THE Cabualan family of Leon, Iloilo is the champion in the 2017 Regional Search for Huwarang Pantawid Pamilya.
Couple Romulo and Remia Cabualan are both rebel returnees who turned into peace and development advocates in their community together with their six children.
Their advocacy started when the couple met each other in the rebel movement in 1984. The cruelty, brutality and injustices they experienced under the Marcos dictatorship pushed them to join the New People’s Army (NPA). They referred themselves as members of the Kilusan.
But there was no greater weapon than LOVE as they fell for each other and decided to surrender to the government so they could start building a family of their own and live a peaceful life, far from the atrocities they have seen.
After eight years of hiding, running and eluding arrest by the military, the two surrendered in 1992. Their respective families welcomed them back home. They opted to stay in Leon, particularly in Romulo’s home village.
In 1995, both availed of amnesty by the government to start a new life. They were placed under community integration.
At first, they felt the community’s suspicions because of their previous links to the rebels. But they were gradually accepted when the community realized that they were sincere in going back to the government’s fold.
The religious community welcomed them without prejudice and they became active members of the church.
Two years later, the couple asked for God’s blessings for their marriage. They were blessed with six children.
They then felt secure due to different support and livelihood opportunities given by the government, church, and non-government organizations. The couple together and other returnees were placed under BALIKATAN program of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
Later, they were formed into the Balikatan Organization. Through the organization, the couple availed of one carabao from the Department of Agriculture (DA) and a livelihood capital of P10,000 cash which they use to buy a hog for fattening.
Later, they converted their livelihood into vermicast after a priest friend from Don Bosco School in Dumangas, Iloilo taught them the technology.
Also, their organization put up a cooperative which was a recipient of the ABS-CBN Foundation livelihood project. They were given seed capital for their mango business but years after the death of their founder Jimmy Calumno, also a rebel returnee, their organization was dissolved.
The government’s assistance and interventions, however, did not just end there. The couple, particularly Remia, was also one of the proponents of “Binhi sang Buas Damlag,” a peace and development project of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) through the UP Visayas Foundation Inc. (UPVFI).
UPVFI is funded by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and teaches beneficiaries on community organizing.
Grupo Paghidaet was then organized by the University where Remia was among the original members. The group is a local volunteer organization whose mission is to be an agent for promoting peace and development.
The Commission on Human Rights 6 (CHR-6) also helps and works with them in advocating peace and development, human rights and community empowerment.
From then on, the couple regained the trust and confidence of the government and started advocating on peace and development.
In 2001, Remia replaced her husband Romulo as tanod member after the latter suffered nervous breakdown. She was then chosen as Tanod Commander by their Punong Barangay and voluntarily served to maintain the peace and order situation in their barangay.
In 2011, the family also became a beneficiary of Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program covering three of their six children. Remia was chosen as a Parent Leader when the program started after her fellow members trusted her capacity to lead.
Remia makes sure that all household members under her care are religiously following all the conditions set by the program, particularly on health and education of their children as well as maintaining backyard gardening to complement the additional rice subsidy given by the government.
Aside from cash grants they are receiving from the program, Remia and her husband accepted jobs that were offered to them to work as contractual laborers under the Trabahong Lansangan – a joint program of DSWD and the Department of Public Works and Highway (DPWH) through a private contractor, the International Builders Corp. (IBC), to sustain the school needs of their children.
Remia is a timekeeper assigned in Leon while Romulo is a construction worker assigned in Iloilo City.
All their hardships paid off when two of the couple’s children graduated from college. One is a third year college student while the three others are in high school.
According to the couple, the program is a great help to their family, especially in keeping their children in school and keeping them healthy. They added that the program also helped them boost their self-esteem and continue their advocacy as a catalyst of change through peace and development.
The Cabualan’s strive hard to make their life stable despite their lack of regular income. They could not even repair their old house because they give more importance to the education of their children.
As parents, they do not want also their children to follow their footsteps but their still emphasize the values of principles, respect, forgiveness, and love because for them these are the essential weapons to achieve PEACE.
The Cabualan couple is truly an inspiration to all, especially those in underground movement.
Their braveness in returning to the mainstream democratic society where they chose to live a peaceful life inspired more rebels to surrender.
In fact, at least 20 of their comrades also surrendered. Presently, three of these rebel returnees are now elected barangay officials in their respective areas.