The photo originally shared by Eyrhil Tom E. Bulahan on social networking site Facebook narrates how a soldier asked him for food during the opening days of the Zamboanga standoff. (Eyrhil Tom E. Bulahan)
by John Nieves
As the Zamboanga City standoff enters its fifth day, soldiers and policemen on the ground now have to contend with a new challenge that face them in Zamboanga aside from the bullets and bombs of the Moro rebels they are fighting – hunger and running out of ammunition to fight with.
Eyrhil Tom Bulahan, a resident of Zone 4 barangay veterans in Zamboanga, knows the plight of the soldiers fighting in Zamboanga’s streets too well. He narrates the plight of government soldiers in one of the photos he took and shared through social network site Facebook during the opening days of the Zamboanga standoff.
In the photo, he narrates how a soldier approached him and asked him in the local dialect if they had any leftover rice for them as they had run out of food and had not eaten since early that morning.
“Bai? naa moy kanun or bahaw bsan gamay lang wala pa man gud mi nagkaon ganina buntag pa and walay tulog [Mama? Wala ba kayong kainin jan na khit sunog na or yung tira tirang pagkain na hnd niyo na kakainin wala pa kase kameng kain simula kaninang madaling araw at wala pang tulog],” he writes on the caption of his photo.
Eyrhil gave the soldiers food scrounged from his kitchen because he took pity on them. His neighbors also left clean drinking water outside of their homes for the soldiers to drink during lulls in the fighting.
The photo has since gone viral, and has now been shared 8,721 times as of presstime.
Eyrhil told Manila Bulletin during a phone interview that some soldiers in the area have resorted to buying food with their own money as they have only been given lugaw (porridge) as rations in the past few days.
“Yung mga sundalo po bumibili na nang sarili nilang pagkain, isda, prutas gamit pera nila dahil lugaw lang ang pagkain nila ngayon,” he said.
Hunger isn’t the only thing the soldiers will have to contend with – soldiers fighting the Moro rebels are now also running low on ammunition, according to a news report.
Like many people in Zamboanga, Eyrhil is frustrated and angry that the soldiers who are fighting in the streets have to resort to begging to get food while news of the extent of the P10 billion pork scam becomes clear after the testimony of whistleblower Benhur Luy during the Senate Blue Ribbon hearing on Thursday.
“Dapat napunta pa sakanila yung pera na yun eh winaldas lang at hinde nalang binigay sa mga sundalo natin nangangailangan habang sumasabak sa gera gaya ngayon nagkakakulangan na sa mga equipment o san na naman tayo kukuha ng pera hihinge na naman tayo ng tulong sa labas tapos kukupitin na naman tapos ibubulsa,” he said.
“Gaya ngayon nagkaka-shortage sa bullets ng army. San tayo kukuha nyan? Halos billion ang nawala sa atin at nasayang lang pagkatapos ng gera na yan? Ano matatangap ng mga sundalo na sumabak sa gulo dba? Kung sa kanila nalang yun binigay,” he added.
But a member of the armed forces said that a soldier going hungry is just part of the job.
“Normal sa sundalo magutuman pag gyera. I experienced it many times. Kasama sa Trabaho yan,” said Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc, replying to a tweet.
The AFP’s official Twitter account, @TeamAFP, said that the incident may have been an isolated one, and that it may have been because of their hasty deployment to the area.
“Hasty deployment sometimes necessitates troops to arrive on ground before supplies,” they write on their Twitter account.