Jaro, Leyte-At least 25 former rebels, seven of them were women, have completed their 27- day training Landscape Installation and Maintenance (Softscape) NC II initiated by Technical Education Skills Development Authority (TESDA).
The former members of the New People’s Army (NPAs), who were from the provinces of Leyte, Samar, Eastern Samar and Southern Leyte, were thankful to the national government for helping them start a new life through the competency skills training provided to them.
“This training proves many things for us. It did not only gave us knowledge and skills on landscaping but also proves that former rebels like us and soldiers can be good friend,” former rebel ‘Jovito’ said in his message during the event held at held at the Villaconzoilo Farm School, this town.
“We are thankful to our government because this will not only help us individually to have work as this will also help us have additional income for our families,” he added.
‘Jade’, another former rebel from Samar province, also expressed his gratitude on the program extended to them by the government saying that he was happy that a Grade 1 finisher like him would receive a certificate that he can use to apply for work.
“Because I am a former rebel, I thought my life is useless. That I have nowhere to go because I’m uneducated. But now I am graduate, and I am proud to say congratulation to myself and to all of you,” he said.
TESDA-8 Regional Director Gamaliel Vicente Jr., said that they are duty-bound to help the former rebels who surrendered to the government to help them become productive members of our society.
“As graduates, keep in mind you have now the high responsibility to meet the high expectations of what you have achieve today for your family and love ones,” Vicente said.
Meanwhile, 802nd Brigade Commander BGen Zosimo Oliveros encourages the rebel returnees to reciprocate the government help to them by paying it forward.
“Help other people like how the government help you. You can do that by convincing your former colleagues to surrender and open their eyes to the reality that the government is here ready to help them,”Oliveros said.
Meantime, Leyte Governor Leopoldo Dominico Petilla asked the returnees to emulate the success of Villaconzoilo which used to be a rebel-infested community but now a best example of a farming community that had expanded to tourism-related activities.
Petilla recalled that the first time he visited the upland village, the residents hid at their houses fearing that an encounter would happened between the government forces and the rebel group.
They were only met by the village officials, the governor said.
But after successfully piloting the Leyte EconoMics Program, the village started to develop and improve economically, reducing its poverty incidence including malnutrition rate, Petilla added.
From a rebel affected area, the village is now one of the leading farm schools in the region, and also a leading farm-tourism site in the province of Leyte.
“What we need is solution to our problem. Now that you have graduated, this is the beginning; you’re not the only one who will benefit this, but also your family, the community, the province and the country as well,” the governor said.
Alex Aborita, Villaconzoilo Farm School administrator, advices the former rebels to start by not expecting too much.
“Start with what you have.  As starters, you must first avoid having big dream. Like us, we started with nothing, but what is important is we never lose hope,” he said.
He added to never forget of asking guidance from the Lord and at the same time trust on their selves.
“You were misled before but now you are following the right path.  Our gift to you is the skills that we imparted and enrich it by practicing it in your community, “he added.