LIGAO CITY - The holidays were made a little less lonely for soldiers on duty here by their access to the Internet, which allowed them to talk with and see their loved ones.
Nearly 100 soldiers of the Philippine Army's 2nd Infantry Battalion based in Barangay Tula-tula here were given access to the online chat application Skype on New Year's Eve and succeeding days.
Lt. Col. Perfecto Penaredondo, 2nd IB head who initiated the activity, told the Inquirer that the thought of giving his troops access to Skype already helped ease their homesickness.
"Many of the soldiers, who spend their Christmas and New Year (away from their families) just to be of service to the people deserve a reward," said Penaredondo.
He said soldiers would continue to enjoy access to the Internet during special occasions and to boost their morale.
On New Year's Eve, batches of soldiers (20-30 per batch) were allowed to use Skype to talk with and see their families.
Penaredondo said soldiers who hail from areas in Mindanao and Visayas were given priority and allowed 10 minutes each to use Skype on laptop computers.
Pvt. Edgardo O. Espartero, 24, from General Luna, Siargao Island, Surigao Del Norte, who has been away from his family for nearly two years now since joining the Army in 2012, said it was his first time to greet his parents and siblings through the Internet since his assignment to Bicol.
"I'm very excited but quite nervous as this is my first time to use video chat in my entire life," said Espartero.
Espartero said he gets in touch with his family only through texts and calls.
Lt. Albert Bellingan, 26, from Dumaguete City, Negros Oriental, said using Skype was a big morale booster since soldiers seldom see their loved ones due to their work.
Bellingan, who has been in the service for eight years, said most of the time soldiers are assigned to remote areas for humanitarian work and for a campaign to bring the people closer to the government.
"It's indeed a privilege and worthwhile to experience how it is to greet our family in real time," said Bellingan.
He said he was excited as he used Skype to chat with his family.
"At least we can extend to our family our Happy New Year greetings," Bellingan said.
Aside from giving access to Skype, the command also prepared a New Year's party for the soldiers.