View From The Wings – Virac, Catanduanes
CRIES AND WHISPERS IN HERO’S ISLAND FUNERAL
By Pablo A. Tariman
To the slow cadence of the second movement (marcia funebre) of Beethoven’s Third Symphony played by the PNP Regional Marching Band, 27-year old Senior Police Inspector Max Jim Tria was laid to rest in a barrio cemetery in barrio Cabihian in Virac Catanduanes at 12 noon today after the customary 21 gun salute.
The cries of the policeman’s mother, Mrs. Efigenia Tria, were the only heart-rending sound in the cemetery after the last blessing from the attending priest. Her eldest son, Ace, comforted her no end but there was no denying the unspeakable sorrow buried in her heart. The four brothers held back their tears but later during the last ceremony, a few couldn’t help sobbing.
During the necrological services, even Tria’s PNP school classmate Freddie Caballero ended up sobbing after recalling their school days.”He was a strong man physically, mentally and emotionally. Every pound of his body is all muscles. One day his life story and rare heroism will be told not just in print but hopefully on film as well.”
In the next breath, he added, “If that film will materialize at all, we don’t want Vice Ganda or Allan K in it. We want someone like John Lloyd Cruz.”
He added that like the lyric of the song, “Hindi Natutulog Ang Diyos,” he hoped justice for the 44 fallen soldiers will one day be served.
The most intimate tribute to SPI Tria was given by Paulo Joson Landig who was batch mate, classmate and best friend of the slain hero.
Both members of the 2005 Einstein class of the Catanduanes State University, Tria and Landig shared a lot of high school memories whacky, funny and sad.
“He was basically a happy man who has time for all his friends,” Landig said. “Even after he got his rank in the Special Police Force, he remained low profile and would rather be known as one of the boys rather than be referred to as a PNP official. During our high school days, he used to bring this huge thermos bottle full of cold drink. He would pass that bottle to all his friends until none is left for his own use.”
The most hair-raising revelation that drew murmurs from the huge crowd was when months before the Mamasapano massacre, Tria told his best friend that he would like to die with grenades in both hands and defending his fellow soldiers.”
“Why what’s up?” Landig asked his best friend.
“Just watch the regular TV news for updates” came the reply.
True enough, Tria was reported in the papers as “the last man standing” and found with two hand grenades” in both his lifeless hands.
Tria’s high school teacher at the Catanduanes State University, Estrella Sarmiento Placides, said she has found fulfillment in her teaching career by being known as the teacher of a hero. “He was a bright pupil but he dislikes the idea of grandstanding. He was often the playful person and often played pranks on everyone but I would say that they are not the harmful kind.”
Their last conversation went something like this:
Tria: Hello Ma’am. I am happy to tell you I got my rank already.
Placides: Congratulations. I am happy for you. Are you home in the island?
Tria: No Ma’am. I am in Basilan.
Placides: (screams) What? Just take care of yourself. I will pray for you.
Concludes Placides: “Not all my pupils remember to call when they achieve something they have been dreaming of. Mac-Mac (as Tria is known to friends) is one of them.”
With both town folks and officials from the 11 towns of Catanduanes in attendance, the funeral was easily one of the most well-attended it reminded the islanders of the thousands of well-wishers who attended the funeral of the late Catanduanes governor Juan Alberto who was felled by an assassin’s bullet many years ago.
The Tria family lives in an idyllic village with just a couple of streets and a population of less than a thousand. The house is hemmed in by rice fields with a view of the mountain and the sea.
“The Tria family lives a simple life and discipline is the hallmark of all the children’s upbringing,” said Cabihian Kagawad Rosalina Matienzo. They like the peace and quiet of this small barrio nobody bothered to move to the town proper. Max Jim’s father, Guillermo, is so respected when he says you should vote for this and that, everybody follows. The last time I saw Mac-Mac here in our place last September, he was doing his usual morning chore which is jogging.”
Described by a military official as a “tiger” in the battlefield, Tria belonged to the SAF locking force that came under heavy attack from the MILF and the BIFF.
He is known as “the last man standing” during the bloody January 25 encounter in Mamasapano, Maguindanao where 43 of his colleagues also met their untimely death.
The province’s officialdom in the funeral was led by Congressman Cesar V. Sarmiento who delivered a short message in the necrological service.
Islander Freddie Boy Alcala who knows the musical Trias in the province suggested that the Virac Airport be renamed SPI Max Jim Tria Domestic Airport in memory of the fallen hero.
In the sea of wreathes in the cemetery, the one coming from the Palace is nowhere to be seen.
Albay Governor Joey Salceda said earlier. “Many may disagree with me, but the issue here is justice for victims of MILF brutality and betrayal. The constituency for peace has been decimated by the violence and can only be restored by justice. The betrayal is despicable. Our dignity violated and our trust destroyed. Our sorrow is indescribable.” – Catanduanes Tribune