Sgt. Eric Ubalde is no ordinary soldier of the Special Operations Command of the Philippine Army. He’s a man of many lives, as his fellow soldiers would tell him. He had survived so many gun battles, had endured several gunshot wounds, four to be exact.
The first time he was hit was during the Zamboanga siege. They were attacked by the Moro National Liberation Front and was shot in his left leg. The second gunshot was during an encounter with a group of bandits in Jolo, Sulu, where two Australian and Canadian nationals were abducted. He was hit in the shoulder.
On November 29, 2016, Ubalde was with the Presidential Security Group (PSG) as part of the advance party for President Duterte who was set to visit Lanao del Sur the following day, when they were ambushed and an improvised explosive device was detonated. Ubalde was hit in the neck, sustaining his third gunshot wound.
He may have survived Marawi last May but he didn’t leave the war-torn province unscathed. While clearing one of the abandoned houses, the Maute terrorists fired at the soldiers, hitting him in the face. That was the last time he got shot. To date, three bullets remain inside his body. “’Di ko masyado magalaw may tumutusok. Ooperahan daw pag umangat na ’yung bala. Marami daw nerves na maapektuhan ’pag inopera,” Ubalde said.
For now, he is confined inside Fort Magsaysay while recuperating from the gunshot wounds he sustained. He is thankful not only for having survived but also for being given a new lease on life. He’s been chosen as one of the beneficiaries of the Noble Bakers’ Project of the Aboitiz Foundation, the corporate foundation of the Aboitiz Group, in partnership with the Socom Foundation Inc. (SFI). The Aboitiz Foundation is the corporate foundation of the Aboitiz Group, whose mission is to create safe, empowered and sustainable communities.
Ubalde, along with 59 other wounded soldiers, underwent a comprehensive bakery management training program provided by Pilmico Foods Corp., the food subsidiary of Aboitiz Equity Ventures Inc. They were taught how to cost and develop bakery products, bake bread, cakes, cookies, pizza dough and a lot more.
Apart from the training, the Aboitiz Foundation also donated heavy-duty baking equipment like oven, mixer and baking utensils. The bakery inside Fort Magsaysay was built by the Socom. The Noble Bakers’ Bakery is now operational with captured market, which includes the soldiers and residents inside Fort Magsaysay and even the adjacent schools.
According to Col. Rey Aquino, deputy commander of Socom, the earnings from the bakery will go to the dependents of the wounded soldiers. “’Yung proceeds dito mapupunta sa SFI, ’yung sa special operations foundation, ’yan po yung nagsu-support sa mga wounded personnel natin, habang nasa ospital sila ’yung kanilang mga kamag-anak na nagba-bantay, meron tayong pang-sustain doon,” Aquino explained.
The Aboitiz Foundation, for its part, is committed to providing assistance to those who need help the most. “It is uplifting to know that the Aboitiz Foundation is able to help empower our soldiers. This project proves that we are able to make our resources more meaningful by using them to fulfill our promise of advancing business and communities by cocreating safe, empowered and sustainable communities,” Maribeth Marasigan, Aboitiz Foundation first vice president and COO said.
Defense Secretary Delfin N. Lorenzana also expressed his deep gratitude to the Aboitiz Foundation for such innovative endeavor in lending assistance to the wounded soldiers.
“Allow me to take this opportunity to congratulate Aboitiz Foundation for the recent launch of the Noble Bakers project in collaboration with the Socom. Noble Bakers is a good project that aims to benefit our disabled soldiers. I encourage all other commands of the military to replicate this project as it is beneficial to the military community, the military dependents and our disabled soldiers who can still and should lead productive lives,” Lorenzana said.
For Ubalde, he finds great joy in helping his fellow wounded soldiers not with the use of guns or bullets but rather with the use of baking pans and rolling pins. “Na-challenge ako na ’di lang pala pangge-gyera, kahit ganito lang nakakatulong din pala ako sa mga kasama ko na wounded. Kasi pupunta din sa mga tropa na mga wounded ’yung kikitain ng bakery”, Ubalde said.
Looking beyond, Ubalde now has something to bank on when he retires from service as he hopes one day to put up his own bakery.
About Aboitiz foundation
The Aboitiz Foundation is the corporate foundation of the Aboitiz Group that was established in 1988. Its purpose is to drive change for a better world by advancing business and communities through programs on education, enterprise development, and environment. Since its inception in 1988, the Foundation’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) interventions have evolved from one-time donations to carefully designed programs that empower its beneficiaries to pursue their aspirations.
Today, the Aboitiz Foundation, through the Aboitiz Business Units, develops and implements CSR programs or CSR 2.0 projects that aim to cocreate safe, empowered and sustainable communities. These CSR 2.0 projects are aligned to the group’s core competencies, are scalable nationwide, and create deeper social impact on the communities and beneficiaries it serves.