22-year-old Tausug laborer Erham Awaluddin was working on a construction site on Sunday, July 4, when a troubled C-130 plane rumbled above them.
The aircraft soon crashed mightily, with fire shooting out of its broken fuselage.
Erham rushed to the scene of the crash and together with other rescuers, extricated the survivors from the burning airplane.
One by one they led the soldiers out of harm’s way while promising to come back for those who were still at the site.
“Kristiyano o Muslim man, Parang ramdam ko sa puso ko tumulong ako kasi nakikita ko na ang sundalong sugatan,” said Erham in a phone interview.
Erham is the man carrying an injured soldier in the now iconic photo that has become viral on social media.
The celebrated image has become a symbol of courage over danger and selflessness in the face of death.
Interestingly, Erham has always wanted to become a Philippine soldier. He is an aspiring applicant in the Philippine Army’s 11th Infantry Division in Sulu.
He says his recent experience even strengthened his desire to serve in the military, a dream which started when he was still a child.
He said he hopes President Rodrigo Duterte can help him find work, preferably as a soldier.
“Gustong gusto. Para makatulong po sa bayan,” Erham said.
That Sunday, Erham achieved more than his dream – that of saving the lives of the men he aspires to become.