On Monday, Aug. 30, the country will commemorate the National Heroes Day as a tribute to ordinary Filipinos who made extraordinary things which contributed significantly to the country’s nation building and history.
Perhaps one of the most recent names that comes to mind when thinking of a “modern hero” is Private First Class Dhan Ryan Bayot, a young Philippine Army soldier who died in the 2017 siege in Marawi City.
Bayot’s heroism was recalled recently by the Civil Relations Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP-CRS) in time for the observance of the National Heroes Day.
Why not? His story tugged the hearts of many Filipinos when it was first revealed days after the Marawi siege erupted.
From war, a hero is born
The Marawi siege, regarded as the biggest urban battle between state forces and violent extremists, started when the 1st Infantry “Tabak” Division (1ID) received a report about the presence of a high-value target hiding in Marawi City. His name was Isnilon Hapilon, the most senior leader of the terrorist Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG).
Bayot, a 24-year-old native of Zamboanga Sibugay, was assigned at the detachment of the Army’s 51st Infantry Battalion (51IB) located in Barangay Lilod, Marawi City.
Bayot’s unit was one of the earliest responders in the frontlines of the siege when it broke out on May 23, 2017. They were tasked to provide additional security near a local government official’s house against the Maute Group (MG)-led fighters aiding Hapilon.
On May 24, the second day of the fighting, Bayot’s unit was attacked by the terrorists. They were hit by gunfire coming from the government official’s house which apparrently had been taken over by the enemies.
Bayot’s unit was able to radio their commanding officer as they requested for reinforcement. However, the request proved to be futile as all the pathways leading to their location were blocked by the enemies, making any attempt for rescue almost impossible.
Hours into the fighting, all of Bayot’s five “bok” (comrades) were killed by the terrorists. For the last time, he was able to contact their commanding officer to which he gave his coordinates and made a request that caught his superiors off-guard: “Bombahin niyo na lang ang location ko, sir!” (Just bomb my location, sir!)
“[Bayot] displayed selflessness and courage when he insisted his comrades to fire at his location in order to neutralize the rebels in his area,” according to the AFP-CRS.
Four days later, on May 28, Bayot and his comrades’ remains were retrieved by government troops which included the young Army’s father, Sgt. Larry Bayot, of the 1st Infantry Battalion.
Reports said the young Army’s face was almost unrecognizable, with his head apparently bashed and his neck repeatedly slashed in what could be an attempt for the terrorists to behead him.
On Oct. 23, 2017, Marawi City was declared liberated from the clutches of the terrorist groups after five months of fighting.
The battle left 847 terrorists dead, 163 soldiers and policemen slain, more than 1,400 troops wounded, and 1.1 million residents displaced.
For his heroic acts, Bayot was awarded the Order of Lapu-Lapu, a national order of merit in recognition of his “invaluable or extraordinary service” while in the line of duty.
Indeed, Bayot was only one of the thousands of soldiers who exemplified extraordinary courage when they responded to the call of duty just to secure the peace, security, and freedom not only of Marawi City but of the entire country.
Like hundreds of other soldiers who paid the ultimate price in Marawi City, Bayot fulfilled his duties even at the expense of his own life — even making a rather unusual, hair-raising, mouth-gaping but equally laudable request.