‘As we do our best to protect our families, we also exert our best efforts in fulfilling our duties to protect our land,’ Major General Rolando Bautista tells troops

BATTLEGROUND. Government troops take position against enemy snipers as they escort rescued workers and trapped residents near the town center of Marawi on June 1, 2017 where heavy fighting between soldiers and the Maute Group have been raging. Photo by Ted Aljibe/AFP

MANILA, Philippines – As Filipinos mark Father’s Day on Sunday, June 18, soldiers battling local terrorists in Marawi City were also commended for their service protecting the country in the call of duty.

In his message to troops, Major General Rolando Bautista, ground commander in Marawi City, likened fathers to soldiers who give their all to protect their children.

He called on the soldiers to do their best in maintaining peace and order and become the "best gift" for the country.

"As we do our best to protect our families, we also exert our best efforts in fulfilling our duties to protect our land. On Father’s Day, we cannot be there with our children because of our call of duty. We cannot be with our children today because we are serving the people and we are protecting the land," he said in a message.

"As fathers and soldiers, let us all continue to be caring, strong, compassionate, and honest. Let us be the best gift our children and our families ever had. And in maintaining peace, let us also be the best gift our nation will have," he added.

Bautista also said that as the commander of the Philippine Army’s 1st Infantry Division and "symbolic father" to his troops, he is saddened by the deaths of those who died fighting in Marawi City.

The conflict in Marawi has been raging for nearly a month, since clashes erupted between government forces and the Maute terror group. (READ: TIMELINE: Marawi clashes prompt martial law in all of Mindanao)

The incident prompted President Rodrigo Duterte to declare martial law in Mindanao.

As of Saturday, June 17, the death toll has risen to 329, with at least 59 soldiers killed in the conflict.

"There is no greater hurt that may be inflicted to a father’s heart than seeing his children die and perish in the battlefield. My heart goes with their loved ones who are grieving who are now just remembering the memories left by our heroes. My heart goes to our fellow soldiers who gave their ultimate sacrifice in the pursuit of peace here in Marawi City," he said.

Read the full message below:

Every third Sunday of June marks a day when we recognize one of the most important persons in our life. We are reminded to honor our fathers, who have tremendously contributed to what we have become today. This day also marks fatherhood and the bonding we have with our children, who are the very reason why we strive to live. We serve because we love our country. We live because we love our family.

As your commander in this division, I symbolically raise you as my children and lead you in fulfilling our mandate as public servants and land protectors. There is no greater hurt that may be inflicted to a father’s heart than seeing his children die and perish in the battlefield. My heart goes with their loved ones who are grieving who are now just remembering the memories left by our heroes. My heart goes to our fellow soldiers who gave their ultimate sacrifice in the pursuit of peace here in Marawi City.

Fathers are like soldiers. They are protectors of their children. Fathers are not only providers for their families, they are also most importantly teachers, influencers, and protectors. As we do our best to protect our families, we also exert our best efforts in fulffilling our duties to protect our land. On Father’s Day, we cannot be there with our children because of our call of duty. We cannot be with our children today because we are serving the people and we are protecting the land.

Let me borrow the words of Walter Schirra: "You don’t raise heroes, you raise sons. And if you treat them like sons, they’ll turn out to be heroes, even if it’s just in your own eyes." L et us appreciate our fathers and let us appreciate ourselves as fathers to our children.

As fathers and soldiers, let us all continue to be caring, strong, compassionate, and honest. Let us be the best gift our children and our families ever had. And in maintaining peace, let us also be the best gift our nation will have. Mabuhay ang mga tatay, mabuhay ang mga sundalo!

Rappler.com