Pvt. Vic Monera: A life of struggle and poverty
By : Bobby Lagsa Mindanao Today/01:38:20pm 07/20/2021
Soldiers guard the coffins of the six troopers from Northern Mindanao and Caraga who died during the crash of the C-130 aircraft in Sulu on Sunday at the 4th Infantry Division’s gymnasium on Wednesday, July 7. (Jigger Jerusalem) (Note: This news article was published in the print edition of Mindanao Today on July 9, 2021)
CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY – Philippine Army Private Vic Monera, one of the soldiers who died in the ill-fated C-130 plane crash in Patikul, Sulu, led a life of struggle.
Coming from a family of farmers, he is the only family member who graduated from college.
Their family tilled the land they do not own but grew up in, in Barangay Dagumba-an, Maramag, Bukidnon.
Vic’s mother Vilma joined the legal land struggle, often joining land rights protests in Manila to own a piece of land they are working on legally.
“I would often leave them when we need to go to Manila to protest and follow up on the progress of our papers, which took me two decades to own,” she said.
Vilma is an officer of the Panansalan-Dagumba-an Tribal Association (PADATA), an indigenous rights group who led the struggles to reclaim their ancestral land that the government loaned to the Villalon Ranch.
Vilma said that she and her husband sent Vic to a private maritime school Cagayan de Oro in an effort to provide him with a better future.
Vic graduated and went to Manila to apply for work onboard but eventually had to drop the plan as the pandemic hit in 2020.
“For Vic, the only way to help our family is to be a soldier, that was his plan,” Vilma said.
Vic applied to be a soldier to provide for his mother and two siblings, a responsibility he took as their father passed away in 2017.
“He was the one that we rely on. We sent him to school, he had plans to help us,” Vilma said.
When Vic was accepted into the army, he told his mother that he will be the one to take care of the schooling of his siblings.
“He told us that he will have a salary soon and he is going to help us,” Vilma said.
The first and only salary
After the training, Vic called his mother and told her that he is sending P38,000 from his first salary.
“He sent me the money via Palawan (money transfer) with instructions to pay our debts, including the payments for the dentist who fixed his teeth and the rest for our consumption,” Vilma said.
“He was so happy that he was able to give me money from his salary, and I am happy too that he now gets a stable job,” she added.
For Vilma, her happiness that her son is now a government soldier brings both pride and sadness.
She said that Vic was a responsible son, helping her on their small farm, planting banana and sugar cane on the piece of land that she spent half of her life acquiring from the government.
The last phone call
On Saturday, July 3, Saturday night, Vic called his mother to tell her that he is going to Patikul, Sulu.
The following day, at the Laguindingan Airport, Vic called his mother and asked for a P50 phone load so that he can call her once they land in Sulu.
“I sent him a load, he told me that he loves me and his siblings and that we should take care always,” Vilma recalled their last conversation.
When the news of a plane crash reached Vilma, she called Vic but the number cannot be reached.
“I called him, and prayed that he will answer me, but nothing,” Vilma said between sobs.
Vilma called his nephew, also a soldier assigned in Patikul. Vilma said her nephew told her that the plane is in flame sand that he cannot go near it.
“I called my son until the following Monday, I broke down, I wanted to hear his voice, to know that he is doing okay, but nothing,” Vilma said.
Vilma and her two children will have to wait until Thursday to see the remains of Vic. The Moneras, along with five other families, cannot view the remains of their loved ones.
Maj. Francisco Garello Jr., spokesperson of the Army’s 4th Infantry Division, said that the remains of the soldiers were burned beyond physical recognition.
The bodies of the six soldiers were wrapped in plastic and sealed in the coffin.
“They were identified through their dental records, some of them wrote their names in their combat boots,” Garello said.
“The instruction as of today is that the coffin is sealed, it will be opened once they are delivered to their homes,” he added.
“We wanted to see my son, to be certain that is him inside that coffin,” Vilma said, holding back her tears.
For Vilma expressed that life is not fair in that just as her son Vic finds meaningful work, he was taken too soon.
“Life is unfair, Vic was a responsible son. We struggled to send him to school so that he will have a better life than us, and now he is taken away from us,” Vilma said.