Shampoo for Buan gives away release
- Marichu A. Villanueva () - April 8, 2001 - 12:00am
After 22 months and only six baths in the jungles of Oriental Mindoro, Army Maj. Noel Buan realized he was going to be released when his captors from the New People’s Army (NPA) gifted him with shampoo.

True enough, two days later he was a free man, his long black hair silky and shiny.

Sen. Loren Legarda, who headed the humanitarian peace mission which negotiated for Buan’s release, said the Army officer confided that it was the shampoo that really got his hopes of a release high.

Buan had kept his hair long in protest over his captivity, every inch of his locks a measure of the time he spent as prisoner.

According to Legarda, Buan was at first reluctant to have a haircut, despite the entreaties of his wife Cielo, who had brought to Fort Bonifacio her husband’s long-time barber. The Army major had wanted to keep his hair long until after he had gone to me-ditate at the fabled Mt. Arayat in Pampanga, his home province.

Legarda said she had to intercede by telling Buan, "You must be presented to the President as an officer and a gentleman."

Buan’s barber was waiting for him at the Army Hospital at Fort Bonifacio, where he was immediately taken upon his arrival in Manila from the airport of Calapan, capital of Oriental Mindoro.

It was thus a dapper and clean-shaven Buan who saluted his commander-in-chief at Malacañang yesterday, almost two years after being snatched in Quezon province by the NPA’s Melito Glor Command.

When she emerged with Buan for a press conference after their meeting, President Arroyo remarked "Guwapo na (He is handsome now)!"

A far cry from the ruggedly dressed figure that he cut yesterday, Buan wore his Army uniform for his meeting with Mrs. Arroyo.

Buan, a member of Class 1984 of the Philippine Military Academy, turned 39 a few days before his release. He is the next highest ranking military officer to be held captive by the NPA, after Gen. Victor Obillo.

A battle-scarred Scout Ranger, Buan still walks with a limp after an injury he sustained in battle.

Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Eduardo Ermita told The STAR yesterday NPA spokesman Gregorio "Ka Roger" Rosal had expressed admiration over the steadfastness of Buan, even in captivity.

Ermita said Buan’s captors admitted that they "were not able to break his (Buan’s) spirit."

"He really is an intelligent officer," Ka Roger told Ermita, adding, "Bilib din ako sa training ninyo (We are impressed by your training)."

According to Ka Roger, Buan was able to escape for some 12 hours in December last year.

"But because Buan was too weak to walk, he showed himself again to his captors," Ermita said.

Although his bad-hair days are over, Buan still has to fully adjust to the life of a free man.

Legarda noted that Buan at first ignored his favorite dish, Max’s fried chicken, which was served to him at the Army Hospital.

But she learned from his wife Cielo later on that Buan ate an entire fried chicken when he was alone inside a darkened toilet.

Cielo said she would respect whatever her husband decides to do after his release, even if it means his returning to active military service again.

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