FEATURE: A second chance for a better life

From Philippines
Jump to navigation Jump to search
→ → Go back HOME to Zamboanga: the Portal to the Philippines.
By Alma L. Tingcang (ALT-PIA9/Zamboanga Sibugay)

DUMALINAO, Zamboanga del Sur, 6 March (PIA) - - Some nine kilometers southwest of Pagadian City, the capital of the province of Zamboanga del Sur lies a land where people live in peace and harmony, content with the bounty of nature, blessed with rich marine resources and fertile soil making it the agricultural hub of the province.

The town is called Dumalinao. “Duma” simply means friend, comrade, companion in Subanen; Dlinao is a deep portion of the river; and Linao means still, trouble-free, peace, joy and tranquility.

Agri-hub of Zamboanga del Sur

The favorable climate of Dumalinao allows farmers two croppings of corn per year. Other major crops include rice, coconut, rubber and banana. Its major source of livelihood is the trade of its agricultural products to nearby municipalities. The town also supplies livestock and poultry to the province.

However, in spite of the simple and quiet life in the countryside, the drug menace has reached the place and taken its toll on barangay residents and local officials.

War on drugs

With a firm resolve to address the problem, local officials led by Mayor Junaflor “Sweet” S. Cerilles devised ways to give hope to drug surrenderees after the government launched its all-out campaign against drugs through the Philippine National Police’s “Oplan Tokhang.”

However, they were confronted with the lack of resources for the program that they have agreed to undertake in partnership with Barangay Baloboan.

Bent on pushing the project to fruition, and in consultation with the barangay officials of Baloboan, they embarked on organic vegetable gardening for the 39 drug surrenderees to give them a worthwhile endeavor aside from the income that will be derived from it.

Organic vegetable gardening

“This project was started in January, this year, primarily for our surrenderees not to go back to using drugs. So we thought of this to help our 39 surrenderees,” said Punong Barangay Jonie Leyson.

“But first we prepared the plots. We have the backing and support of Mayor Cerilles although we do not have the money. We used rice stalks and animal dung for fertilizer, all organic resources of our barangay,” Capt. Leyson shared.

LGU support

The one hectare lot is owned by Leyson and is now planted with carrots, raddish, okra, petchay, cucumber, string beans and watermelon. “They are set to harvest by April and proceeds from the farm will go to the beneficiaries who have toiled and worked hard to grow the organic vegetables. Mayor Cerilles assures that they have a ready market for their produce,” quoted the barangay official.

“I could see the cooperation and participation of these surrenderees and sense their sincerity to lead a changed life,” he observed. Leyson said all barangay officials are backing this project and have given their all-out support. “Without them and the cooperation of the drug surrenderees, this project would not be realized,” said Leyson.

One of their best practices is that every month, the farmers’ associations have a monthly meeting. Everyone is required to bring 10 kilos of rice stalks that they will store for the next planting season so they will have a ready supply of organic fertilizer.

Hard work and perseverance

One of the beneficiaries of the program, Roger Piedad, 36 years old, married with 2 kids heeded the government’s call to stop using drugs and chose to lead a better life without it.

“My mother died when we were still young. My father remarried, so I and my 7 siblings were scattered. We had no direction in life. And some of us were into vices,” Roger said in the vernacular.

He has undergone training through DSWD in organic agriculture, with 4 competencies: organic piggery, organic vegetables, organic chicken, and organic fertilizer.

Aside from being involved in organic vegetable gardening of the surrenderees, he cultivates his own plot which is about one-half hectare planted with rice, bell pepper, mongo, string beans and other vegetables.

Comparing his past life with the present, he has this to say, “There are friends who are good influence and there are also those who are bad. Be careful who your friends are.”

Sustainable livelihood

Meanwhile, SB Member Jelito Piñonal, chair of the Committee on Peace and Order said, ”We have observed that there are no more incidents of theft in our barangay which was rampant a few years back. While many were involved in drugs, most of them had no work. When we started this project, they became busy tending their garden and we noted the dramatic change.”

He said this is a continuous program because after they harvest, they will again plant, so that aside from doing something worthwhile, they will also earn from their harvest. “As chairman of the peace and order committee, I am also involved in this project to lessen crimes.”

Piñonal advised them to value hard work and urged the support of barangay officials “because the surrenderees need our guidance. They cannot achieve something if we do not support them.”

“I hope and pray that you will never return or go back to your previous life being a drug user and walk the path to clean living. People who indulge in drugs have no future. We have made our barangay an example and this will be your guide as you sustain your family income,” Piñonal said.

With President Rodrigo Duterte’s all-out war on drugs, local government units have devised different ways to save the users, bring them back to mainstream society and fully recover from drug addiction, enabling them to lead productive lives.