Marine Col. Stephen L. Cabanlet the Assistant Chief for Unified Command Staff for Operations (U3) of Western Command (WESCOM), expressed elation and gratitude after finally being named as one of the Ten Outstanding Filipinos, a prestigious award handed out annually by the Metrobank Foundation.

Cabanlet said during the conferment ceremony last Monday that while he was not after the award, as he was only nominated by others, he was proud to have been selected as one of this year’s awardees.

“I’m honored to receive this award on behalf of my co-soldier awardees. I have been nominated for this prestigious award several times since 2015. However, more than five years later, it is only now that the fruits of my passion have been loudly recognized,” he said in his acceptance speech.

“Those past nominations were not my doing or what I wanted. Instead, it was initiated by those who thought that every good deed needs corresponding appreciation,” he said, adding that his inclusion in the list of awardees was a timely reminder that everything happens at the right time for a reason.

Cabanlet said he used the dark chapter he went through in life as a motivation to push for his quest for peace. He also said it was at the point where he felt down that he saw others extend a helping hand and that made him realize he needed to give back, not only to those who helped him but to others who also needed help.

“That seemingly hopeless season showed me that service resides in everyone’s heart; people I did not know personally extended their help. As a result, an unexplainable fire within me awakens, empowering me to give back that kindness and pay it forward. Thus, the Football for Peace Movement was born, and the rest, as they say, is history,” he narrated.

He said Football for Peace is a program he initiated back in Sulu province, where he said he wants to bridge the gap between the military and civilian populace. Through the program, the military under his watch engaged communities through a civil military operation, which Cabanlet described as a practical application of an out-of-the-box approach to bringing peace and development.

The approach was most observed when he went to Pata Island, where a dreaded massacre left 118 army soldiers dead, together with unnumbered civilians, on February 12, 1981.

As claimed by present Pata Likud community members, Cabanlet was the very first military officer who boldly set foot on the island, 36 years after that unfortunate event. Since then, the island has seen a major facelift with improvements in infrastructure such as their mosque, health center, daycare centers, and school buildings.

It was also through the program that he was nominated for the Metrobank Foundation award.

Meanwhile, Cabanlet also congratulated his fellow military recipients of the award.

“My fellow awardees in the armed forces, Colonel Maria Victoria Juan and Technical Sergeant Joel Tuganan, your exemplary efforts are wide-ranging from innovations in life-saving services to excellence in combat missions. It is in accordance with the will of the Supreme Being that all of us won at this moment—my sincere congratulations to all of us,” he said.

“I feel that we won because we are each called to take part in bringing our nation forward. Our country has struggled long enough for unity and peace, literally in places where there is actual insurgency and figuratively in our current political and economic state. They say the night is darkest at the break of dawn, and the light is about to break. It is now the season for the visionaries; therefore, let us continue with our chosen advocacy,” he said.

He also acknowledged his family, to whom he said he also dedicates the award he received.

“Allow me to give our Lord Jesus Christ all the glory of this achievement. I also honor my parents, papaSan and mamaLyns. They are responsible for what I have become, two people I know next to God who love me unconditionally. I share this moment with my ever-supportive wonder woman, the only one who knows my weak points. Further, I dedicate this moment to our three ‘boguys’ Sirius, our bright star, Ezra, the nurturer, and Eli, our soft spot; know that your presence makes me a better father. Lastly, my heartfelt thank you to the Metrobank Foundation and the people behind this award for seeing my program with appreciative eyes,” he said.

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