Soldiers in Zamboanga beg for food, water

·Kim Arveen Patria
"Taking their lunch. Makalastima," says Eyrhil Tom Bulahan of Zamboanga. (Eyrhil Tom Bulahan)

Apart from fending off bullets, some soldiers in Mindanao are also apparently fending off hunger.
In fact, some military men fighting off rogue members of the Moro National Liberation Front are supposedly begging for food, Eyrhil Tom Bulahan of Zamboanga claimed.

“Bai? naa moy kanun or bahaw bsan gamay lang wala pa man gud mi nagkaon ganina buntag pa and walay tulog (Friend, do you have rice? Even leftovers, just a bit, because we haven’t eaten since this morning and we haven’t had sleep),” Bulahan quoted the soldier as saying.

He even has a photo, which is now viral, to prove it.
“Ang gusto nga nila noong una, bumili sa tindahan namin. Pero nung sinabi kong sarado kami, humingi na lang ng kanin (They initially wanted to buy from our store. But when we told them we were closed, he begged for rice),” Bulahan told Yahoo Southeast Asia.
He said soldiers divided what little rice he shared with them and paired it with dried fish. Even soldiers’ water supply is scarce, Bulahan said, adding that many of the households in his neighborhood have put out water containers outside their doors.

“Kawawa talaga sila. Nangangayayat, nagugutom, inaantok pero patuloy ang pakikipagbakbakan (They’re in a pitiful state. They’re thin, hungry and sleep-deprived but they keep on fighting),” Bulahan noted.

Outside Zamboanga City, Filipinos online have also raised concern over soldiers’ dismal condition. Some even tweeted the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

“Hi, we saw a pic of what the soldiers ate for lunch - is there any way we can help out?” a Twitter user dubbed “aggrieved citizen” said.

Responding to the tweet, the AFP account handlers said Filipinos should not feel sorry for the soldiers, and to help out affected civilians instead.

But user Charo Logarta said it is “not pity but sadness” being expressed. “Yes,we provide for our soldiers but they deserve better,” she added.

“How can you not feel sorry if that's what you see? Pictures don't lie… :(,” Twitter user Ches said.

A separate photo which showed soldiers’ worn out combat shoes reinforced sympathy for the troops and fuelled anger against the government. “You need to replace the combat boots of your troops assigned in Zamboanga City,” GMA News reporter Ian Cruz posted via Twitter.

“OMG! Where's the hell is the budget for them? They fight for us. They offer their lives. Then this?” Twitter user Haru to the Moon said.

But an AFP tweet urged Filipinos to be more discerning and not to base judgments on a single photo posted online.

“Don’t treat the #filipinopeople as stupid. Due to senti reasons kaya ayaw ng soldiers palitan worn-out boots?! Cmon!” user Jenjen said.

The AFP Twitter account answered: “If you know a soldier go ask him yourself to validate what we are saying,” adding that media reports may be unreliable.


President Benigno Aquino III flew to Zamboanga City Friday to assess the situation on the ground and also to boost soldiers’ morale.

Aquino distributed food and other supplies to troops, telling them: “Salamat sa inyo. Mag-iingat kayo (Thanks to you. Please take care).”

The AFP is “ready and capable to do the mission,” its spokesperson Zagala said via Twitter. “All we need is an order.”

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