The smiley and social media-savvy Major Abdul Ontok, one of the ABS-CBN Lifestyle Hotshots 2017, has been assigned to Marawi's frontlines. He is currently leading a team of military medics who provide emergency care for war casualties, military and civilians alike, particularly those who have been critically injured in the ensuing battle.
[related: Lifestyle Hotshots: Army Major And Surgeon Abdul Ontok Will Change The Way You Look At Soldiers]
We at ABS-CBN Lifestyle borrowed the very busy hero from his miltary duties to ask him about the situation down south. We are thus thankful for the following first person account of his Marawi experience, backed by moving mobile phone photographs he has since been posting on his heavily followed Instagram as part of his storytelling. (Browse through the gallery for the photos bearing his own captions, which we truncated due to web limitations.)
Let this be a poignant reminder to the rest of us that following the war from a safe distance is a far cry from living it. It is a dark portrait, with trail of seemingly endless devastation and destruction. From the sacrifice of those brave souls who laid down their lives, we are allowed the luxury of a peaceful existence, removed from the horrors that they face on a daily basis.
Yet, we'd like to publish this as a tale of hope, where the courage and valor of those fighting for freedom shine a bright ray of light amidst the darkness not just for Marawi—but also for the Philippines and the tantalizing potential this country holds.
"Mga 60 days na po kami dito. Napakalaking honor po para sa akin ang makatulong dito. Napakalaki. Kaya po ako nagsundalo kahit doctor na ako, para makatulong sa ganitong pagkakataon."
"Ibang klase po ang military medicine dito sa frontline. Hindi po tulad ng nasa hospital kung saan health concerns lang ng pasyente ang focus ng doctor. Dito, madilim pag gabi at hindi pwede mag-pailaw at makikita ka ng kalaban... Dito po, iko-consider mo ang security, ang hostile environment, ang kalaban, ang snipers, ang violent weather, ang buhay ng pasyente, ang buhay mo and most importantly, completion ng mission."
"Hindi madali para sa amin na may nakikitang tropa na nasugatan, naghihinalo, o minsan, wala na kaming magawa but balutin sa cadaver bag. Maraming beses na kakilala namin ang tropa na dumadaan dito na di namin akalain huling paguusap na pala namin yun."
"We are trying to be okay, para di po maging malungkot or magkaroon ng low morale ang tropa. Wala na po silang ibang paghuhugutan ng lakas ng loob kundi sa amin na nasa medical. Kailangan matatag din kami at compassionate. Sometimes, we post smiles and happy thoughts sa social media namin. But, after that, back to reality po kami. Kailangan din po kasi, para di mag-alala ang mga naiwan naming pamilya at kaibigan."
"Naniniwala ako na maayos din ang Marawi, one step at a time, matatagalan nga lang. Hope is always here."
ALSO READ: In Focus: How These Young Filipinos Are Helping Out Victims In Marawi
Photographs from Instagram.com/xykrond