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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, April 28, 2006

Son's farewell: 'I love to serve our country'

By Eloise Aguiar
Advertiser Staff Writer

Virginia Bandonill says her son, Metodio Bandonill, was a good boy who helped on the farm in the Philippines, before moving to Hawai'i in the mid-1990s. He never gave her trouble, she says.

BRUCE ASATO | The Honolulu Advertiser

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Army Staff. Sgt. Metodio Bandonill, with his wife, Charmaine. The couple met on the Internet and married in January.

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Virginia Bandonill holds a photo of her son, with her children, Maria-Felomina, 21, and Joseph, 25, at her side. "My brother is a hero who fought for the country," says Joseph. Maria-Felomina plans to keep her brother's dreams alive by joining the Navy Reserves. "I'm going to try for him," she says.

BRUCE ASATO | The Honolulu Advertiser

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A roadside bomb in Iraq ended the life of a Kalihi man on Monday, four months after he was married and looking toward a future he had only dreamed of when growing up on a farm in the Philippines.

Army Staff Sgt. Metodio A. Bandonill was killed when the bomb detonated near his armored vehicle in Baghdad, the U.S. Department of Defense said. It was his second tour in Iraq, one his mother asked him not to take.

"I told him, 'That's enough, my son,'" said Virginia Bandonill at her Kalihi home yesterday. "He told me, 'I love to serve our country, Mama. Don't worry.' That's what he told me."

The 29-year-old man saw the Army as an opportunity to better himself in a profession he could be proud of while serving his adopted country, his mother said.

He had been with the Army since 1997, two years after coming from the Philippines to live in Hawai'i. He was assigned to the 1st Squadron, 75th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), Fort Campbell, Ky.

He's survived by his wife, Charmaine, of Nenagh, Ireland; his parents, Virgilio and Virginia, of Kalihi; three brothers; and a sister.

His father was the first member in his immediate family to come to the Islands. Over about 15 years, the father brought his wife and five children here, one or two at a time.

Virginia Bandonill was essentially a single mom for 11 years while waiting to come to Hawai'i, operating a farm and raising her children. She said Metodio was a good boy who helped on the farm, never gave her trouble and when in high school worked in a restaurant to contribute to the family's finances.

'VERY PROUD ... VERY SAD'

Bandonill graduated as salutatorian of his high school class in the Philippines. His mother also remembers him as a ham who enjoyed entertaining her with speeches he was learning in school, she said.

"I'm very proud, but now I'm very sad," she said, adding that when she last spoke with him on Friday he asked her to send Korean-style saimin. She had not yet mailed the package when she learned of his death on Tuesday.

Bandonill met his wife on the Internet, his mother said. Charmaine lived in Ireland and after he went there to meet her, they pledged to marry. With Bandonill's family spread out, from the Mainland to the Philippines, the couple decided on a civil ceremony in the Philippines and later a wedding in the Islands, said Maria-Felomina Bandonill, Metodio's sister.

Maria-Felomina, 21, said her brother was able to talk to his wife a few hours before he died. She is expected to arrive in Hawai'i tomorrow.

In 1999, Maria-Felomina was the final Bandonill family member to move to the Islands. For her brother, Hawai'i represented opportunity. And upon her arrival, he tried to set down some rules.

"He told me when I come to the Hawai'i, no boyfriends until 25 (years old)," she said. He wanted her to go to school, get a job then have fun. The news of his death was particularly hard, she said, because the siblings were just starting to renew their relationship after being apart for so long.

Metodio had plans to take his sister and her son to Ireland. He also wanted to settle in Colorado and have a garden wedding here, Maria-Felomina said.

"When I heard what happened to him, half of my life was gone," she said, adding that he was like a twin brother because their birthdays fall in the same month.

Maria-Felomina is planning to join the Navy Reserves as a means of fulfilling her brother's dreams for her, she said.

"I'm going to try for him," she said.

'MY BROTHER IS A HERO'

Joseph Bandonill, one of Metodio's brothers, remembered him as a happy and humble friend and childhood playmate. They had not seen each other in seven years, and, he said, he never thought that they would never see each other again.

"My brother is a hero who fought for the country," said Joseph, 25. "He'll always stay in our hearts. We'll always remember him."

Memorial services will be held for Bandonill in Iraq and during a monthly Eagle Remembrance Ceremony at Fort Campbell. Hawai'i services are pending.

Since March 2003, when military operations began in Iraq, at least 128 other service personnel with Hawai'i ties including 42 Army personnel have been killed in Iraq, Afghanistan or Kuwait. Of those, 13 called Hawai'i home.

Reach Eloise Aguiar at eaguiar@honoluluadvertiser.com.