MUNAI, Lanao del Norte (MindaNews / 20 May) – How would you like to have an armored personnel carrier (APC) serve as your bridal car?
Four couples did just that, as Army personnel exchanged vows with their brides at the headquarters of the 43rd Mechanized Armor Company in the village of Cadulawan in this hinterland municipality on Tuesday.
“When I first boarded the bridal tank, like an armored tank protected with full metal shield, I felt very safe and secure being married to a military man,” said Edna Ermac, 24, who married Cpl. Helrod Benitez, 32.
The wedding ceremony was officiated by Father Ramon Torres, Vicar General of the Diocese of Marawi. It was witnessed by military officers, government officials, relatives and friends.
It was the second of such wedding wherein an armored carrier, equipped with the Army’s hi-tech Remote Control Weapon Station (RCWS), served as bridal car. The first was in December last year at the headquarters of the 4th Mechanized Infantry Battalion, the company’s mother unit, in Nangka, Baloi town, during the stint of the former commander, Col. Domingo Dulay Jr.
Maj. Gen. Efren Baluyot, commander of the Armor “Pambato” Division, said the RCWS was acquired from Israel as part of the military modernization program. He said the armored vehicles played a vital support role to infantry operations during the Marawi Siege of 2017, and during the recent operations against the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters – Dawlah Islamiya in Maguindanao province.
Aside from the Benitezes, the other couples who rode the modern APC and tied the know were PFC Sonnie Bantas and Chiara Hermosilla, PFC Frank Limjuco and Claire Velle Bariga, and PFC Kim Son Tabada and Jennifer Ventura, according to 1LT Julieto Jakosalem, company commander.
Benitez and Limjuco themselves were among those who fought against the ISIS-inspired Maute group during the five-month war in Marawi.
Benitez met his future bride when he was tasked to do marketing in Iligan City. Edna was managing a family-owned stall, selling vegetables and assorted grocery items, the Ermacs’ main livelihood for the past 32 years.
Edna is a business administration graduate from a local college, and has been helping out in the family’s market stall since she was six.
“I asked her number, and that’s when our constant communication began,” Benitez recalled.
“When I wore my bridal gown, I felt so happy that at last, our dream would be fulfilled,” Edna said. “I was told by Helrod ahead of time that we will be ferried by a bridal tank to the venue where we will be solemnized,” she added.
She shed tears as she walked through the red carpet toward the altar.
Lt. Col. Rommel Pereña, chief of the 4th Mech, advised the newly-weds to keep their communication lines open even in times of conflict. “You should talk and learn how to compromise,” he added.
He told his troops to maximize quality time at home during R&R (rest and recreation) for the “long distance relationship” to endure. (Richel V. Umel / MindaNews)