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Herbert D. Dilag: Uncommon True Valor Story of an Igorot Scout Ranger

Herbert D. Dilag, an Igorot Scout Ranger, was awarded the Medal of Valor, the highest award in the Armed Forces of the Philippines for his bravery.

2LT Herbert D. Dilag, an Igorot from Kalinga is a Medal of Valor awardee | Rappler
2LT Herbert D. Dilag, an Igorot from Kalinga is a Medal of Valor awardee Rappler

For this outstanding performance of duty, 2nd LT. Herbert Dilag, an Igorot from Kalinga, was awarded the nation's highest military honor, the Medal of Valor (MOV).

After suffering from heavy casualties and slowly losing its ground from the upper hand Abu Sayyaf rebels in their secured bunkers and having bombarded by enemy mortars and machine gun fires, Major Caldeo, the Commander of the First Scout Ranger Battalion, First Scout Ranger Regiment, Special Operations Command, Philippine Army, during the 3-day assault at Hill 898, the biggest Abu Sayyaf Camp in Basilan, Camp Abdurrajak, Punoh Mohaji, Isabela, Basilan ordered the OPLAN LAST OPTION or also known as the SUICIDE MISSION.

Major Caldeo decided to organize the two "Suicide Squads" to execute the final assault. The squads comprising of 14 volunteers have an extreme and risky mission, to clear the northeastern bunkers.

Anticipating their death, the brave members of the squads left their valuables to their supporting comrades to soon be given to their loved ones.

Undaunted by threat posed by the situation and unmindful of their own safety, the Igorot scout ranger rushed-up the 30-meter 80-degree slope and eventually charged at the heavily fortified enemy defensive position. Then they carried out an intense bunker-to-bunker battle.

With cunning stealth, the "Suicide Squads" were able to secure the northeastern tip of Hill 898, which the group of Khadafy Janjalani is defending.

This heroic and gallant act paved the way for the subsequent clearing of the remaining 3 clusters of enemy fortified defensive positions.

After 4 hours of close combat, the Squad forced the enemy to withdraw towards the western direction. The 3-day intense firefight resulted to the killing of 68 members of the Abu Sayyaf Group and the rescue of the unscathed captives.

The 14-Ranger-man team suffered massive casualties and being pinned down but the Igorot scout ranger carried his men one by one and positioned them to a safe location while he single-handedly stands his ground and acts as the team's sniper shooting the enemy mortar operators and machine gunners.

Dilag exterminated 27 rebels during the clash which resulted in the demoralization of the enemies and pressing them to back down and give way for the main body of the troops to attack.

By this demonstration of exceptional courage and a high degree of leadership, SECOND LIEUTENANT DILAG distinguished himself in combat, in keeping the finest tradition of Filipino Soldiery.

Dilag was awarded the MEDAL OF VALOR, the highest award in the Armed Forces of the Philippines for bravery.

Igorot Scout Ranger 2LT. Herbert Dilag, a living Medal of Valor recipient from Kalinga| Rappler
Igorot Scout Ranger 2LT. Herbert Dilag, a living Medal of Valor recipient from Kalinga Rappler

Second Lieutenant Dilag's statement while he teared up upon receiving his Medal of Valor from the President of the Philippines:

"Nagising kami ng 2 a.m, Lakad na naman kami, wala kaming tulog talaga, tapos maulan pa, mabagal lang ang lakad namin kasi walang daanan at magubat pa. Nung nagka encounter ang isang kamay namin nakahawak sa ugat ng kahoy at ang isa naman bumabaril. Sa loob ng 24 hours tiniis namin yung terrain, gutom, tension, fatigue. Tapos maririnig mo yung halinghing ng mga kasama mong wounded at nagsasabing. Sir atras na tayo, wala na akng dugo, masakit na ang sugat ko, mabubuhay paba ako sir?, Yung mga ganun,. Lalong lumalabas ang di madidiskubre na tapang sa loob mo."

Dilag is now a Major Lt. Colonel and her wife Daisy Lady is a Captain Major in the AFP. They were blessed with two children.

Herbert Dilag and wife Daisy Lady with their two kids | UNICEF
Herbert Dilag and wife Daisy Lady with their two kids UNICEF

Herbert Dilag's Medal of Valor citation

SECOND LIEUTENANT HERBERT D DILAG O-12640 PHILIPPINE ARMY

Isabela, Basilan - 30 April 2000

"For acts of conspicuous courage, gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty while serving as the Squad Leader of a "Suicide Squad" of the First Scout Ranger Battalion, First Scout Ranger Regiment, Special Operations Command, Philippine Army, during the 3-day assault of Hill 898, Camp Abdurrajak, Punoh Mihaji, Isabela, Basilan on 28 to 30 April 2000.

With the commencement of the 103rd Brigade's OPLAN "FINAL OPTION", the First Scout Ranger Battalion was directed to attack the highly fortified enemy positions being occupied by more or less 210 fully armed members of the Abu Sayyaf Group who were then holding in captivity 28 civilian hostages. The 11th Scout Ranger Company spearheaded the attack with the team under SECOND LIEUTENANT DILAG, taking the lead. After a grueling trek along the 7-kilometer highly restrictive terrain and after bypassing 48 enemy improvised landmines, the troops were able to close-in on the northeastern portion of the enemy camp.

On 280930 April 2000, the 1st Scout Ranger Battalion began the assault and a heavy firefight ensued. Though initially surprised the enemy was able to take advantage of its commanding position and confronted the government forces with stiff resistance. At 1630H, the enemy counterattacked in full force, killing 4 Scout Rangers and wounding 27 others. In spite of the numerous casualties and heavy enemy volume of fires coming from cal. 50 Machineguns, 57RRs and the continuous explosion of grenades and dynamites near their positions, the leading elements under SECOND LIEUTENANT DILAG, fearlessly retaliated with accurate sniper fires which prevented the enemy from closing-in.

Notwithstanding the heavy rains, hunger, tension and fatigue; and despite of numerous casualties, the Scout Rangers held on their ground and engaged the enemy with strong determination and ferocity for the next 24 hours. On 300530 April 2000, after sensing the seemingly insurmountable odds, MAJOR CALDEO, the Commanding Officer of the 1st scout Ranger Battalion, decided to execute the final assault with the organization of 2 "Suicide Squads". The squad, consisting of 14 volunteers, were tasked to perform an extremely risky mission of clearing the northeastern bunkers.

Uncertain of what will happen to them, the members of the squad, left their valuables to their supporting comrades to be further given to their loved ones, in anticipation of their deaths. Undaunted by threat posed by the situation and unmindful of their own safety, the squads, headed by SECOND LIEUTENANT DILAG and SECOND LIEUTENANT GONZALES rushed-up the 80-meter, 80-degree slope and eventually assaulted the heavily fortified enemy defensive positions then carried out an intense bunker to bunker battle.

With cunning stealth, the "Suicide Squads" were able to secure the northeastern tip of Hill 898 which was being defended by Khadafy Janjalani's group. This heroic and gallant act paved the way for the subsequent clearing of the remaining 3 clusters of enemy fortified defensive positions. After 4 hours of close combat, the squads forced the enemy to withdraw towards the western direction. The 3 day intense firefight resulted to the killing of 7 members of the Abu Sayyaf Group, the recovery of 1 B40 RPG, 1 M653 and M16 rifles, the unearthing of 2 beheaded hostages and the destruction of a seemingly invincible enemy.

By this display of exceptional courage and a high degree of leadership, SECOND LIEUTENANT DILAG distinguished himself in combat, in keeping the finest tradition of Filipino Soldiery."


Born Igorot, Die Igorot


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