinaldo.
At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, he was given the crucial role to lead his troops as Commander of the Joint Task Force-NCR and spearhead critical and vital COVID responses while ensuring that counter-insurgency efforts are sustained, particularly at the countryside.
Luna said that choosing a military career entails dedication, perseverance and undying patriotism.
“When I joined the Army, my initial objective of getting a scholarship and a college degree change to something very meaningful--love of country, patriotism and nationalism. “Pagmamahal sa inang bayan.” Hindi pala ganoon kadali ang pinili naming, and as I recall all the challenging moments, iba’t-ibang karanasan, pakiramdam at damdamin ang aking nararamdaman noon, and I thank God we were able to survive,” Luna added.
During his valedictory speech, Luna, who showed his tough side as an Army official, got to share his other side – his compassionate heart which still aches for his departed Mistah.
“Malungkot lang pag minsan maalala ko ang iba nating Mistah na nauna na sa atin. Kaya nga noong Testimonial Dinner para sa akin ng Army ninanis ko talagang bangitin silang lahat at hayaan ninyong muli ko silang batiin. Muli naglaan ako ng lugar para sa kanila,” Luna tearfully uttered.
Acting Division Commander BGen Abawag also expressed his gratitude and admiration for MGen Luna’s leadership. He has achieved significant gains in neutralizing enemies and compelling CTG members to surrender during his brief tenure as 9ID Commander.
“Sa panahon ng panunungkulan ng ating Outgoing Division Commander, MGen Luna, ay nakamtan natin ang sunod-sunod na tagumpay, hindi lamang sa larangan ng intelligence and combat operations, kundi maging sa ating civil-military operations na syang naging daan sa pagkaka deklara ng tatlong guerilla fronts bilang “dismantled” . Ang mga tagumpay na ito ay isa sa mga dahilan sa patuloy na pamamayagpag ng ating dibisyon,” Abawag stated.
“In behalf of the men and women of the Phil Army, MGen Luna I convey my sincerest gratitude to you and I wish you a happy 56th birthday!,” Brawner said in closing. (PIA5/Camarines Sur)