Sgt. Eric Ubalde is no ordinary soldier of the Special Operations Command of the Philippine Army—he is a man of many lives as his fellow soldiers would tell him. He had survived gun battles even endured gunshot wounds, four to be exact.
The first time he was hit was during the Zamboanga siege. The Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) attacked them and he sustained a gunshot in his left leg. The second gunshot was during an encounter with a group of bandits in Jolo, Sulu where two Australians and Canadians were abducted. He was hit in the shoulder.
Then, in November 29, 2016, Sgt. Ubalde, who was with the Presidential Security Group (PSG) for President Rodrigo Duterte’s visit in Lanao del Sur, was hit in the neck when his crew was ambushed.
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.
To date, three bullets remain inside his body.
“I still can’t move freely because of the pain. The doctors said they will have it removed but we have to wait until the bullets emerge because a lot of my nerves will be affected if we do the operation prematurely,” Sgt. Ubalde explained.
While recuperating inside Fort Magsaysay Ubaled was chosen as one of the beneficiaries of Noble Bakers’ Project by Aboitiz Foundation, the corporate foundation of the Aboitiz Group, in partnership with the Special Operations Command (Socom) Foundation, Inc. (SFI).
Through the program, Sgt. Ubalde along with 59 other wounded soldiers underwent a comprehensive bakery management training program provided by Pilmico Foods Corporation, the food subsidiary of Aboitiz Equity Ventures, Inc.
They were taught how to cost and develop bakery products, bake bread, cakes, cookies, pizza dough, among others.
Apart from the training, the Aboitiz Foundation also donated heavy-duty baking equipment like oven, mixer and baking utensils. Built by SOCOM, the Noble Bakers’ Bakery inside Fort Magsaysay is now operational with captured market, which includes 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.
“The proceeds of the bakery will so to SFI, our special operations foundation that supports our wounded personnel and those who give them care,” Col. Aquino explained.
The Aboitiz Foundation for its part is committed to providing assistance to those who need help the most.
“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 co-creating safe, empowered, and sustainable communities,” Maribeth Marasigan, Aboitiz Foundation First vice President and chief operating officer said.
Defense Sec. Delfin Lorenzana also expressed his deep gratitude to the Aboitiz Foundation for such innovative endeavor in lending assistance to the wounded soldiers.
“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”, Sec. Delfin said.
For Sgt. 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.
“Noble Bakers challenged me to enrich my skills outside the battlefield. In my little ways, I can help my comrades who are also in their healing process since the proceeds of the bakery go to them,” Sgt. Ubalde said.
Looking beyond, Sgt. Ubalde now has something to bank on when he retires from service as he hopes one day to put up his own bakery.