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Winning Peace thru Ways of Peace

Even horses stumble because of poor, undeveloped roads. This is how the people described the humpy-dumpy road in the geographically isolated and disadvantaged areas (GIDA) in Davao de Oro.

Speaking during the “Tid Talks” at the Peace Village in SM City Davao on September 12, 42-year old  Eugene Cabalida recalled how challenging it was before to traverse towards their hometown in Barangay Sangab in Maco, Davao de Oro, due to lack of government interventions.

“Nakahinumdom ko nga natumba ang kabayo sa akong angkol nga dala ang ilang giani nga mais (I remember my uncle’s horse stumbled while carrying the corn they harvested),” he said.

Cabalida associated their harsh living to tyrannical and apathetic domain of the New People’s Army (NPA) in the barangay that the people were compelled not to accept programs and projects from any government agencies.

Eugene Cabalida, chairman of the Sangab Energetic Farmers Association (SEFA), talks about the journey of their community from a former supporters of the New People's Army to a thriving banana producers.

“Kung dili ka motuman nila, batas-bala. Wala’y panahon ang demokrasya kaniadto. Wala’y panahon nga moreklamo; wala’y panahon nga mobalibad ka maski sakit sa imong kabubuton, tungod kay sila ang hari (If you will not obey their command, you can be killed. There is no time for democracy during those days. There is no time to complain; there is no time to refuse them even if it was against your will, because they are sovereign),” he said.

He also reminisced that his father, Epifanio Cabalida Sr., then barangay captain of their community, was still under the control of the communist armed movement.

From the children to the elders, the community was organized and agitated against the government.

“Ilang asset atong panahona kay tao. Dinha sila nagakuha og kusog sa katawhan. Paingon pa lang ang sundalo, ang NPA nakabalo na (Their asset at that time is the people. They got their strength from the people. Even when the government soldiers were still in its way to the area, the NPA already knew that they were coming),” Cabalida narrated. 

From giving tips and vital information against the Philippine Army, the people were also utilized to produce staple food and other needed supplies for the operation of the communist movement.

When he was 12 years old, Cabalida said that there was a time when they heard gunshots almost every week.

Barangay Sangab before was even feared by its neighboring communities as there loomed top NPA officials.

Residents even recollected visits of the likes of the late Menandro ‘Bok’ Villanueva, who was known as the Carl Marx of the NPA and secretary of the National Democratic Front’s Southern Mindanao Regional Committee. They said that when Bok visited their area, it was like a fiesta as the members of the NPA prepared sumptuous meals for the community.

Barangay Sangab was also famous in the national news as it headlines as a frequent location for the release of captives of the NPAs.

One of the challenges in Barangay Sangab is the undeveloped roads from their farms, which was then a communal field during the height of the reign of the New People's Army in the area. (Courtesy: Susan Magsinglab)

In 2013, Former President then Davao City Vice Mayor Rodrigo Duterte received in the barangay, Private First Class Jesus Tomas from being captured by the NPA. In 2014, four surveyors and a driver commissioned by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources were released in the same barangay after being abducted by the same group. In 2017, SPO2 George Rupinta was set free in the same area.

“Ingon ana ka gubot ug ingon ana ka ngilad ang imahe sa Sangab sa una (That is how messy and negative the image of Sangab before) ,” Cabalida said.


In March 2017, the provincial government of Davao de Oro developed the “Oplan Pagbabago” program to try to win back the communist inflicted area through peacefully addressing the problems of insurgency.

The program was even boosted in 2018 with the emancipation of Executive Order 70 of Former President Rodrigo Duterte employing the whole of government and whole of nation to end local communist armed conflict.

AFTER. With the Support to Barangay Development Program, the roads going to the farms in Barangay Sangab, Maco, Davao de Oro are now developed for faster marketing of their produce. (Courtesy: Vice Governor Jayvee Tyron Uy)

During this period, Cabalida recalled that it was a hard time for him as a barangay official and his other colleagues since they were indoctrinated as NPA supporters.

It was the current barangay chairman Delbert Canedo, who risked his life and convinced them and all the people in the barangay to yield to the government.

With their surrender, and through EO 70, Barangay Sangab became one of the first batch of recipients for the Support to Barangay Development Program (SBDP). For Davao de Oro, 65 barangays each received P20 million worth of projects.

“Karon, mapagarbohon ko nga sa tibuok Davao de Oro, usa ang Barangay Sangab sa lungod sa Maco, nga nagkatag, nagpasad ang proyekto gikan sa national. Ug nakita sa katawhan nga ang gobyerno gayod wala magpabaya sa ilang dakong kaakuhan ug obligasyon alang sa katawhan (Now, I can brag that in the whole of Davao de Oro, Barangay Sangab in Maco town is one among those beneficiaries from the national government where projects are being poured. And people can see and feel that the government did not abandon their obligations and responsibilities to the people),” he stressed.

Because of the SBDP, the barangay now has a health center worth P3 million, and concretized roads going to their farm lands worth P5 million.

Families in Purok 3 and 4 benefited the P5 million water system, and 50 households for the P4 million electrification project.

Rosaly Dila, a beneficiary of the electrification project, is thankful to the government since for them, having electricity in their houses seemed impossible with their meager resources.

She recalled that her family would have dinner before sundown so that they can still see and savor what they were eating.

Rosaly Dila is one of the beneficiaries of the electrification project in Barangay Sangab.

“Sa una, magsige lang mi og gas kay wala lagi kurente. Usahay mahutdan pa og gas, masayo ra ang panihapon aron makitan pa ang sudan (Before, we were just using gasoline because we do not have electricity. There are times that we ran out of gas, we will have our dinner early so that we can still see what we are eating),” she said.

Aside from that, a total of 673 individuals were temporarily employed under the P 2 million Cash for Work Program. These individuals were utilized for the clearing of barangay roads and Purok Center beautification, land preparation for SBDP livelihood implementation, installation of Material Recovery Facility per Purok, repair of community facilities, and construction of shed for grazing area of farm animals.


The SBDP did not only give infrastructure projects and temporary employment to the residents, but also helped them to establish a Lakatan Banana Farm with P 1 million capitalization.

The banana farm is run by the people’s organization in the barangay named as Sangab Energetic Farmers Association (SEFA) with 128 members and registered under the Department of Labor and Employment.

According to SEFA Chairman Cabalida, the SBDP were given to them not as cash

but as 10,000 hills of banana, farm machineries, and other farm inputs.

Members of SEFA began working in the 2.5-hectare land on September 15, 2021, and had its first harvest in December 2022. For now, the SEFA is earning a gross income of around P 1 million.

Their Lakatan banana were purchased by Kennemer Foods International, and local buyers from Mawab and Pantukan in Davao de Oro, and Asuncion and San Isidro in Davao del Norte.

Aside from this, the Department of Agriculture through the Special Area for Agricultural Development program also assisted SEFA in developing another 5 hectares for additional  production area.

Cabalida hopes that they can find this year an institutional buyer/s, who will consistently buy their produce.

“Padayon ko nga nagatinguha nga makakita mig buyer nga mosign og contract or mo-tap mi sa DTI. Mao nang paningkamotan namo karon nga tuig nga maka produce mi ug maayong quality ug taas nga production (I continue to wish to find a buyer that will sign a contract with us or we will tap DTI. That is why we are making effort to produce more high quality bananas this year),” he said. (MLU/PIA Davao de Oro)

About the Author

Michael Uy

Regional Editor / Writer

Region 11

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