Governor Imee R. Marcos has commended Master Sergeant Arnel Guerrero Cariaga who hails from Pasuquin, Ilocos Norte for having been awarded one of the Ten Outstanding Philippine Soldiers (TOPS) of 2015.
On September 3, 2015, Cariaga, together with nine other Philippine soldiers, received the TOPS award during a ceremony held at Metrobank Plaza Auditorium, Makati City.
“Participation in military intelligence operations, continuous community development contribution and extraordinary innovation are important factors to be recognized as an outstanding soldier,” said Cariaga during a phone interview.
Governor Marcos noted that the province of Ilocos Norte is proud of M/Sgt. Cariaga for upholding leadership, heroism and excellence inherent to every Ilocano.
“Kakaiba ang galing ni Apo Sergeant Cariaga at itinuturing na natin siya ngayong bagong modelo para sa ating kasundaluan lalung-lalo na sa ating mga kabataan,” said Governor Imee.
While he did not expect to receive the award, Cariaga is grateful for the support of Governor Marcos and the entire province of Ilocos Norte.
“Firstly, I dedicate this award to my fellow Ilocanos. Through this, I renew my commitment in supporting the government and to strive for excellence in work for the greater benefit of our community in Ilocos Norte and the whole nation,” said Cariaga.
He revealed that he was able to survive all the challenges as a soldier because “Ilocanos are naturally perseverant, committed and stoic.”
As school boy, he wanted to become an engineer someday instead of being a soldier.
“Wala sa ambisyon ko ang magsundalo. Noong nag-aaral ako sa Pasuquin, ang gusto ko talaga ay maging licensed electronics and communication engineer,” he said.
However, with dedication and hard work, Cariaga has achieved his dream of becoming an engineer while serving in the military.
As a radio technician, he contributed to the operations of Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) by manufacturing inexpensive VHF Radio Repeaters which are being used during intelligence activities to neutralize lawless elements.
He was also been cited for his innovation in developing “a system that is now used to enhance situation awareness especially during military’s disaster and relief operations in the wake of natural calamities.”
Currently a part of the Geospatial Intelligence Group of AFP, Cariaga was deployed in a United Nations National Command in South Korea to help stabilize peace and security in the Korean peninsula.
Most importantly, Cariaga is also engaged in community development with his project dubbed as ‘Kalkal’ where he collected segregated recyclable materials.
“From selling the collection, I was able to help the G2 Village in Makati to finance the improvement of the barangay’s street pavements,” he said.
Cariaga, now 27 years in military service, encourages young Ilocanos to join the AFP.
Now on its 16th year, TOPS is the highest civilian award given to military personnel to recognize the courage and nationalism of modern-day heroes in the military. The award is conferred by the Metrobank Foundation together with AFP and Rotary Club of Makati.—(John Michael Mugas, PGIN – CMO)