Major Beryl Bacolcol: An Honorable Savior

Karen Quiñones-Axalan
Posted August 26, 2019 from Philippines
Major Beryl Charity Bacolcol, Philippines' First Commanding Officer of the Assault Amphibian Company (a screenshot of UNTV's Tankera video)
To her AMAT friends, Betchai is warm, loving, and generous.
To her AMAT friends, Betchai is warm, loving, and generous. (1/1)

When a woman decides to enter into the world of a male-dominated, heavily-armed force, she needs to double or even triple her effort to belong. For Bery Bacolcol, she dared to lead.

This is the story of the first woman Commanding Officer of the Assault Amphibian Company, a new unit of Philippine Marine Corps.

Since she was a young girl, Beryl held high regard to our country’s defenders that she secretly aspired to become a soldier.  It’s unlikely for a girl growing up in the Philippines to set her sight on joining the military. This dream came as a surprise to her mother.

Out of fear, Beryl’s mother opposed this idea. She encouraged Beryl to finish a college degree first then later decide if she would still pursue the idea.

With a desire to honor her mother’s wishes, Beryl enrolled at our country’s premier university, the University of the Philippines in Mindanao (UP Min). It was in UP Min that I met Beryl, who we, her classmates, fondly call as “Bechai”, the nickname she introduced to us.

It was easy to spot Beryl when she strode across the campus grounds. She was taller than the average Filipina. Her long strides, loose shirts, and pants showed she cannot be labeled as a typical college girl. She enjoyed being with friends. She cheered people with her jokes. The cute dimples on the side of her chin adorned her beautiful face when she smiles.

After our freshmen year, Beryl announced that she planned to enroll in the Philippine Military Academy (PMA), the top-tier training school for aspiring cadets to join the armed forces of the Philippines. PMA began accepting female cadets in 1993.  Beryl’s persistence finally overcame her mother's resistance.

Beryl was bold enough to believe in herself that she can fulfill the call of duty. She passed the highly competitive application process. Prior to her entry to the military school in 2004, she prepared herself physically and psychologically for the rigorous training ahead.

There is no special treatment in the academy. Only the tough survive. For her, the running, climbing, sit-ups, push-ups and the rest of the physical training was bearable. Her toughest challenge was the cold weather in Northern Philippines where the academy is located.

But she persevered.

On 2007, she was among the 23 female cadets out of 282 who graduated in PMA Class Maragtas short for Marangal na Tagapagligtas (Honorable Saviors). 

Thinking that the Navy is the safest armed force, Beryl’s mother encouraged her to serve there. As an obedient daughter, Beryl granted her mother’s wishes. She joined the Philippine Marine Corps, a naval infantry force under the command of the Philippine Navy. She and a fellow female cadet were the only women who were added to the division that year. They wanted to prove that they are as competent as the male cadets. Beryl took this advantage to become a female officer in the Marines.

Through her years of military service, Beryl has been assigned to the different areas in the Philippines mostly in the dangerous conflict areas in the Southern Philippines. As a woman, she was often discouraged to go to field assignments because “hindi kakayanin ng babae doon” (a woman cannot survive there). However, these warnings left Beryl undaunted. She shared the moment she signed up for the Marines, she already expected the risks and dangers of her field deployments. Wherever help is needed, she is there.

Her determination, gallantry, and discipline did not go unnoticed. She rose from one military rank to another. From a cadet, she got to promoted to 2nd Lieutenant, then  1st Lieutenant, then Captain, and now Beryl is ranked as Major. For a woman to lead in this service, she needs to pass (or even exceed) the training and qualifications required and possess qualities expected from Army leaders. This earned her respect from military men.

The Philippine Marines recently acquired new ship-to-shore tanks. Together with this development, Major Beryl Bacolcol was appointed as the First Female Commanding Officer to the Assault Amphibian Company. The mission of the Assault Amphibian Company is to bring food and supplies from the ship to the engagement area or operational area in support of the soldiers deployed in the field. It also serves as fire support in case of insurgency.

Major Beryl Bacolcol oversees twenty-eight (28) enlisted personnel and two (2) officers and manages eight (8) Amphibious Assault Vehicles (AAVs) under her care. An AAV has a speed of eight (8) knots on the ocean surface, and forty-two (42) kilometers per hour at land. It has an endurance of eight (8) hours at sea, while four-hundred-eighty (480) kilometers by land with two built-in weapons: calibre50 Heavy Machine Gun and 40mm Automatic Grenade Launcher. It has a capacity of 21 personnel with three crews: the crew chief (most senior enlisted personnel), driver, and crewman (most junior enlisted personnel).  Major Beryl Bacolcol is a tank commander.

She said, “This shows that our command sees male and female as equals. They acknowledge that women are capable of doing what men can do or even greater.”

Major Bacolcol received a Military Merit Medal due to a heroic act during one of their missions.  She displayed exceptional bravery when she and her troops saved a child that was abducted by the rebels. It was also her first time to fire a shot from the tank. This recognition is an addition to the numerous awards given to her for her remarkable military service, including the US Commendation Medal.

To add a new feather in her cap, this year, Major Bacolcol completed her Masters in Management at the University of the Philippines Manila.

As a woman, I am inspired by how Major Beryl Bacolcol defies the odds by taking an active role in the security sector. It is already a common occurrence that women leaders are beginning to arise in businesses, in government positions, in the academe and other fields. But it is still rare to see women soldiers performing combat, combat support or combat service support roles to soldiers deployed in the field 

Beryl exemplifies that there are women who maximize their full potential in the security sector. She brings a strong message that society cannot limit a woman’s ability nor box us as fragile, weak, or indecisive.

Beryl’s story shows that A WOMAN CAN! And if challenged, she shows how it is done.

As a Filipina, I am grateful and proud of Major Bacolcol’s selfless commitment and love for her country. She chose the path of service, a road where even the brave dare not go.

It could have been understandable that as a young girl hailing from Mindanao, the Philippines’ second-largest island where war and conflict usually take place, she would choose to flee and search for greener pasture elsewhere. Instead, she moves closer towards the dangerous zones to ensure safety for all. Here is a woman who puts her life at risk every single breathing day of her life so families can sleep soundly at night. 

As a friend, I am blessed to be given a chance to know her at a personal level. I’m grateful that God used her obedience to her mother so we can meet each other.  She has a cabinet filled with plaques, medals, trophies, and badges. It is truly admirable that with all those recognitions and promotions, she remained humble, grounded, and approachable. She is still “Bechai” to us. We pray for her protection as she protects our country.

To Major Beryl Charity Bacolcol, a snappy salute to you from all the women in the world who fight battles in different forms (large or small)! Thank you for being an inspiration. You are worthy to be celebrated and honored. We are proud of you!

Thank you for your selfless service!

Comments 31

Log in or register to post comments
Seka
Aug 27
Aug 27

Chère Karen bonjour,
Je me joins à toi pour saluer l’héroïsme de notre sœur Béryl la première femme commandant aux Philippines. Honorer ou obéir à sa mère a été sa source de bénédiction. Elle a prouvé que la femme est capable de réaliser les mêmes exploits que les hommes. En tout cas présente à elle toutes nos félicitations.
Merci pour ton histoire stimulante.
Passez une bonne journée!

Hello, dear Sister Seka,

How are you doing? Yes, it is with great pride for us to know her and that she is proving that she cannot be boxed with limitations as a woman. That is really a good insight there that she is blessed because she was an obedient daughter. On the video, she gave a message to her mother saying as long as she calls and texts her, she is safe and ok. I just hope there is an English subtitle on that video, but I pretty much cover the content of her featured story here.

Thank you for your warm congratulations for Beryl. I asked her to join World Pulse so she can read and reply to your comment.

Thank you for reading, Sis Seka. Does your country encourager women to join the security sector?

Seka
Sep 04
Sep 04

Thank you Karen.
Even in our country we encourage women to join the army except that they are not soon promoted to higher ranks. It will come little by little.
Blessings!

baganda
Sep 05
Sep 05

courage et bonne continute

beryl07
Aug 28
Aug 28

hello there Sister Seka, thank you for appreciating me and Sister Karen. as long as there are people like her and you that acknowledges and appreciates what I am doing, I will do it with utmost dedication and happiness. cheers to us, women of the world!

Seka
Sep 04
Sep 04

Thanks Beryl,
You are admirable and a model for women. Be more blessed!

Maya Iwata
Aug 27
Aug 27

Karen, I love hearing your personal story about your friend Beryl who born in an area where there was frequent dangerous conflict and was inspired to work to ensure the safety of others. I also hope for her security as she protects others and wish for a time when the wisdom of the World Pulse women regarding safety and security are actualized. :) Congratulations to your friend for also completing her Master's degree on top of all the other ways she leads the way.

Hello, Maya,

Thank you for the time you took to read Beryl's story.

We really are so proud of her heroism and bravery. Yes, I agree on her security. I hope there is an English subtitle on that video I shared above where she spoke of her challenges as a woman. One of those is hygiene where she would be lucky to shower after 2 days while in the field. Another thing is she sleeps inside the tank while her troops are outside. I could not imagine the hardships she faces, but serving our country makes her happy, and I honor that dream. I'm so proud that she is able to live a life of integrity. After reading this post, she said she'll do her job better. I invited her to World Pulse so she can reply to your comment. :)

beryl07
Aug 28
Aug 28

hi there Sister Maya, thank you so much for your concern on my safety and security. rest assured that I have all the protection I need whenever I am doing my job. my safety is nothing compared to what other women and children are experiencing, as of this moment, in conflicted areas. one of my goals is to help, in any way I can, to alleviate the lives of our dear sisters in conflict areas and lead them to a safer and more livable place to any women. cheers to us, women of the world! ave a good day.

Jill Langhus
Aug 28
Aug 28

Hello Dear Karen,

Wow! I'm so glad you were able to complete your friend, Beryl's, story:-) She's quite the role model. I wonder how many girls and women she has inspired and will inspire? Will she be joining WP, if she hasn't already? What does she think of your account of her life thus far? I hope she is proud, and that you are of her, and your story:-) Well done!

XX

Hello, beloved Jill,

Thank you for encouraging me to write her story on World Pulse. It took a while for me to write it because I was not familiar with military terms. I had to ask Beryl for some info. I wonder if you showed this article to Tim? I

Yes, she is a role model. I'm personally inspired by her grit, determination, and humility. I hope she will inspire more girls to join her. Yes, I invited her to join World Pulse so she can personally read the comments and reply to them. :)

When I showed her the link of the article, she sent me a photo of her smiling with tears. She said she'll do her job even better for people like me. It made me cry, too!Haha. Women are tough on the outside, but still soft in the inside. What a treasure to receive those words.

Thanks for being an awesome encourager as always! Hugs. :)

Jill Langhus
Aug 30
Aug 30

Hello dearie,

You're very welcome:-) I'm glad you did:-) I showed him the video and he was very impressed:-)

I hope, so, too! Yay! I'm looking forward to interacting with her and seeing her stories, then.

Yes:-)

You, too, dear:-)

xx

beryl07
Aug 28
Aug 28

hello! this is Beryl, I am a friend of Karen. to be honest, I was quite shocked when Karen told me that she wanted to write about me. I am not used to people "writing about me". but anyhow, Karen was able to convince me. as I was reading her article, I am touched by the way she writes it. I didn't realize that what I am doing has a big impact on her and to other people because to me, I am just doing my job, as a service-woman. my dream to serve in the military was a dream come true and I promise my self and all the people who made it come true that I will do my best to serve my country.
I have an awesome job!
cheers to us, women of the world!

Jill Langhus
Aug 30
Aug 30

Hello there Beryl,

Welcome to World Pulse:-) I'm very honored to be of your acquaintance:-)

I'm very glad she did write about your story. I think you must be so proud of all your work, accomplishments and impact. You must be the role model for so many girls and women?!

I bet you are doing your best, and then some:-)

You have an awesome job, attitude, and drive, dear!

Hope to see some stories/posts from you soon!

XX

Neil Ryan
Aug 28
Aug 28

So proud to have met this brave and strong woman from our Force!
Wish you all the best and more great things to come Major Beryl, but to us youre still our Bechai! take care always and keep inspiring more women to join your cause!
Hope to see you again someday!
From with love!

Hello, Neil,

Welcome to World Pulse! It's so great to see you here sending support and encouragement to our Bechai.

You have an inspiring story, too. I'm personally inspired by your life experiences. I encourage you to share your story here. No one can write or tell your story the way that you can do. Please share your story here to inspire men and women to live large and dream big.

May you invite your students from Kazakztan to join World Pulse, too. We want to know what it's like to be a woman in that part of the world.

Sige na. Itaas ang bandera ng Pilipinas. :)

Jerick Axalan
Aug 28
Aug 28

Great tribute to our friend, Major Bacolcol! Beryl story is an inspiration to all Filipinos and all women in the world. May her story brings hope and empowerment to all women- whether in the military or other professions or no matter who you are. Thank you, Karen, for writing this masterpiece!

Hello, Jerick,

Thank you for your words of support and encouragement to our friend Betchai. I can still remember the time we visited her home and her cabinet is full of awards and recognition. We are truly proud of her leadership and integrity.

It's my pleasure to feature her here, but she is now encouraged to write more stories of her own. I'm excited to reading from her journey.:)

I believe it's time you write your inspiring story, too. Our World Pulse sisters should read how husbands support their wives. I encourage you to do that please. :) Thanks in advance.

Jill Langhus
Aug 30
Aug 30

Hello there Jerick:-)

How are you? Nice to see your comment here:-)

Hope you have a great day and weekend!

Jerick Axalan
Sep 02
Sep 02

Hi Jill,
Thank you for your words. I am really grateful to you and rest of the women in WP who are so generous to give their time and effort in encouraging and inspiring other women and men as well. I really appreciate your friendship with Karen. I commend both of your dedication to your role as encourager mentor. I hope you enjoy this journey. I wish you all the best and happiness.
Cheers,
Jerick

Jill Langhus
Sep 02
Sep 02

Hi Jerick:-)

You're very welcome!

Thanks for being an strong advocate for women and girls, and for encouraging and supporting our dear Karen, too:-)

Thanks for your well wishes. Wishing you joy and success, too!

efe
Aug 29
Aug 29

She is a brave individual and you are a wonderful friend for celebrating her

Hello, sis Efe. Yes, she is. Thank you, dear. I believe our country should celebrate her, too. :)

Aug 29
Aug 29
This comment has been removed by the commenter or a moderator.
Tarke Edith
Aug 29
Aug 29

Hello Karen
Thanks for sharing this great achievement of a woman . You know dear gone are the days when women will shill away from jobs that where done by men.Thanks to forums like this.

Hello, Sis Edith,

How are you?

It's my pleasure to feature Beryl's example so our World Pulse sister can draw inspiration from her story, too. Yes, that's true.
I'm grateful for World Pulse, too.

Tamarack Verrall
Aug 31
Aug 31

Dear Karen,
What a beautiful tribute to a good friend and extraordinary woman. Hello to Beryl too, and big welcome to World Pulse! Beryl might be interested in being in touch with World Pulse member Janet Merlo who spent 20 years with Canada's Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Beryl has proven profoundly that when women are able to realize their dreams, everyone benefits greatly.

Hello, Tam,

How are you? Thank you for your encouragement.:) I believe our country should celebrate women like her, too. That's wonderful about Janet Merlo! Wow. I'll inform Beryl to connect with her.:)

Thanks again, Tam!

maeann
Sep 05
Sep 05

Salute to Major Beryl Charity Bacolcol :)
Thanks for sharing Karen :)

Thank you for reading, Mae Ann! Nakakaproud ang ating kabayan. <3

Anita Shrestha
Sep 13
Sep 13

Hello Karen
very nice story.