• Thanksgiving party awaits Filipino peacekeeper

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    AS Philippine government officials heap plaudits on the Filipino peacekeepers who held off Syrian rebels in the Golan Heights, the wife of one of the soldiers quietly prepares for the homecoming of her husband whom she has not seen for months.

    Mariche Ramones, 29, the wife of Capt. Nilo Ramones, said she will throw a thanksgiving party when he comes home in October.

    Capt. Ramones, 31, a member of the Philippine Military Academy Class 2006, is one of the two officers of the 40-man Filipino peacekeeping force assigned in Position 68 that came under attack from Syrian rebels linked to Al Qaeda late last month. Their task is to monitor the implementation of the 1974 Syria-Israel ceasefire agreement in the Golan Heights.

    Ramones and his men were outnumbered by the rebels but the Filipinos stood their ground and traded fire with the rebels for seven hours.

    Mariche, a nurse at the Glan Medicare Community Hospital, said she hopes to have a long vacation with her husband when he ends his tour of duty in Golan. The couple remain childless after four years of marriage.

    On the day the Syrian rebels attacked, Mariche got a message from her husband, informing her that they were “busy.”

    Mariche admitted that she could not sleep when she learned that the Filipino troops in Golan were under fire. She said she talked with her husband through Skype a day before the fighting.

    “I was very nervous, frightened because I know that the Syrians are more aggressive compared to the NPA [New People’s Army]. I fervently prayed to God for their safety. I was not my normal self at work. I was very worried, helpless. I held on to the prayers and support of my family and friends,” she told The Manila Times in a phone interview.

    Two days after the Golan incident, Mariche finally got a call from her husband.
    “He told me they were safe. Para akong nabunutan ng tinik. Ang gaan ng pakiramdam, nakatulog na ako ng maayos [I was so relieved, I was able to sleep again],” she said.
    Best decision

    Malacañang on Saturday said the Filipino contingent made the best decision when they fired back at the Syrian rebels.

    Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda made the observation in light of the statement of United Nations (UN) Commander Iqbal Singha that the Filipino peacekeepers were cowards because they escaped their post after a seven-hour firefight.

    “We would like to reiterate what [Armed Forces chief] General [Pio] Catapang said that for someone fighting and engaging the enemy for seven hours, that can hardly be called cowardice. They’re the ones taking the enemy fire and they’re the best persons to decide what to do in those kinds of situations,” Lacierda said in an interview on Radyo ng Bayan.

    “The situation on the ground is something that the Filipino peacekeepers were very well aware of. We believe that the decision of hold the enemy for seven hours and not surrender to the Syrian rebels, even with low ammunition, was brave and gallant,” Lacierda pointed out.

    “For that, we commend our Filipino peacekeepers,” he added.

    Lacierda said the Philippines will not take any drastic move against the UN over Singha’s criticism of the Filipino troops.

    “Whatever Gen. Singha says, or said, we leave it to our Department of Foreign Affairs to address. And with the UN being an international institution, we would rather let the diplomatic channels address those statements,” he said.

    Lacierda added that the Filipino peacekeepers will get the recognition they deserve when they come home next month.

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