I just spent the whole day facilitating a Planning Workshop for the people's organization of Don Mariano Marcos. In the past almost two months, I have been busy going from one purok to another, talking to the people and teaching them how they can control their economy and be productive citizens for the community. The activity is part of the Peace and Development Outreach Program (PDOP), a program that aims to stimulate development in the community through community participation and citizenry skill enhancement. During the activity, I was again able to encounter pessimism, distrust, selfishness and just plain apathy. More importantly also, I came face to face with hope, perseverance, commitment and nationalism. I am proud to report that there is more of the latter in Barangay Don Mariano Marcos than the former.
But then again, this is not to say that the negativism of the people does not affect me. The truth is, although there is a good chance of success in our undertaking in this community, one person's apathy can just dissolve whatever good vibe that has been built up by the many others. It brings a frustration that just overwhelms whatever commitment and perseverance I have mustered to come to this day. Looking at the blank screen of my laptop after draining my phone's battery talking to my beautiful wife (whom I miss so much) I contemplate on finding inspiration for the coming days that I will continue my service as a soldier.
I look back at the time when I first developed this feeling about four years ago. It was in another barangay in Toril District, Davao City. The young and dashing, bold and daring ruggedly handsome newly graduated lieutenant Cabales was first deployed in a community called Atan-owe. The place was apparently named after two pioneering families that first settled there: the Atan's and the Owe's. The Barangay Captain at that time was a descendant of the Atan's and carried the last name. Although the Barangay was founded on the obvious understanding of the two pioneering families, times have changed. I was there at the time when this understanding was just part of ancient history that was changed by the power struggle that occured between the two. The struggle for power in the community led to a bitter rivalry that caught the community in the crossfire. The rivalry was so great that one party can not fathom any good to say about the other. Out of that desperation to cling to power, they have resorted to sell their souls to the insurgency. This was what destroyed the community, my first assignment.
The next community was a drastic change together with the change of the whole Mindanao situation. August 2008 was the time when the peace talks with the MILF bogged down. It was also the time when Ameril Umbra Kato attacked Maasim Municipal Hall in Sarangani Province. I arrived in October after a large MILF camp has been captured by the government forces and our immediate task was to expedite the return to normalcy of the community. After my company conducted a retraining, I was sent to my first combat operation in this unit. It was November 14, and shortly after we were dropped by our vehicles, the same vehicles was bombed as they returned to our Battalion Headquarters. Two died and I spent the next day chasing after leads on the whereabouts of the perpetrator of that atrocity. It was my first brush with death. The vehicle that exploded was the same vehicle that I boarded on the way to our drop off point. In the months that followed that incident, my major accomplishment was cultivating the Culture of Peace to the communities affected by the Muslim-Christian conflict. Teaching the people about religious tolerance and sensitivity, I was again met by apathy.
After more or less 15 communities taught, I was then assigned in a place called Barangay Kinam in Malapatan, Sarangani Province. The communist insurgency has destroyed the little hope that was left in the people there that apathy was more prevalent than the virtues that improve our existence. Ironically, it was there that I gained so much insight in the importance of my job as a soldier. From there, I was sent to even poorer communities in Don Marcelino, Davao Del Sur and some other communities in South Cotabato, still apathy prevailed.
I am now here in Davao Oriental, although apathy still meets me, I could say that hope greets me more often these days. By some twist of fate, the odds are turning towards me and somehow my experience with apathy has led me to muster more perseverance and commitment, enough to stop it from stopping me from doing what I have to do. Earlier, my conversation with another government work that helped facilitated today's activity, expressed to me her own frustration as she met apathy. Surprisingly, I was able to easily tell her that it is not something to be worry about. I told her what I learned in the past four years, we can only do so much and apathy was not something we can change that easily. It was something that had to begin from the hearts of the people we have committed to serve.
Today, I write this as an acceptance of that fact. But also, I write this to remind myself that no amount of apathy can change how I feel towards the work that I do. I write this wishing that apathy will not again frustrate me the way that I did today, I write this as a commitment to serve. So help me God.