“Happiness isn’t something you experience; it’s something you remember.” -Oscar Levant
A Holiday Spent in The Camp: The Military GF Experience
This is a long story so buckle up, and prepare the popcorn.
* BOS: Branch of Service
* Sancho– our code for: The boyfriend, who is an Army Soldier
* “KM” -Military Vehicle
* BDA: Battle Dress Attire (the uniform the soldiers use during combat, or during ordinary day)
* Company: a single unit belonging to a battalion
* “Area” – the place where the soldiers were deployed, usually a remote area where there is no electricity, yet
* Leftists– people whose ideals are not the same with the Government; those who fight for their rights which often lead to bloody encounter
* “operation”: combat between the military and the rebels
* BF’s BOS: Army
* Area: Highlands
* Weather: Cold and Foggy
* Timeline: Last week of December, 3 years ago
Then the story begins…
First of all, I don’t really have the intention to visit my Army man in his workplace, because after all, I don’t have any business to do there, right? But I realized, maybe, after all his countless invitation from before, this time, I think I must give it a try.
It was early in the morning when I rode the plane, ooppss… skip… 🙂
So we saw each other after 5 long months of deployment when he fetched me from the Airport. Since we were already in the City, (which means there were still stores, malls, electricity, computers, etc, in short, civilization LOL) we decided to dine out for lunch and buy some snacks and a hefty amount of ingredients for the holiday’s small year-ender party.
In the supermarket while shopping for the goods: every time I offered something to buy like bread, cookies etc, he always stopped to think if what I’ve put in the basket is enough for everybody (his thoughtful side, that is). I wasn’t expecting a lot, but actually, we ended up buying food which we cannot really personally carry comfortably, so imagine, that was really a good bulk of it.
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While we were eating our lunch, and assumed to at least rest for a while, his phone suddenly rung, and he was being asked to report back to his Battalion immediately. Have gotten used to sudden changes, I expect that we were about to do ninja moves, because I know exactly that when duty calls him, wherever he is and whatever he is doing, he must leave it. So we dashed back to his Battalion. This was totally a new experience to me, because this time, I was already going inside ‘the hard cap area.’
I wasn’t sure where to go, and I never even asked anything, I just followed. We traveled for 5 long hours via bus, and we got off in a dark side of the street where there were tryke or habal-habal waiting for passengers. We rode the habal-habal and for some twenty minutes of joy ride, we got off. Finally we reached the place where the barracks of the other soldiers was located. It was a cemented, abandoned small house with 3 rooms full of soldiers. It was a bit awkward because I was the only female there, and they were a bit surprised when they saw me.
I thought we were going to stay there until the morning but during midnight, he woke me up. He told me to hurry up because the vehicle was already waiting for us. I have no choice, I changed my clothes, wore my shoes, got my backpack, and dashed to the toilet at least to brush my teeth and wash my face with water. I wiped my face dry with paper towel and fired up to wear my glasses. Hastily, I went outside the barracks, and true enough, the military vehicle (KM) was out and about; yet, we were the only ones they were waiting for.
When I glanced back to the vehicle, my heart rate raised a bit, well who would’ve? Lo and behold! Ten soldiers with live arms and some sash full of bullets were there seemingly ready to shoot? But then on the other hand, I was also a bit kilig (touched) knowing that they were there to protect me. Of course, I got more kilig when I saw my man wearing his BDA. (Haha How cute.) 🙂
I got back to my senses when he asked me to sit in front of the vehicle asking me to wear the heavy bulletproof vest, and he even had his M-16 ready when he sat beside me. I don’t have any choice, do I? So I wore the vest which I think was 2/3 my weight, LOL, and sat beside him, sharing a spot which is supposedly for a single person only. I wasn’t sure where to go, but I think it took us an hour to reach the Battalion Camp.
So we met their honorable Battalion Staff, and of course their Head, their very kind and accommodating Battalion Commander. Of course, I won’t mention their names for security purposes; but if I could, then I must; because the truth was they were really accommodating. Sancho was the lowest ranked Officer in there, but they managed to converse with me even if they had a choice not to. Originally I remained inside the KM and want to just wait for the troops to come back, but the BatCom asked Sancho to call me for midnight snacks, at least. Then they asked me to sit with them, in their dining table, and offered me a slice of cake. While Sancho was receiving instructions from the other Officers, I was being entertained by the other Officers together with the BatCom himself. **This is one of the many things which made me changed my past views about battalion commanders and other military upperclassmen, I thought they were really unapproachable, chilly, or aloof, but in contrary, they were actually very friendly.
It was midnight, and they ordered Sancho to have us be escorted back to his area, because it was a bit dangerous. I thought everybody will be back in the KM, but to my surprise, they huddled in a big circle, then a Soldier led a prayer. I was really touched, even if I cannot really comprehend the words, I know in their own unuttered prayers, they were asking for His Divine Intervention to guide and protect them.
Just when I sat back to our original seat, I remembered someone told me before that it is a menace to be escorted by a KM because most of the time, the vehicle is being ambushed by the leftists. My heart skipped a bit, and I felt butterflies in my stomach. I got really nervous. I might be dead anytime. LOL. Then he asked me if I was alright, and asked me to wear the vest again. He said we were only going to travel for a short time to reach his area.
Then we started traveling. It was so dark, and we did not experience any flat and steady road. The entire trip was so bumpy. Not only rocky, but also muddy. As we traveled, nobody in the front seat was talking, neither the driver (who is also a Soldier, with his own M-16 on the side), nor Sancho. I want to talk but I couldn’t find any correct words to utter. It was so dark and cold. Although the windshield of the KM was so husky, still, I could feel the cool breeze kissing my cheeks and blurring my eyes.
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The silence of the two men seated beside me was deafening, and I could only focus my attention to the sound of the water which is 2-feet high as we passed by that road. Then we passed through a trail where all I could see was an area full of grass. I was amused when the meadow’s height was higher than the KM. They simultaneously waved as the air gushed towards us, as if they were waving goodbye as we passed by them. I wasn’t sure where we were, but actually I saw some small houses with lamps, but there were a few, and the darkness ruled the place.
The “short” trip Paul told me was actually about 4 lengthy hours. My sitting bone (coccyx) was aching because we only shared one seat, even my back was painful; my knees were also nagging, because they hit the vehicle’s front compartment as we traveled along the bumpy road because I was only sitting on the edge… and oh… my left hip bone was crying for help, because the edge of the tool box beside me was hitting my hip every bump we bolted. I do not have any choice, and those times were a call for patience and sacrifice. Indeed, this was what I signed up for years ago when he asked me to be his girlfriend. 😛 Kidding aside, I was really lucky to experience this, and I was thankful we arrived safe and sound.
Then we came to his area. We passed by the gates, it was still dark so I cannot see anything but the light his phone was providing. He asked me not to dare get off the vehicle because it was wet and muddy. So I asked him what to do, he told me to wait. I really couldn’t see anything at all, I was disoriented, a little girl waiting for his verdict. I was only listening to the voice of the gentlemen asking for coffee, and the others laughing, as if they were only seeing each other for the first time, in a long time.
Then Sancho came to my rescue. He asked me to remove my shoes. I asked him why, he said I should stop asking questions and just follow whatever he says, I was laughing inside, actually, 🙂 those moments when I see him so serious about something, I couldn’t help but laugh, but this time, I must be in my proper behavior. I remembered that time I was their Officer’s girlfriend. I couldn’t help it, but actually what he asked me to do next surprised me. He asked me to heave on his back, the classic piggy back which we haven’t done, yet. Haha. That was awkward because the soldiers will see me for the first time… on their Officer’s back! That was so embarrassing but I was left without a choice. Too good it was still dark, and he carried me straight to a room which has 4 galloons of gas, and some pieces of military equipment. He said that was the only space available for me. So imagine a room which has been a storage place for kerosene, guns and ammo. The air I breathe in smells like gas, it caused me headache but to my awe, I forgot about it.
He asked me not to put my feet on the ground because it was muddy all over. I was curious about how the room looked like, because all I can see are the things which his phone light could only reach.
We were so tired from traveling all they long, so we decided to retire our tired bodies. Amid the cold dawn and the smell of kerosene, innocently, we managed to snooze off and bade goodbye to the world.
The heat of the sun roused me up, I woke him up and told him it was already morning and he said, it’s fine if I still want to sleep, but I couldn’t hold my bladder anymore, so I told him I have to pee. He got up, draw a pair of combat boots from the side of the bed and asked me to wear them. The boots were full of mud on each side and seemed like worn out from excessive usage. It was his size, of course, and it seemed that each shoe was heavier than my foot. Haha
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I wiped my face with wet towel and wore my glasses, to my surprise, my feet were already touching the ground! I looked at it closely, lo and behold! It was really muddy all over. The room which was built from pieces of wood and military rain coats was endowed with 1-2inch muddy floor, and some grass were growing from the foundation of the folding army bed. My bag and his were only placed on top of a plywood beneath a few rocks so that it wouldn’t touch the muddy ground. I could also see the rays peeping through the lines of the wood which served as the walls of the Macgyver-built room.
I also remembered I was smelling kerosene, but the coldness of the morning really caught my attention. Mr. Sun was already up in the sky, but its rays were underestimated by the coldness brought about by the altitude of the area. Peeping through the uneven lines of the walls, I could see mountains.
Paul asked me to bring my things because the toilet is quite far, so instead of going back to take a bath later that day, it’s practical to do it all at once. He asked me to wear shorts, because according to him, it’s even muddier outside. I didn’t bring any shorts with me, and so he offered his army shorts. So imagine I was wearing the olive green shorts, his combat boots, and my violet hoody. 😛 I wasn’t in my best appearance to meet the army men from his company, but at least, they know, I wasn’t maarte (stagey, choosy) to insist my girly look despite the situation and place we were at. LOL
We went outside the room, the fog welcomed me as I moved the military raincoat which served as our door. The soldiers were busy doing their own stuff, I know they’ve noticed me but from my observation, they were only shy to initiate conversation or a simple eye-to-eye contact. I smiled to them and greeted them a good morning. I guessed that was their queue because after breaking the ice, I looked to them and waited for their reply; they smiled back to me, and asked me if I wanted coffee. They do not know what to do or how to entertain me, maybe because, at the back of their minds, I am their Boss’s girlfriend, as I perceived it. But I was so happy because, despite that, they were very friendly and accommodating.
As we started walking out from the gates of the camp, it gets harder and harder to carry my foot one by one, because the mud gets deeper and deeper as we move past the gates. He noticed I was having a hard time, so he asked me to piggyback on him, once more. I guess I have no choice, that was the only way we could move quickly. So I did.
We passed a trail which you couldn’t almost see the path because the water from the spring is moving steadily, and it covers the whole trail, sometimes you also have to leap, jump, or walk tiptoe just to overcome the part where all you can see was water. I was amused by the ducks passing through the swamp. They were not shaken by our presence and it seemed that they were playing together.
We reached the place. It was a house of a community folk who is always in the farm, his kindness provided the company a place to do the laundry and do their personal business. Gladly, the comfort room/bathroom has a door, but it doesn’t have lock, so I used a bucketful of water to stop it from opening. After Paul washed our clothes, 🙂 we went back to the barracks.
The soldiers were happy that time because it was a holiday. It means they do not have operation or long walks and hikes in the mountains. As we were eating, I heard a sound of motorbike (habal-habal) headed towards us, and suddenly, the gates opened. It was the family of one of the soldiers. That single motorbike carried a family of 6. The driver, the mother who was carrying a newborn baby, 2 toddlers (a boy and a girl) and a teenage boy. As the soldier saw his family, it almost made me burst into tears because the soldier’s face brightened up and he almost cried as he carried his children down the habal-habal. He was very happy to see his family. I remembered we traveled almost 5 hours in a commercial bus, and almost 4 hours riding the military vehicle up in the mountains. But they only rode a motorbike together with the kids. I think that was too sacrificial, and dangerous. But their love to their Dad surpassed all the fears and troubles just to reach him.
I was overjoyed to know there were other civilians (like me) who came to the camp, and little kids, too. They joined us eating, and I was captivated by their lil rain boots each of them wore, looking very prepared to go to their Dad’s area.
I cannot forget this moment because it taught me one thing; to be able to get the most out of the lemons life is giving you. Choosing to be happy amid the hardships and sacrifices the Army life has to offer… and being able to see the sun even if it’s all foggy and rainy.
After having breakfast, Paul and I started to prepare the ingredients of our menu… **drum roll** spicy Spaghetti and Carbonara. Haha no doubt we love pasta 🙂 and so we got busy in their outdoor kitchen while other soldiers started preparing their own menu, while others butchered the swine to cook as letson. 🙂 It was my first time to see how letson was cooked “at home” where everything used were freshly picked from their mini farmville (especially the swine, it was from their own mini hogpen).
As the dusk approaches, community folks started to come over and we all started to partake all the food that was prepared for everybody.
The night was perfect, because aside from thinking I was in a dangerous place, it came to me that somehow, although it was only temporary, the civilians, the community folks and the military men gathered together in one long table without arms and without bullets being fired, and no grenade being tossed.
I don’t know where to end the story, but I think that’s all I have to say. Military life is difficult, just as I described a single night alone with them. But now, I realized, I was blessed to have someone who knows how to live a simple life, and chose to live it even if he has the expediency to choose sophistication over simplicity.
“One day we will realize that big hearts will bring us more peace than big weapons.” -Anthony Douglas Williams
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