He soon underwent a series of trainings on tactics, techniques and procedures of combat as he became a member of Squad Dos, Platoon 2 of Front 73.
But, clichéd as it is, life was never easy in the mountains. There were chronic shortages of food. They never had decent sleep because of actual and possible encounters with the government troops.
Then and there, he started to miss his family until he learned of his father’s death due to sickness which prompted him to leave the group. He asked for permission to go back home and mourn for his loss but his comrades did not concede to his request.
It was on May 3, 2013 when he managed to escape and return to his family. Nearly five months into a choking siege and insurgency, he was officially surrendered to the 73rd Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army and attained emancipation.
Balabala received financial assistance after he had undergone proper documentation and procedure to qualify him for the Comprehensive Local Integration Program for Former Rebels (CLIP-FR).
CLIP-FR is a subcomponent of Sulong Kapayapaan of Sulong Sarangani, the provincial government’s poverty reduction program espoused by Governor Steve Chiongbian Solon, Vice Governor Jinkee Pacquiao and members of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan.
Balabala is one of 86 former rebels in the province who received cash assistance amounting to P65,000 each from the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) since 2011.
On the other hand, the local government gives a minimum of P5,000 to P10,000 to those who fail to qualify for CLIP, as subjected to the provisional guidelines.
Thru Joint Memorandum Circular no. 2014-01, CLIP’s implementation was institutionalized under the flagship of the DILG.
Balabala underwent livelihood skills training and psychosocial intervention thru the Provincial Social Welfare and Development Office.
The local government assists the Philippine National Police in coordination with the Armed Forces of the Philippines in providing security to the former rebels and their family.
While being employed as a part-time foreman in a rice mill, Balabala now enjoys his own business opportunities. He is engaged in abaca production where he harvests about 50 kilograms every four months and earns P60 per kilogram.
He is also into cultivating a pawned piece of land with 60 coconut trees earning P2,200 every quarter of the year.
CLIP-FR allowed him to start life anew like other regular members of the NPA who have expressed the desire to abandon armed struggle and become productive members of the society.
Balabala now enjoys his newly renovated house thru the assistance given which included purchase of kitchen wares with his present wife and five children.
Balabala is one of the many that the provincial government is trying to help. His story serves as an attestation that there is hope amidst hardships. (Cherry Marie Irish D. Cruz / SARANGANI INFORMATION OFFICE)