He had a rough start at first. His affiliation with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) gave him a bad reputation for being an insurgent opposed to the system of the law. The life he led when he was still active in the movement was full of secrecy and evasion. He had no interest in farming before since he was preoccupied with handling ammunitions and armories rather than farming implements.
As time and chance favored Sakar Pantaran Pendatun (42) of Purok 5, Batintan, Paiton in turning his life around for the better, he decided to drop his arms for good in the year 2000. As of this interview, Sakar emits a newfound confidence and charisma coming from living a peaceful and productive life.
Through agri-extension champion Amenah S. Taratingan, Sakar caught wind of a government program intended to help rebel returnees get their life back on track. He joined the program and became an active member of the “From Arms to Farms” of the Agricultural Training Institute (ATI) in 2013.
Prior to his involvement in the program, he didn’t have any idea, let alone passion and interest in getting into farming since his past preoccupation were arms and ammunitions. One of the redeeming qualities of the “From Arms to Farms” is its multi-faceted and participatory approach in terms of implementation, which is to increase farmer’s income and reduce poverty incidence in the countryside, ultimately enticing rebel-returnees to venture into farming.
For Sakar, farming is now his reality and way of living.
To date, Sakar has now amassed seven hectares of farm land teeming with various high-value commodities like turmeric, durian, coffee, lanzones, saging cardava, saging tindok, saging lakatan, and coconut. His daily “fight” nowadays involves not bullets but acts that help establish his farm and secure his food every day---morning, noon, and night.
It was in 2014 when he established his farm after he received machinery and P150,000 worth of farm assistance from ATI. He was also the recipient of a rice thresher and mobile corn mill. This gave him a chance to cultivate his 500 square meter-owned land along with a promise of raising livestocks like carabao and cow.
Sakar is not worried if there will be a sudden onslaught of drought or any other natural calamity since he is confident that he and his family will not go hungry as his farm land is teeming with crops and greeneries. His drive in coming up with the food that feeds his family is being liberated from the clutches of poverty and hunger. “If ang tao gusto mulambo, mulambo gyud (If one has the will to flourish, he definitely can),” he stressed emphatically.
No Turning Back
For Sakar Pendatun, true progress is measured and felt when there is no longer terrorism and hunger.
“Para sa ako, dato ka kung wala kay kahadlok sa imung kasingkasing ug dili ka gutom. Wala man koy million nga pondo sa bangko pero dato ko kay daghan ko ug mga tanom dere sa akong uma. Mao kini sila akong million. Wala ko nag-guol kung magutman ug kung naay dakong huwaw nga mahitabo dere sa amo karon.” (“My idea of being rich is when you do not have fear in your heart and that you do not go to bed hungry. I may not have millions of money in the bank but I consider the number of standing crops I have here in my farm as my millions. I am not worried about being hungry should there be a severe drought right now,” Kumander Sakar earnestly said.)
Sakar’s shift of purpose to live and his desire to forge peace and progress in the countryside is noteworthy, but his resolve to maintain that is what makes the change commendable.