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You are here: Home News Blog Mindanao News Blog Poverty Drives two Caraga OFWs in Afghan Chopper Crash to left Home, Work Abroad

Poverty Drives two Caraga OFWs in Afghan Chopper Crash to left Home, Work Abroad

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by Ben Serrano July 22, 2009 BISLIG CITY – With no jobs available locally after the once biggest paper mill in Asia, PICOP Resources shuts down its operations at this coastal city of Surigao del Sur, 38 year old Ricardo Vallejos was forced to leave his two children at the care of his 76 year old mother, [...]

by Ben Serrano

July 22, 2009

BISLIG CITY – With no jobs available locally after the once biggest paper mill in Asia, PICOP Resources shuts down its operations at this coastal city of Surigao del Sur, 38 year old Ricardo Vallejos was forced to leave his two children at the care of his 76 year old mother, Lucena Espera Vallejos whose 79 year old husband has just passed away.

The late Vallejos patriarch was also former PICOP worker.

Earlier several NGOs and well meaning concerned citizens alleged that while Caraga politicians and its allies including businessmen friends are living in luxurious lives and richness still majority of Caraga residents especially indigenous people and other marginal sectors lived in wallowing poverty.

Vallejos ’ sister Aida Vallejos Catacutan, 45, married also to an OFW working in Iraq told this writer his brother was forced to work in Afghanistan to sustain schooling of his two sons both high students after wife, Mychel Roche Vallejos left home sometime in May 2005 and never returned since then.

Catacutan said his brother was the youngest among the eleven Vallejos siblings.

“He is concerned on the education of his two sons, he wished his two sons could finish college someday to help the family after their mother left them in 2005”, Catacutan said.

Catacutan said that because of poverty since they are twelve siblings living in one roof then the younger Vallejos and a husband of another sister, Virginia Vallejos Lacuna was also forced to seek job abroad after local wood processing plant PICOP stopped its operation.

Ricardo Vallejos has two sons namely; Daryl James, 13, and David John, 12, both students of John Bosco College ’ De la Salle High School, one of the oldest private school institution here.

In the late 50’s, workers from different places from nearby provinces and from as far as the Visayas trooped here in Bislig City (formerly named Mangagoy) after an American owned PICOP paper and wood mills opened its operation.

PICOP was then sold to the Soriano Group of Companies and then years later sold to another group then to another then to another until it ceases operation. It is now under Land Bank receivership after its nearly P1-B loan to the state-owned remained unpaid.

Ricardo Vallejos who hails from this coastal city of Caraga Region was among the ten Filipinos working at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) base in Afghanistan .

Another Caraga Region resident, Celso “Gil” Caralde, 41, married and resident of Lower Tiniwisan, Butuan City was also killed in that Sunday chopper crash. Caralde has two daughters, one a college student while the other one, a fourth year high school student at Fr. Urios High School in Ampayon, Butuan City.

Reports said 16 out of 21 people aboard the Russian-owned civilian Mi-8 helicopter were killed when it slammed into the tarmac at Kandahar Air Base shortly after takeoff.

Although the two did come from this region, both left the country separately in separate dates but having one common entry country destination, Dubai .

In a document obtained by this writer Caralde left Butuan City July 5, 2009 for Manila and then left Manila for Afghanistan July 12, 2009. Vallejos , on the other hand, left Bislig City July 8 for Manila then the following day to Afghanistan via Dubai .

The kins of the two OFWs claimed the two were recruited by a U.S based company Fluor who also hired the eight other Filipinos who died in that Sunday chopper crash.

The two OFWs however worked in same U.S military installation in Iraq Caralde worked as driver for more than four years while Vallejos as mechanic for only more than one year before leaving again for Afghanistan .

According to Caralde’s daughter, Airish, her father was given Letter of Authority by U.S. military authorities that allowed her driver father Celso to work in any of his choice to any U.S military installations in Iraq and Afghanistan .

“The Americans like the working habit of our father that’s why he was given that privileged” Airish Caralde told this writer.

The young Caralde said her father was also forced to work abroad in order to sustain their schooling after their mother, Carolina, 41, undergo major surgical operation five years ago which did not allowed her to work anymore.

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Caralde has two children, both girls named Airene Grace Paler Caralde, 18, now a first college B.S. Computer Science student of Father Saturnino Urios University (FSUU) here in Butuan City and Airish Guia Caralde, 15, a fourth year high school of Fr. Urios High School in Ampayon, Butuan City.

According to OWWA officer Ronnie Zamora, Celso Caralde, 41, called by friends here as “Gil” has just arrived from Iraq as an OFW then left Butuan City July 5, 2009 for Manila . He then left Manila for Afghanistan July 12, 2009.

“He was barely a week in Afghanistan when he was among those unfortunately killed in a plane crash and died”, Azura said.

Relatives of Caralde here claimed Celso was forced to leave home and went to Afghanistan to find job he couldn’t find in this resource rich Caraga Region.

The two Caralde siblings confided to this writer that they are afraid they have to stop schooling this semester since their tuition fees were all promissory notes and that they don’t where to get payments for it after their father have gone.

Airish Caralde who will turned 16 years old this Saturday, July 25 said she will be celebrating her birthday minus her father whom she said a very good and caring man who never raises his voice to his children..

“He even befriended my friends and when he left last July 5, he told my classmates and friends to always protect and take care of me”, Airish said.

“We will surely missed him for he is a good man forced to work in another land because he couldn’t find a good paying job right here in our homeland, how many daughters of Overseas Filipino Workers like me will be orphaned forever?”, the younger Caralde concludes.


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