Emotional sendoff for Marawi troops

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Marawi City (CNN Philippines, October 25) — "Uwian na (It's time to go home)!"

For Marawi's battle-weary troops, there's nothing more calming than to hear these words from your commander.

"Maraming, maraming salamat sa inyo at mabuhay tayong lahat (Thank you very much to all of you. Long live)," Western Mindanao Command chief Lieutenant General Carlito Galvez told troops withdrawing from war-torn Marawi on Wednesday.

The Army's Special Operations Command was sent off in a ceremony at Camp Ranao after the military ended combat operations in Marawi on Monday.

Marawi is the provincial capital of Lanao del Sur which had been the battle ground of soldiers and ISIS-inspired Maute terrorists for five months.

Even the most veteran officers could not hold back their tears as they looked back at the battle to retake Marawi — especially as it took the lives of 165 troops.

"I'm really sorry for the loss of the families that lost their loved ones… But also mixed emotions, I'm so happy this is finally finished, finally over," Galvez said.

Officers and soldiers took turns in patting each other's backs for an accomplished mission.

A ceremony for troops from the Marines and the Navy was also held on BRP Tarlac, the Navy's largest ship, docked at the Iligan port.

It was meant to celebrate the Marines and Navy's achievements in recapturing Maute strongholds, including three main bridges and structures near Lanao Lake, a possible escape route of terrorists.

"Kaya sa araw na ito, talagang bibigyan natin ng importansya ang kagitingan na pinakita ng ating fleet Marine team sa Marawi siege," said Rear Admiral Rene Medina, commander of the Naval Forces Western Mindanao.

[Translation: "On this day, we give importance to the bravery of our fleet Marine team."]


Read: Timeline: The Marawi crisis

Road to rehabilitation

For the first time since President Rodrigo Duterte declare the liberation of Marawi on Oct. 17, journalists were allowed to enter ground zero, guided by troops.

The heavy fighting obliterated homes, buildings, and neighborhoods.

The government said it will take more than P50 billion to rebuild the war-torn city.

Authorities, however, are still tracking down a certain Abu Dar, a Maute member who escaped the war zone and may revive the group by recruiting new members.

Related: Military still after handful of terrorists in Marawi

All seven brothers behind the Maute group are dead. They are part of 920 terrorists killed in Marawi since the siege began on May 23, that prompted Duterte to declare martial law throughout Mindanao.