FOR his continuing exploits as a long-distance runner, Manuel Remandaban, 67, is often called 'Idol' by members of the running community, many of whom took in the Condura Skyway Marathon on Sunday.
Unknown to many, the spry Tolosa, Leyte native is also a veteran, having served in the Philippine Army during his youth.
“Nung makita ko yung mga (PNP-SAF) doon para akong naluluha. Nararamdaman ko kahit ngayon,” the teary-eyed Remandaban told SPIN.ph after he finished the unique 42-kilometer course for the second time on the elevated highway that spans the cities of Muntinlupa, Paranaque, Taguig and Makati.
Remandaban said he was a corporal in the 1st Infantry “Tabak” Division based in Tanay, Rizal. But his military career was overtaken by a stronger desire to pursue his studies in mechanical engineering.
Before he left the service, he recalls one particular close call, “’Yung mga kasama ko minalas, na-ambush sa Laguna. Buti na lang medyo nahuli kami.”
This year’s race adopted the theme "Run for a Hero” to honor deceased service members of the military and support their dependents. Organizers included the families of the 44 policemen who died in last week’s bloody encounter in Maguindanao with Muslim secessionists as beneficiaries.
As a tribute to the “Fallen 44”, SAF personnel were stationed several meters after the start line. Each one stood at attention holding a photo with the name of the 44 policemen who died in an operation meant to arrest international terrorists.
“Tulad ngayon ‘yung isang anak ko pulis sa Pasig. Nagte-training siya sa SCOUT. Patapos na siya”, said Remandaban. The PNP Scout (Special Counter-insurgency Unit Training) is a five-month course aimed at providing military skills and tactics before lawmen are assigned to active duty and is considered one of the toughest in the PNP.
It was with a heavy heart when he learned of the violent fighting that killed the SAF troopers.
“Mabigat. Sa bandang huli may sama ng loob ako kasi 'yung training nila ibang klase kesa sa Army… Masakit pag naaalala mo," he admitted.
The ultra runner welcomed the opportunity to be able to help the affected families.
“Masayang-masaya matutulungan yung mga pamilya ng namatay. Dapat naman talaga tumulong tayo. Malaki ang sinakripisyo ng mga iyun. Para sa peace e. Yung target nila mga terorista,” he said.
A resident of San Juan City who runs a school service, the doting grandfather said he continues to run for health reasons, maintaining that marathons are better than medicine and serves as tune-ups for upcoming longer running forays.
One of his proudest moments as a runner was when his apo (grandchild), Nico, grew stronger after suffering from asthma after the 14-year old joined his lolo in his running trips, with their first run from San Juan to Antipolo.
“Ang pinakamasayang sinabi niya sa akin ng sinabi niya, "Lolo, malakas na ako!" the septaguenarian athlete beamed.