Clad in a Philippine Army type B uniform, Awing (not his real name) silently watched the verdant hills around him. The Cordilleran birds seem to sing a different tune now and the cold mountain breeze brought by pine needles around him sooths his body. He took out a regular sized nose flute and started blowing a favorite tune his Ama taught him as a child.
While growing in his native barangay of Bugnay in Pinukpuk town, his father has instilled in him that without peace, freedom from want can never be attained.
That was one of the reasons why, when the government offered amnesty to him as a regular member of the Cordillera People’s Liberation Army(CPLA), he took the opportunity.
Today, he is one of the 448 former CPLA armed men who were given training and was accepted as a regular member of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
Since the peace agreement was signed by both parties two decades ago and was revived by the administration of President Benigno Aquino III, the integration of the former rebels into the regular force of the AFP finally came to an end.
While the integration process came to a close, the livelihood component will continue, the AFP assured.
The 158 new soldiers successfully hurdled a six-month military training course on jungle warfare and marksmanship conducted by the 5th Infantry Division, Philippine Army in Gamu, Isabela which commenced December of last year.
Under oath administered by Senior Master Sergeant Reynaldo Aduca, the recruits vowed to defend the
In a message to the graduates, AFP Chief of Staff General Emmanuel Bautista urged the recruits to likewise uphold the institution they now belong and to help finally attain the elusive peace and unity in the Cordillera region.
Bautista said he expects the new soldiers to serve as catalysts for change, ensure the sustainability of peace in the region and to help the government insulate their communities from other groups that will threaten peace and order in the area.
When Awing finally got his certificate of training completion last week, he knew that henceforth, he will be part and parcel of the whole peace process in that part of the country.