BALOI, Lanao del Norte (MindaNews / 14 December) — From an armor of death and destruction to a vehicle of love and unity.
A military unit here has transformed its P39 million armored personnel carrier into a “bridal tank,” carrying not one but six gleaming brides to the waiting embrace of their gallant grooms.
The wedding tank, bedecked with flowers, became the center of attraction inside the 4th Mechanized Infantry “Kalasag” Battalion (4thMech) in Barangay Nangka here last Saturday morning, during the Catholic mass wedding officiated by Father Ramonito Torres, an Army reservist with a rank of lieutenant colonel based in the war-ruined Marawi City.
The M113A2 APC, which was donated by the United States, was used by the Philippine military during the five-month urban combat against the Islamic State-aligned Maute Group that seized Marawi in May 2017.
Soldiers in full military uniforms served as bible, coin and ring bearers during the momentous occasion in the lives of the couples.
As it was held under a time of the coronavirus disease pandemic, the ceremony was dubbed a “masked wedding,” as the couples have to wear face masks in adherence to health protocols to prevent the spread of the virus.
Lieutenant Colonel Domingo Dulay Jr., 4th Mech commander, said the unit transformed the M113A2 APC as a bridal tank to make the brides more comfortable because of the tank’s spacious design.
“It is easy for them to board and alight from the tank through its ramp compared to a Simba or a V-150 armored personnel carrier,” he said.
Dulay said his unit shouldered the expenses for the mass wedding of the couples, who have lived together for sometime, some with children already.
According to him, the tank help the military defeat the Islamic militants during the Marawi siege, which uprooted over 350,000 civilians and left the core of the city in ruins three years ago.
Some 1,100 individuals were killed during the siege, mostly Islamic militants who seized the city in a bid to establish it as a territory of the Islamic State.
Dulay stressed the need for soldiers and their partners to tie the knot.
He narrated the case of a soldier who was killed but was never married to the mother of their child.
Legally, the recognized beneficiaries were the parents and the child of the slain soldier — the mother who raised the child had been excluded, Dulay said.
Marriage serves as a security of tenure for the partners of soldiers in case something bad happen while they are in the tour of duty, he added.
Lieutenant Colonel Alfonso Matias Jr., commander of the 5th Mechanized Infantry Battalion, said the tank used as a bridal car costs P20 million for its platform while the weapon system has a value of about P19 million.
Matias, who once served as commander of the Armor Maintenance Battalion of the Armor “Pambato” Division based in Capas, Tarlac, said at least 50 M113A2 APCs have been assigned to various military units across the country.
Brigadier General Facundo Palafox IV, commander of the Army’s 2nd Mechanized Infantry Brigade, other military officers and civilian friends graced the mass wedding rites. (Richel V. Umel / MindaNews)