We had reasons to be worried. For us to be able to get to Misrata, we would have to take the Coastal Highway and that highway cuts through Garabolli. And with clashes reportedly taking place there, the highway is no longer passable.
"A US Navy SEAL is supposed to be missing in Pinatubo,” Lieutenant Miraflor told us. Apparently, the American service member, who was among those taking part in ongoing bilateral exercises in Subic, failed to return from a trek to Mount Pinatubo and was presumed missing.
From where he was seated, Blas Fajardo Ople, Secretary of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of the Philippines, asked me where I was being proposed for my first foreign assignment. I told him I was being groomed as Vice Consul at the Philippine Consulate General or as Third Secretary at the Philippine Mission to the United Nations in New York.
Fly Dubai FZ211 bound for Baghdad was half empty compared to the flight to Jeddah that was scheduled to leave the same time from Terminal 4 of Dubai International. As the Boeing 737 taxied, the onboard entertainment system began showing "American Sniper." Quite timely, I told myself. Is it an indication of things to come? In my bag was the book "Green Zone" that Chuchay and Butch Fernandez gave as a going away present.
I have run all sorts of worse case scenarios in my mind before I left for Baghdad but nothing really prepared me for this. These are scenes that one would typically see in the movies but when confronted with these situations in real life, it is completely different. I have never felt so vulnerable, so helpless. I have never been so afraid. And I have never prayed so hard in my life.
By nighttime, thousands of Kapampangans have made their way to Mabalacat and have massed up along the approach to Bamban Bridge. It was a spontaneous, unprecedented display of People Power. A few hours later, President Marcos fled Malacañang. After four days, it was finally over.
Kuwait was the most traumatic period in my diplomatic career. What I went through was nothing compared to what others had to go through.
"Sometimes it does not feel like 30 years ago. Sometimes, I can still see every detail,” Captain Pulsifer told me after I messaged him to remind him how fortunate he was for cheating death in the hands of the NPA not just once but twice.
I looked at them and saw that unspoken expression of sympathy and solidarity written in their faces. And they went even further. Talking through one of our Iraqi local hires, they told me: “We will fight and defeat Daesh wherever they are, whether here in Iraq or in the Philippines.”
Less than 36 hours later, Mammoth Medical Mission and Team Rubicon became the first foreign volunteer groups to make it to Tacloban. Thanks to Ambassador Cuisia's intervention, the two teams were able to make a difference and helped save hundreds of lives.
My task was to escort and debrief the Abu Sayyaf hostages on board and upon arrival in Tripoli, observe their turnover to their respective governments, and then send reports to Manila.
Lito already had an assignment order even before I volunteered to go to Iraq but as head of post I still had the final say. I really wanted to make sure I get the right people to serve with me in Baghdad—one of the most challenging posts in the foreign service because of, among others, the average of five terrorist bombings that take place there everyday.