12 former rebels, optimistic of brighter future

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LOAKAN—At least 12 former New People’s Army (NPA) rebels and some 53 Indigenous Peoples (IPs) have graduated Friday (November 22) from the skills training program of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA)-Abra.

“The returnees together with the IPs graduated last week and can now pursue livelihood ventures on poultry, swine production and bread making,” said Engr. Manuel Wong, TESDA-CAR Regional Director.

He underscored the importance of having skills to enable individuals to cope with the demands of everyday life.

“We encourage the graduates to utilize the skills training they received to further improve their lives,” he said.

Adding, “TESDA will continue its efforts together with the different line agencies to alleviate poverty through livelihood trainings, and to effectively counter the propaganda of communist-terrorist groups.

The beneficiaries graduated under the Special Skills Training Program (SSTP) which aims to empower the indigenous people, cultural communities and former rebels.

“Providing skills training to the special clients is in line with President Rodrigo  Duterte’s  advocacy in reintegrating former rebels (FR’s) , Indigenous Peoples (IPs), and other special clients back to the society,” he said.

Rebels’ testimonials

“Lucia” (not her real name) recounted her ordeal for 12 years in the mountains saying she served as a “medical doctor” to injured rebels.

“I served as a medical doctor when I was still there, I have no formal education but it was my passion to help cure those who are in need,” she said.

She said that life in the mountains has never been easy for her and her family.

“My first born died because he has been exposed in battles. It took a toll on me, realizing this is not what I want for my future kids,” she relayed.

She also disclosed that Jovencio Balweg, the brother of former rebel leader Conrado Balweg, convinced her to return to mainstream society.

Lucia, now working for non-government organizations, then decided to enroll in scholarship program of TESDA.

“I was never discriminated when I decided to enroll in TESDA. In fact, everything went smoothly. I am now a certified poultry production specialist after completing the training program,” she said.

Another trainee expressed his gratitude for being a recipient of a TESDA scholarship. “Rico,” not his real name, said “Despite of our past, TESDA attended to our needs. With the skills we gained from the training, we can start a new chapter.”

“Now there is an assurance that we will never return to our former life because we are already equipped with livelihood skills,” he said.

Livelihood Training

Twenty-five beneficiaries from the Municipality of Tubo received certification in Animal Production (Swine) NC II, eighteen community members from the Municipality of Malibcong also received their certification in Animal Production (Poultry/Chicken) NC II.

There were also 20 community members from the municipality of Sallapadan who received their certification in Bread Making (Leading to Bread and Pastry Production) NC II.

The trainees for Animal Production (Swine) NC II received their allowances amounting to PHP 4,200 each, PHP 3,200 for Animal Production (Poultry/Chicken) NC II, and PHP 1,000 each for the trainees of Bread Making (Leading to Bread and Pastry Production) NC II.

There were also toolkits distributed to the graduates to start their own livelihood.

The Animal Production (Poultry/Chicken) NC II graduates plans to put up a poultry business and already partnered with Mt. Carmel Agri-Tourism Training Center.

The graduates under Animal Production (Swine) NC II will continue their hog- raising business as an association using the toolkits they received from TESDA.

Further, the graduates from the municipality of Sallapadan will start a small baking business in their respective barangays. With a report from Nenita Corro/TESDA-ABRA.