Bunye: From puto vendor to marine general

AS LIEUTENANT General Emmanuel B. Salamat's brilliant nearly 39-year military career draws to an end this week, the Northern Luzon Command (Nolcom) commander cannot help but reminisce his humble beginnings.

Salamat was the 6th of 13 children of Pablo and Anita Salamat. His father, a former prison guard, rose from the ranks and eventually retired as a colonel in the Philippine army.

Salamat remembers the early days when the family was struggling financially. "Napakaliit lang ng sueldo ng sundalo that time."

While studying in the Muntinlupa National High School (also my alma mater), he used to walk five kilometers daily to their house in Soldiers' Hills Village just to save the 50 centavos jeepney fare.

To augment the family income, his mother started selling puto and guess who became his mother's principal distributor.

"During my free time, I had to help Nanay to earn extra money by roaming around the Bureau of Correction (BuCor) reservation selling puto.

"I also remember one time when that box of puto on my head suddenly fell down on the ground.

"Sa takot ko sa Nanay ko, pinulot ko yung mga puto at ibinenta pa rin. Surprisingly, I sold it all out."

The military has been embedded in his genes. When the time came, Salamat applied for admission at the Philippine Military Academy where he graduated in 1985.

In his more than 38 years of military service, he spent most of his career in the combat areas as a marine officer.

He was in the treacherous mountain areas of Palawan, Bataan, Jolo, Zamboanga Peninsula, and in Central Mindanao running after and fighting against secessionist groups, local terrorist groups, kidnap for ransom groups as a junior and later as a field grade officer.

He also led various significant battles against BIFF in Palimbang, Mamasapano (SPMS Box) in Central Mindanao as brigade commander.

His most notable accomplishments include overseeing the Marine operations during Marawi siege as commandant of the Philippine Marine Corps and later as deputy commander of JSOTF "TRIDENT" in Marawi.

Shortly thereafter, he was assigned to his present post as commander of the Northern Luzon Command.

Between field duties, Salamat honed his administrative, strategic and operational skills by completing the following:

* Naval Staff and Command Management Course, 1999, Graduated with distinction.

* Command and General Staff Course, 2007, Honor Graduate and Best Commandant Paper Award

* Master in Public Management, UP Open University, 2009

* Defense Strategic Studies Course, Australian Defense College, 2010 (Conferred as Fellow of Centre for Defense and Strategic Studies)

* Master of Arts in Strategic Studies, Deakin University, 2011

* Senior Executive Course on National Security, National Defense College, 2013

He also served briefly as assistant superintendent at the Philippine Military Academy.

It is said that a true warrior is also the most ardent advocate of peace and development.

Salamat championed peace building initiatives through effective stakeholder collaborations and "bayanihan" with the member of communities, pursued significant peace and development advocacies and adopted an innovative approach in the protection of maritime areas and the country's territory.

Just a few days before his retirement, Salamat led a very symbolic gesture of hoisting of the Philippine flag and the singing of the national anthem at Mavulis, the northernmost island of the Philippine archipelago.

"Atin ito!," Salamat must have said as he executed a snappy salute to the flag.

"Looking back, I never dreamt that I would have reached this far in my career but I do remember my patience, hard work and living responsibly each day.

"One thing for sure, the Sovereign God is in total control and He is the one who makes our destiny possible.

"But this destiny will not automatically happen... You need to possess four traits: attitude, discipline, hard work and faith."

Salamat, his wife Claire and children Christelle Ann, Nathaniel and Eldrid Jaser were already planning a long well-deserved family vacation after Salamat's retirement.

But I guess that will have to be cut short because of President Duterte's invitation for Salamat to serve as new MWSS Chair.

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