The history of Marawi, the country’s only Islamic city, is inextricably linked to the career of two of AFP’s best men: Gen. Felix Brawner Jr and Brig. Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr.
The two generations of Brawners have served Marawi. Both of them led the government troops that helped maintain peace in the city in separate time in history.
Gen. Felix Brawner, Jr is the first Brawner who went to Marawi in the late 70s during the height of the Muslim rebellion in Mindanao. He was then an army major, who just came from successful military missions against communist rebels in Isabela when he was sent to Cotabato.
Later promoted to lieutenant colonel in 1980, Felix Jr became the commander of the Philippine Army brigade assigned to Marawi. He said he changed the system and restored peace in the city during his stay there.
As commander, he had to deal not only with concerns about military operations but also with discipline issues among his men.
“When I was there, I changed the system,” Felix Jr. said. “We had problems with our troops, especially on discipline and I resolved that”.
He recalled that once he sent a battalion to conduct military operation in a place near the camp but before noon that day, he received a call from the governor, complaining about the troops confiscating items – chicken, food, bolos, malong, etc.- from the people in the communities.
Felix Jr immediately ordered the operation to stop and he asked his men to report back to the camp on Signal Hill where for two hours, he lectured the soldiers on proper behavior.
After the lecture, he asked the men open their packs and bring out everything that they took from the civilians. Three sacks of various items were collected.
Then Felix Jr called the vice governor and asked him to help return the items back to the people in Kapai. The vice governor went to the camp, got the items and returned it to the people.
The next day, the vice governor visited Felix Jr again and told him: “Colonel, the people are happy with what you did. Can we write an article about you, the good colonel?”
The colonel declined and answered kindly: “Please do not do that. I have already admonished my men and got what they did there. Now to me that’s enough. They will not do it again.”
From that time on, the colonel did not receive any more complaints or reports of soldiers plundering communities in Marawi during military raids or operations.
There was another story which involved a soldier who fired his gun indiscriminately one night. The following day, the colonel ordered the erring soldier disarmed and had him officially discharged that same day.
From that day on, no sounds of gunfire were heard in Marawi at night, from either the military or civilian side.
During his stint in Marawi, Felix Jr did his best to build and establish good relations with the Muslims through mutual respect, trust and understanding.
Once, the colonel went alone, unescorted, to watch a cultural show on invitation of Governor Ali Dimaporo. The musical play was held in an undisclosed remote village in Marawi. Trusting the governor, the colonel accepted the invitation and he went alone with him to the event.
While the show was going on, someone mentioned on the microphone that “Colonel (Felix) Brawner is here with Governor Dimaporo’s party”. Everyone froze but nothing happened although the colonel said that when he looked around he saw “a lot of armed men and I know that they were all members of their forces.”
Felix Jr also recalled that he had many Muslims officers with him even when he was operating in Isabela. He trusted and treated them fairly like other soldiers. He said that when he was transferred to Marawi, the Muslim officers also asked to be transferred with him. They followed him in Mindanao. He also remembered one brave lieutenant from Jolo who was with him.
In 1982, while still serving in Marawi, Felix Jr was promoted to the rank of general.
“So during my service in Marawi, I made it peaceful. That’s why when my nephew was there and he left, he requested that they return there. So he went back there until he was brought back to PMA as a commandant. Like him, I was promoted when I was in Marawi, “Gen Felix Brawner recalled.
His nephew, Col. Romeo Brawner, Jr. was the second Brawner to serve Marawi. He was part of the command group which ended the terrorist siege of Marawi City. After the battle, he returned to Manila but was recalled and sent back to Marawi to help with the rehabilitation. He is now a brigadier general and the superintendent of Philippine Military Academy (PMA).
Gen. Felix Brawner Jr retired from military service in 1988. Now living a happy and fulfilled life as civilian, he will turn 86 on July 4.
(Excerpts from a book being written on the life of Gen. Felix Brawner, Jr.)
M.L. Salvacion is a freelance writer. He worked for various online and offline publications. He is currently writing the biography of Gen. Brawner.