In Tawi-Tawi, football is a way to achieve dreams
TAWI-TAWI, Philippines – The speedboat was docked at a port built from scrap wood. As we disembarked from our boat, we were greeted by Philippine Marines and local leaders. It was 12 noon but our hosts were more than happy to wait under the scorching hot sun to welcome us.
We were in the island-village of Buan in the province of Tawi-Tawi, the southernmost tip of the Philippines. Buan is accessible only by a 30-minute speedboat ride from the provincial capital of Bongao, but the remoteness of the village could not deter the island's youth from dreaming big.
“They are in the school practicing. They are excited,” said the local village chief.
A few turns around the village and we were at the Buan Elementary School where the village's football team had been waiting, eager to tell their stories. Dressed in their football jerseys, they welcomed us with big smiles.
Buan is one of the communities that the Football for Peace movement handles. Started in 2011 by Philippines Marines assigned in Sulu, the program has now spread to different provinces across the country. (READ: #FootballForPeace: Indestructible balls for indestructible dreams)
Football brings hope
“My boy had a change of attitude when he arrived from Manila," said the school’s principal Haji Ruben Matolo. “Sports is really very helpful to the kids.”
His son Robin Matolo was one of the football team members who were brought by the Marines to Manila for the annual Football for Peace tournament in April.
“They had a change in perspective after they saw the life in Manila; after they rode planes and saw museums,” Matolo said.
The sport instilled discipline among the village youth. It helped them to not only become more obedient children but also to excel in school. Their hobby also made them less vulnerable to the influence of illegal drugs, a common problem in the province.
Most of the children and their parents learned how to dream because of football.
“I want to play for the Azkals and represent the country. I want to be a part of the Marines so I can help people and teach football,” said Buan football player Rostin Kipli. (READ: How football teaches kids from conflict areas to dream)
“I hope I get a scholarship so I can study in Manila and help my family,” Kipli added.
His teammates had similar dreams. All of them aspired to become either Azkal players or Marines – a far cry from their pre-football goals limited to their island-village.
Their parents couldn’t be happier. Their children finally had access to opportunities they never dreamed of having.
“The parents here are really praying that their kids will get scholarships in good universities,” Matolo said.
Watch the full story of the football players of the island-village of Buan in Tawi-Tawi in the video above. – Rappler.com
Interested to help the children of Football for Peace? Contact Lt Col Stephen Cabanlet via firstname.lastname@example.org for more details.
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