Football brings hope to kids from conflict areas
Taguig City, PHILIPPINES -- Children from Basilan, Sulu, and Zamboanga are in Manila to play football for the Philippine Marines' Football for Peace program.
Often overlooked in the decades-long conflict in the some parts of Mindanao, the children not only learned to play the beautiful game but were also instilled with positive values.
David Lozada reports.
This is Villamor Airbase in Manila. These children are from Basilan, one of the southernmost islands in the country. It's one of the most beautiful places in the country and the most torn-apart by conflict.
They are in Manila to participate in the Football For Peace program started by the Philippine Marines in 2011 to instill positive values in youth alienated by violence & poverty. What started as a pastime in Sulu became the Marine's advocacy.
Founder Lt. Col. Stephen Cabanlet says football is the starting point for a much bigger goal -- to achieve peace in Mindanao.
Lt. Col. Stephen Cabanlet, Football for Peace Founder: Perspective and the character of the kids yung hinuhubog namin dito. Second or third objective na lang yun na maging magaling sila sa football pero priority is to teach them how to love their country, how to love their God at maging disiplinado bilang isang mamamayang Filipino. (We are forming the perspective and character of the children. Making them good football players is only our second or third objective. The main priority is to teach them how to love their country, how to love their god and make them disciplined Filipino citizens.)
While in Manila, the kids will compete with other teams from different provinces. They will go on field trips to museums and malls to broaden their perspectives.
For the past decades, peace has been elusive in many parts of Mindanao. The years-long conflict has affected the welfare of children from provinces like Basilan, Zamboanga and Sulu. But according to military officers assigned in these areas, the Football for Peace program has been an effective tool in teaching kids that they can rise above challenges and achieve their dreams.
This is 13-year-old Jericho Blas. Before learning football, the Sulu native did not see the merit of taking his studies seriously. Now, he is daring to dream.
Jericho Blas, participant from Sulu: Noong nag-aaral pa ako sa ibang school (at bago matuto ng football), basagulero ako, nanununtok lang kahit walang kasalanan sa akin... Ngayon, pangarap ko na maging police para makatulong sa taong mahihirap lalo na sa pamilya ko at sa kapwa ko. (Before I learned football and transferred to another school, I was very naughty. I just punch my classmates randomly. Now, I want to become a policeman to help poor people, especially my family.)
The Football for Peace program still has a long way to go. The organizers need financial support to sustain the program. From Basilan to Manila, from footballs to education, to dreams to peace.
David Lozada/ Rappler, Taguig. - Rappler.com