- Capt. Ruben Guinolbay and his men just came from Southern Luzon after Scout Ranger training when they were ambushed by Abu Sayyaf elements in Lamitan.
- They stood their ground. Some fell and died. Others were wounded.
- Under intense fire, Guinolbay carried civilians to safety and directed his men in a successful counterattack.
- For his gallantry in action, he was recommended for the country's highest military honor, the Medal of Valor.
- Capt. Guinolbay is an Igorot from Ifugao. He was the one who related the story of another Igorot Medal of Valor recipient, 2LT Dilag.
Who is Capt. Ruben Buyucan Guinolbay?
First among 94 students. The fourth of eight children born to farmers in Ifugao, Guinolbay was a full scholar at the University of the Philippines College Baguio where he enrolled as a freshman student of political science and history in 1989.
"I wanted to become a lawyer and enter the military as a lawyer," Guinolbay said.
Unsure whether he could get a stable job after college in order to help support his family, Guinolbay set his sights on a military career through the PMA.
Immediately after graduation from the country's premier military school, he joined the Scout Rangers, the Army's elite jungle fighting force. When he completed the Ranger course, he ranked first among 94 students.
He held assignments with the 5th and 7th Scout Ranger Companies, where he saw action in various parts of the country.
"The longest time I'm in one particular place is three months and that's probably why I'm still a bachelor," Guinolbay said in jest.
Guinolbay also attended the world's toughest Ranger school -- Fort Benning in Georgia state in the United States. Of eight foreign students in the class, only Guinolbay completed the training.
In spite of his commitment to the Scout Rangers, Guinolbay has also made sure his siblings at home would not be left behind.
"I helped my sister finish medicine. I'm still supporting two siblings in college. One is taking dentistry while the other is into physical therapy."
Winning medals, ribbons and commendations in his military career, Guinolbay has done his mother proud.
"My mother wears my (PMA) ring even if she's cleaning at the farm," he confided.
Class 142 completed training only in April. The 132-strong batch had its test mission in Sulu, where they fought secessionist rebels in a series of engagements that earned Guinolbay two Bronze Cross medals, the fourth highest award in the military.
Guinolbay received his first Bronze Cross in 1996, in the course of fighting communist rebels in Cagayan.
Class 142 was flown back to Manila at the height of protests by supporters of deposed President Joseph Estrada in May. The unit was deployed as part of the second layer of defense in Malacañang.
The batch was supposed to link up with the Army's 103rd Infantry Brigade in Basilan when they found themselves in the middle of the battle in Lamitan.
"We could see the flashes of the enemy's guns," Guinolbay said.
Scout Ranger Officer is Recipient of AFP Medal of Valor
Capt. Ruben Buyucan Guinolbay, the officer who allegedly told Basilan priest Cirilo Nacorda that his unit had been used as "bait" for the Abu Sayyaf, has been recommended for a Medal of Valor, the country's highest military honor.
Guinolbay became the country's best-known Scout Ranger after his harrowing testimony at a congressional hearing.
He had told members of the House defense committee that he saw three of his men die on Jan 2 when he was ordered to proceed to the St. Peter's Church in Lamitan , Basilan, without being told that Abu Sayyaf bandits had already laid siege in the area.
"One was killed instantly while two others even asked my permission to die," he said.
During the ambush, Guinolbay personally dragged many of his men to safety and ministered to the wounded.
Noting that the officer was being cited for exceptional gallantry," Army spokesperson Lt. Col Jose Mabanta Jr. said Guinolbay represented the best of the country's soldiery.
"His sterling qualities and skills are what the Army requires of its officers and men," he said.
Mabanta added that the recommendation was already in process.
Men in Battle
A combat officer since his graduation from the Philippine Military Academy in 1994, Guinolbay had never lost men in battle, until the firefight in Lamitan.
"It was like losing a brother all over again," said Guinolbay, whose youngest brother died in an accident two years ago.
"The situation was very chaotic" he had said at the Aug. 24 House hearing.
"It was the first time I saw my own men fall in combat. When I touched the head of one of my men I saw that it had been reduced by half. I was carrying him with his brain spilling out of the pavement. While I carried my wounded men, I was crying."
In all, Guinolbay lost four men while eight other Rangers whom he had personally trained were wounded during the 27-hour encounter. Guinolbay was the course director of Scout Ranger Class 142, whose members made up the unit, that was waylaid by the Abu Sayyaf in Lamitan.
"There was a special bonding built among us during the training and we became like brothers," Guinolbay said. "I felt the burden because it was I who took them to battle."
At last month's hearing , he said he could not recall having told Nacorda that he and his men had been used as "pain" or bait.
In spite of the controversy over Nacorda's allegations that some military men had connived with the Abu Sayyaf, Guinolbay has not changed his soldier's outlook.
"To die in the battlefield is an honorable death. That's an accepted fact among us soldiers. We've prepared for that," Guinolbay said.
Despite their casualties, Scout Ranger Class 142 went to engage the bandits at the Sampinit Complex, also in Basilan, on June 26. In that encounter, three Abu Sayyaf bandits were confirmed killed.
The Sampinit clash earned Guinolbay a Gold Cross Medal, the third highest decoration in the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
"If I die fighting and my parents were to be told that I died in battle, it would be enough to console their sorrows," Guinolbay said.
- Scout Ranger Officer is Recipient of AFP Medal of Valor by Carlito Pablo, Inquirer News Service