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National

The story of the last Basilan survivor

InterAksyon.com
The online news portal of TV5

ZAMBOANGA CITY -- All soldiers who fought in Albarka in Basilan on Tuesday are accounted for. Private First Class Michael Natividad, the last survivor of the encounter the military and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) is now in Camp Navarro Hospital inside the Western Mindanao Command. 

Even as they have been wounded and are still recovering, the surviving soldiers still want to return to the battlefield. 

Natividad is still obviously tired from almost three days of hiding and trying to escape from the encounter site in Albarka. 

He related how he and Lt. Jose Delfin Khe got separated from the rest of the troops at the height of the firefight. At the time, he said Khe was already fighting for his life as he sustained gunshot wounds in the thigh and chest. Before he died, he only had one instruction for Natividad: “Pag malapit na sila, tumakbo ka na (When they come close, just run).”

Natividad said the MILF fighters were able to come very close to them because as the firefight went on, they had to fight off more MILF members while their ammunition was being used up fast.

And in his escape in search of his mother unit, he stayed away from civilians and moved only at night, hiding during day time. 

Iniisip ko mga kasama ko...sana ligtas sila (I thought of my comrades…I wished they were safe),” Natividad said.

Earlier this morning, he reached the river and swam until a passing fishing boat saw him. 

Lumangoy ako mula 6 hanggang 9:30…laking pasalamat ko na mabait yung mangingisda na nakakita sa akin (I swam from 6 to 9:30…I was super grateful to the good fisherman who saw me),” he said. 

The fisherman took Natividad to the nearest detachment of the Special Forces in Albarka. He was then airlifted by a helicopter to the Camp Navarro Hospital for the shrapnel wounds he sustained on his legs, face, and back. 

Natividad is a Scout Ranger, and part of the military scuba diving course class 42. He was on a test mission in Albarka. He said this was his first encounter as a soldier, in his first day in Basilan. 

But even as he is still recovering from his wounds, he does not hesitate to say that he would return to Albarka. 

Kung yun po ang order (If that is the order),” he said. 

This is a sentiment shared his fellow survivors.

“I will return to avenge the death of my fellow soldiers,” said PFC Sherwin Domingo.  

The remains of the 19 fallen soldiers are scheduled to be flown back tonight to the Villamor Air Base, where they will be given full military honors before they will be taken to the Philippine Army headquarters in Fort Bonifacio tomorrow. 

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