Jobless flock to Army for jobs, stable wages
DAVAO CITY—Five years ago, Gerald walked into an Army testing center in Luzon.
The then 21-year old Cordillera native had only one thing in mind—join the Army and help feed his family.
Today, Gerald (he only wanted to be identified by his first name) says he got more than he wanted. He was able to build a modest house, buy his student-brother a laptop aside from being able to send him to school and of course, buy food.
“The Army made our lives better,” he said.
Gerald now makes about P12,000 per month as a private which, he said, was better than just being a village bum.
Maj. Gen. Jorge Segovia, commander of the 10th Infantry Division in Southern Mindanao, said the prospect of a better life now lures many men and women to the Army.
“Many wanted to become soldiers because for them, the Army is a good source of employment,” Segovia said.
On Saturday alone, 3,000 hopefuls—some of them fresh college graduates and professionals—lined up at the Army testing center here. By Sunday, the number exceeded 5,000.
Maj. Louie Dema-ala, chief of the Army Recruitment Office based in Cagayan de Oro, said it was the first time the Army received such a number of applicants.
“Normally the applicants would just reach more or less 1,000,” he said.
In a country where the number of unemployed is high, finding a job was the most difficult thing to do, Segovia said. And the Army hopes to fill the gap, he said.
The National Statistics Office said as of January 2011, the number of unemployed in the country is 2.91 million, or 7.4 percent of the total population.
“It’s their ticket out of poverty,” Segovia said.
Guillermo Torres Jr., president of the University of Mindanao, one of the largest privately universities outside Luzon and Visayas, said many of the university’s graduates see a career in the Army.
“They can earn a good salary as soldiers,” he said.
Riza Sillote, 23, said she was not deterred by the prospect of failing to make it to the Army this year. Her family’s support is keeping her optimistic, she said.
Jorish Van Gonzales, 20, of Compostela Valley, recalled how he was forced to quit school because his ambition to become a computer technician was eating up the family’s budget for basic necessities.
Gonzales said he did not want his siblings to stop going to school and that would only be possible if he becomes a soldier. Dennis Jay Santos, Inquirer Mindanao
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