A hero's death

I hardly know him. In fact, I don’t—except from the vague personal sketches I’ve heard from the ones who did.

He went to the same high school as my brother but almost half a decade earlier. He lived from a nearby town, about an hour drive from Koronadal City. But I don’t remember ever seeing him, not even vaguely. His name, though, has a familiar ring into it. Weirdly, Michael tells me my father were friends with his.

Is it just my memory, or we’ve never really been introduced?

My friend Katrina tells me he was a math genius. Days before Kat would join math contests, she’d run to him for some tutoring, which he’d do gladly and for free. Michael tells me he was quiet. He’d probably only talk when it was called for, with every word from his mouth eliciting some sense.

His dream was to become a soldier, so goes the Inquirer article. When he was young, he liked to play military drills. Funny, when I think of it, because I never had that phase in my life. To me, the most perplexing question was whether I’d be a botanist or a zoologist. It’d be interesting to know why he wished that kind of life.

He was a man who wasn’t afraid to follow his dreams. He eventually got into the Philippine Military Academy, ranking ninth in his graduating class. I can imagine his family with tears of pride, his father probably shouting, “That’s my son!” as his name was being called in the graduation rites.

But his life ended when enemy bullets hit him during clashes in Ungkaya Pukan in Basilan. They were running after the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group. He was probably carrying his gun. The sound of bullets must have sounded like thunder. His feet must have been soiled by the dirt and grime of the jungle. But he must’ve thought that everything—there and then—he might just have to say goodbye. What was he thinking before he breathed his last?

Ermin Soloren was only 22. And he died a hero.

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