By Teofilo Garcia, Jr.
ZAMBOANGA CITY – It was a dream come true for Erham Awaluddin, then a construction worker in Patikul, Sulu, to become a soldier.
Unknown to Awaluddin, his effort by risking his life as a first responder in the July 2021 C-130 “Hercules” plane crash would help him fulfill his dream to be a member of the military.
The C-130 plane with tail number 5125 crashed in Sitio Amman, Barangay Bangkal, Patikul on July 4, 2021 while about to land at the Jolo airport coming from Laguindingan airport in Cagayan de Oro City.
At least 53 people, including 50 soldiers, died during the incident.
Awaluddin caught the nation’s attention after a photograph of him assisting a crash survivor (later known as PFC Ganney C. Ligayan) circulated all over the Internet.
Awaluddin and his companion, who owns a motorcycle, rushed to the crash site when they saw the C-130 plane crash while working on a road concreting project in Barangay Bangkal, Patikul.
“We did not mind the danger even though we can hear bullets exploding. We just wanted to help,” he recalled.
Two days after the C-130 air mishap, officers of the 11th Infantry Division (11ID) recognized Awaluddin in the queue of applicants about to take the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Service Aptitude Test at the Mindanao State University – Sulu.
From then on, the 11ID officers guided Awaluddin throughout the application process.
In recognition of their bravery, all C-130 first responders were given medals and certificates on July 15, 2021.
It was also during the occasion that Maj. Gen. William Gonzales, 11ID commander, personally assured Awaluddin that his heroic actions would have merit in his application to be part of the Philippine Army.
The 22-year-old Awaluddin and 298 other individuals officially joined the ranks of the 11ID soldiers as privates when they took an oath of special enlistment on Dec. 9, 2021.
This February, Awaluddin and his batchmates are set to undergo Basic Military Training at the 11th “Mastal” Division Training School in Camp Bud Datu, Barangay Tagbak Indanan, Sulu.
Meanwhile, he and his batchmates are getting a taste of military life in performing a dozen of Army exercises and road runs, and undergoing lectures and on-the-job training at various offices inside the camp.
“I thank all the people who helped realize my dream to become a soldier and to those who expressed beautiful words for my efforts as first responder,” he said in a statement Saturday.
“I will not put to waste the opportunity given me, I will try my very best to be a good soldier,” he said, adding, “I will help my mother.”
On Thursday, Ligayan and Awaluddin shared light moments over cups of coffee and “junay” (a local rice cake delicacy) at Camp General Teodulfo Bautista, home of the 11ID in Barangay Busbus, Jolo, the capital town of Sulu. (PNA)