Former Rebels Plant and Grow the Seeds of Success

The Happy Home is surrounded by gardens planted with various crops that former rebels cultivate as part of their training for their reintegration to the community.

City of Mati, Davao Oriental — Quiet yet happy, seventeen former Communist rebels at the Happy Home here (a processing center and a civilian facility for former rebels who have expressed the desire to return to the fold of the law) braved the sweltering heat of the sun as they harvested corn and other vegetable products which they had planted in May this year.

Five of the seventeen “surrenderees” are minors aged 16 to 17, and two are females, aged 26 and 30, who are both carrying their two-month-old baby girls.

The sprawling farm right across the Happy Home is owned by the provincial government. The facility is just a stone’s throw away from the military’s 701st Brigade, which is the biggest military camp in Davao Oriental.

A short program preceding the former rebels’ harvest of farm produce at the Happy Home.

Col. Reuben Basiao, commander of the Philippine Army’s 701stBrigade, presented a wide array of food products, among them was an “organic” fried lumpia, produced by the former rebels at the Happy Home. He said: “It is just one of the many food products produced in our camp. Very soon, we will be harvesting lots of vegetables at the Happy Home farm.”

To firmly install the pillars of shared peace and prosperity in the province, the provincial government constructed a halfway house called “Happy Home” in 2013 under the leadership of former Governor, now First District Representative Cong. Corazon N. Malanyaon. Ever since its launching, the facility has been helping rebels in transition to civilian life. It is staffed by a composite group providing psychosocial, spiritual and other services.

As a commitment to the goal of peace, the province’s chief executive, Governor Nelson L. Dayanghirang, continue to provide former rebels the wherewithal to join the mainstream with livelihood and employment, scholarships for their children, health services, and others. Saying the people are earnestly longing for an end to violent conflict, Governor Dayanghirang cited a big turnout of insurgents who intend to choose to take the road to peace by pursuing political and social change without the use of arms. The governor believes the armed conflict can be resolved by building mutual trust and understanding. And as he pointed out several positive strides that have been made in the name of peace, the governor envisions the Happy Home to be the beginning of sincere dialogue towards resolving the armed conflict without resorting to the use of arms.

Former rebels now staying at the Happy Home have expressed “regret” to have “bartered a life of safety to one that is laden with dangers” in the jungle. “Going to the forest and take up arms was no easy decision for me,” says a 17-year-old former New People’s Army rebel who asked not to be named for security reason. Recalling his experience being a long-time member of the Communist New People’s Army, he says “food was always scarce and at times none at all in the jungle.”

FARMING

Chief Master Sgt. Fernando Queza, who was one of those who supervises the farming activity of the former rebels at the Happy Home, says that aside from eggplants, corn, ampalaya, cucumber and okra, the former rebels are also tending livestocks, a piggery with twenty piglets and poultry of native chickens. The livestocks, including the vegetable seedlings and organic fertilizers, were being provided for free by the provincial government’s agricultural office. “Each of them (former rebels) owns these livestocks and vegetables,” says Chief Master Sgt. Queza. “We sold these products at the local market.”

“We have learned lots of valuable lessons here at the Happy Home, including new and advanced method of farming. Soon, we will become entrepreneurs as the government wants to equip us with an entrepreneurial mindset, the skills, and the support structure to treat our farm as a profitable enterprise,” says one former rebel. “The government is creating opportunities and strategies to achieve the best for us, former rebels. And we look forward to a more productive and continuing collaboration with the government.”

‘We would like to highlight the inspiring success stories of these former rebels. They have shown that they can be successful too. We will help them and their families to uplift their standard of living. It is really one of our goals to inculcate among these former rebels a newfound respect and admiration for agricultural farming,” says Chief Master Sgt. Queza. The provincial government vows to make the effort to connect the agricultural produce of the former rebels to a wider market in the region. By Ferdinand Zuasola/Photo by Eden Jhan Licayan

 

 

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