PALAWAN, Philippines – From Sulu to Palawan, members of the Philippine Marine Corps (PMC) have managed to revolutionize their image from being “war fighters” to well-loved coaches.
Lt Col Stephen L. Cabanlet said that “Football for Peace,” a program that started in the island of Sulu has been institutionalized across all areas where PMC units are deployed.
This means that the program is now part of the annual budget plan of the Marine corps units in Sultan Kudarat, Sulu, Cotabato and Palawan, which have already trained over 900 children in total.
Beyond football skills
More than sports development, the “Football for Peace” program targets character development. Cabanlet said that football serves as a medium to instill the values of discipline, fair play, teamwork and camaraderie among the children.
While he admits that it was challenging at the beginning, the program is able to cultivate respect and friendship among children belonging to conflicting clans in Sulu.
In Palawan, barely a month after the program was formally launched, Lt Ma. Rowena Boñon of the 3rd Marine Brigade was already receiving positive feedback from parents. During a phone conversation, Boñon narrated how a mother was surprised to find her son fetching water and studying without prompting.
According to Boñon, the mother used to lament her son’s attitude toward household chores and studies. The family lives in a mountainous area without access to water, thus making it necessary to fetch water from the source.
When asked about the son’s change of attitude, the mother quoted her son as saying he “needed” to do these to be able to play football.
Apparently, the marine coaches remind the players to make sure they have studied and done their chores before each training session. Boñon remarked that both the parents and teachers are happy with what the marines have accomplished.
Cabanlet is pleased with the developments of the program and the support it receives from private individuals, companies, and civil society organizations. He thanks Rappler for initiating the “Balls for Peace” campaign which has donated over 1,200 balls to the PMC.
With the institutionalization of the program, Cabanlet believes there is a need to move forward with more initiatives however challenging they may be.
“Football for Peace” aims to target 4 initiatives — character development, sports development, educational development, and mentorship.
Furthermore, he hopes to have the program “modularized” and teachers trained as coaches so it can be sustained, should the PMC suddenly be reassigned.
The character development program aims to instill values of discipline, respect, love of God and country, fair play and teamwork.
Sports development aims to further train children with potential skills for a chance to play football professionally in the future.
The education program hopes to offer more scholarships for children in the program through partnerships with civilians, organizations and institutions. An example is the story of Sharifamae.
The mentorship program is similar to the “adopt a child program” where Marine personnel mentor a child for character development. It also aims to engage senior officers from the Marine Barrack Rudiardo Brown to host a child from Sulu during the upcoming Second Commandants Football Cup in April at Fort Bonifacio, Manila.
A new battlefield
Deployed marines, according to Cabanlet, are trained for war and to respond in defense. However, in pocket areas like Sulu and Palawan, we witness how these men and women in uniform create a difference in a child’s life and introduce initiatives that hope to restore and sustain peace.
To Cabanlet and for the Marines, this is a “new battlefield” where “no child will shed blood,…only sweat…as they battle to win a “goal for peace.” – Rappler.com