Last June 1, Kristina Savellano bid farewell to her kuya, 1st Lt. John Frederick Savellano, who was sent Marawi City to join government troops in the ongoing battle against the Maute group and other rebels.
Little did she know it would be the last day she would see her elder brother alive. Lt. Savellano was one of 13 Marines killed in the battle for Marawi last week.
"We all know that soldiers are very strict but I will always remember him as somebody na sobrang jolly po and always smiling," Kristina told ABS-CBN News. "Sobrang laki lagi ang ngiti ni kuya, which brought smiles sa mga tao sa paligid niya."
("We all know that soldiers are very strict but I will always remember him as somebody who was always jolly and always smiling. My brother had that big smile that also brought smiles to the people around him.)
Kristina said her elder brother was the one in the family who always cracked jokes, and the one who was most proud whenever someone got an achievement in school.
She fondly remembered when her kuya cheered for her when she stepped on stage during her high school graduation ceremony, even if cheers were not allowed.
Aside from being the brother who often kidded around with them, Kristina said her brother was also a very passionate soldier.
She said Lt. Savellano was already working as a registered nurse for a couple of years when he decided to apply for the Marines, which was what he always wanted.
"Mahal na mahal po niya ang pagiging sundalo, ang pagiging member ng Marines. It's his pride and honor na nagse-serve siya sa country natin," she said.
(He loved being a soldier, a member of the Marines, very much. . It was his pride and honor to serve the country.)
During his mission in Marawi, Lt. Savellano was always updating his mother, Kristina said. He even told the family about the nearly P80 million worth of cash and checks they recovered in a Maute stronghold last week.
"The day that happened, sinabihan na niya po agad si mama na nakatuklas po sila. And they surrendered it already sa officials. Sobrang proud nga po si mama of what my kuya has done," she told DZMM.
(The day it happened, he already told my mom about their discovery. He said they surrendered the money to the officials. My mom was so proud of what my kuya did.)
Kristina said they always got worried whenever her brother was sent on a mission. But Marawi was the one mission that got them really nervous because the danger was clear and present.
She said, the day her kuya died, her mother knew of the operation, and things got strange when they received no calls that afternoon.
"Nung afternoon, kampante pa sila na baka busy lang po siya sa operation. And then ang una po talaga na tumawag is his fiancee po. Tinawagan po si mama nung fiancee ni kuya tapos 'yun nga po, nasabi na sa amin 'yung unfortunate na nangyari," she said.
(In the afternoon, my parents were still thinking that maybe he was just busy. But the fiancee of my brother called and told us the unfortunate news.)
Kristina said, her parents now feel hollow after receiving the news that their son, Lt. Savellano, second of 4 siblings, died in the battlefield.
"It's very unsual na magulang ang nagbubury sa anak nila. Inalagaan po nila yun e," she said.
(It's very unusual for parents to bury their child. They took care of him.)
Kristina said President Rodrigo Duterte already vowed assistance to the family, as with the families of the other Marines killed in action in Marawi.
She said her kuya may be gone, but his memory will remain with them forever, and they are very proud of him.