CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews / 29 June) — Private First Class Joffrey Baligod did not know what kind of firearm hit his right arm at around 7 a.m. on June 18 inside the conflict zone in Marawi City but as he was profusely bleeding, he knew the bullet had hit a major artery and he may not be able to save his limb.
But he could still save his life.
The 28-year old Baligod, a member of the elite Special Forces of the Philippine Army who was deployed on a test mission to Marawi as part of their Special Forces Operation Course, applied his training as a medic specialist on himself, to stop the bleeding. It was his eighth day on Ground Zero.
Having been trained, Baligod knew what to expect and what to do.
He asked a comrade to get the medical kit from his back, instructed him to get the scissors and rip off his uniform to see if he had another injury and was relieved to find none.
The right-handed Baligod knew he may not be able to save his right upper limb because “pag bitawan ko, nagswi-swing. Alam ko na na bali. Pag kinukurot ko wala na akong ma feel” (if i let go, the arm would swing. I knew it was broken. If I pinched it, I could not feel anything anymore), he said.
But he could still save his life if he could stop the bleeding. His two-year old son Xian Gabriel, his wife Elyn and his parents were waiting for him to return home from Marawi.
Baligod knew he had to be quick. “Bale ako na lang din nag-tourniquet sa sarili ko at ako nagsuksok ng gauze sa butas ng sugat ko. Nagpaalalay lang ako pero ako na nagsuksok ng gauze para ma-stop bleeding” (I applied a tourniquet on myself and I put a gauze on my wound with the help of a comrade, to stop the bleeding), he told MindaNews inside Battle Casualty Room No. 2 at the Camp Evangelista Station Hospital here on Tuesday afternoon.
“Dugo nang dugo”
“Dugo nang dugo kasi natamaan yung malaking artery. Nagdecision na lang ko na higpitan na lang kaysa mag lose blood ako” (I was bleeding profusely because the bullet hit a major artery. I decided to have the tourniquet tightened to avoid further blood loss), he said.
A Catholic who puts his rosary on his bandolier, Baligod prayed he would survive.
The tourniquet he applied at Ground Zero was done well there was no need to replace it as he was moved from the conflict zone to the 103rd Brigade’s Campo Ranaw where doctors examined him before he was airlifted to this city, and from here was sent to the provincial hospital where he underwent surgery.
The young man from Cagayan Valley in Luzon wanted to be a soldier when he was a young boy, admitting he was influenced by his policeman father and soldier-uncles.
A member of the 7th Special Forces Company under the 3rd Special Forces Battalion, Baligod, a soldier for seven years now, was deployed to Marawi from Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija on June 10.
He had earlier been assigned to Davao, Agusan and Surigao and from there was sent to the Special Forces Operation Course Class 134 in May 2016.
They are supposed to graduate after their test mission in Marawi, to apply what they had learned, he said.
Baligod said 75 members of the Special Forces were deployed to Marawi. Three of them were wounded.
As of Tuesday, a total of 414 soldiers from all branches of service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines had been brought to the station hospital from the conflict zone in Marawi, Lt. Col. Jonna Dalida-Dalaguit, chief of the 4ID Medical Corps, told MindaNews. Of this number, she said, around 20 are considered major cases.
Baligod said they were maneuvering to fire at a target in the conflict zone when the local terrorist group fired at them. He said the distance between them was only about 10 to 15 meters.
The bullet did not pierce the right side of his chest because he wore a bullet proof vest. But it hit his right arm.
Baligod was transferred to Camp Evangelista Station Hospital from the provincial hosptital on June 24 and on June 27 was awaiting transport to Manila for transfer to the V. Luna General Hospital in Quezon City where his family could visit him frequently.
His wife Elyn had visited him at the station hospital here but had to fly back to Manila Monday evening because she works there. “Tanggap na niya” (She has accepted what happened to me), he said. The Baligods live in Taguig.
Officers from the regiment visited and informed him he is now a graduate. “Graduate na man daw ako,” he smiled.
The Philippine Army website says SF members are “molded through the most rigid training in the Philippine Army” and they possess the skills for “unconventional tactics, subversion and guerilla warfare.”
“Before one can become a member of the Special Forces, he must undergo the Special Forces Combat Qualification Course. After which, he is required to complete the Special Forces Operations Course,” it said.
Baligod said they have five types of specializations in the Special Forces: medic, operation intel, commo, demolition, and weapons.
Baligod has gone through a psychosocial intervention.
He wants to continue serving the country through the Special Forces.
For now, Baligod hopes, and prays, that somebody would help him have a prosthetic arm “para kung ano yung nagagawa ko dati magagawa ko pa rin ngayon” (so that what I did before I could still do now). [Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)