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Cordillera Administrative Region – “Narigat idi damdamok ta naiyadayo-ak iti pamilyak. Ket ti kinaawan ko, napadasan dagiti annak ko iti saan nga nangan (It was difficult when I first started because I was separated from my family. Because I was not around, my children had experienced not having anything to eat.),” Jovy Padua shared as tears welled in her eyes.
Jovy Padua, her real name, is one of the successful graduates of the Ifugao Reflection Camp (IRC). She left the camp after spending one (1) year and five (5) days of rehabilitation under the Balay Silangan program of the Ifugao provincial government.
She is one of the first beneficiaries of this program that aims to enable drug surrenderers to become participate in a community-based rehabilitation program with the end-goal of being reintegrated back to their communities and families.
At 45, Jovy is a wife, a mother to three children, and a grandmother to one. She started working in Metro Manila when she was 14 years old. When she turned 18, she went to Bontoc, Mountain Province to serve as a household helper and eventually as an assistant at the food business of her employer. Despite the distance, Jovy managed to build her own family in Lamut, Ifugao. While still working in Bontoc, she would come home once a month to visit her family. With her husband who worked as a driver, they were able to raise their children.
However, one day in 2014, Jovy gave in to temptation, which changed her life forever.
“Gappu iti barkadak isu nga pinadas ko iti dakes nga agas (I tried using illegal drugs because of my friends.),” Jovy said.
She also said that even before, her friends had already been inviting her to try illegal drugs which she refused because she knew that it is against the law. However, with the constant pressure from her friends while they were under the influence of alcohol, she ultimately gave in.
Eventually, that first try turned into a habit when Jovy continued to use illegal drugs every time she came home. She would lie to her husband and then leave whenever she was asked about the deed. As time passed, instead of giving it up, she even convinced her husband to join their ‘session’ in Bagabag, Nueva Vizcaya.
For two years, Jovy went on using illegal drugs. But soon after, the deed took its toll, not only on Jovy but on her whole family.
“Nagbalin nga nagulo iti pamilyak. Nabaybay-ak iti anak ko. Nagado utang mi gapu iti kinaawan ko. (My family became a mess. I had neglected my children. We even ended up with too much debt because I was never around),” Jovy shared.
On 25 October 2016, Jovy ended up behind bars.
Picking Herself Up
After spending some time in jail, Jovy was bailed on April 2017. Months later, through a plea bargaining agreement, the court required her to undergo community-based rehabilitation. Soon after, she entered the Ifugao Reflection Camp (IRC) on July 5, 2018.
The camp brought hope to Jovy.
“Adu ti naadal ko idyay IRC: panagpakumbaba, panagrespeto, nangnagruna iti panagsubli iti apo tayo a Dios. Dati haanak nga tumakder nga agi-lead ti panagkararag ta mabainak, ngem tatta, nasursurok ti agkararag. (I learned so much in IRC: humility, respect, and most especially, going back to our Lord God. Before, I would be too shy to volunteer to lead the prayer but now, I learned to do so),” she shared.
While inside IRC, Jovy continued to rebuild her relationship with God. This helped her gain back control over herself and her life again.
“Haan ko malipatan dagiti lecture on attitude, behavior, ken emotions pati iti TC [therapeutic community] meetings mi ta idyay naibaga mi iti mayat ken pangit nga napasamak kadakami. (I will never forget the lectures on attitude, behavior, and emotions. Even our TC meetings because it was during then that we were able to share our good and bad experiences),” she said.
The IRC is a facility that provides psycho-social, medical, and other related services to drug surrenderers. Unlike the typical halfway house with a structured way of living for its wards, the IRC resembles a camping type set-up where a maximum of 50 individuals every week per round can be accommodated for 6 months. It was initiated and is being maintained by the Provincial Anti-Drug Abuse Council through the Provincial Social Welfare and Development Office as lead.
It later on inspired the Yakap Bayan Framework of the Department of Social Welfare and Development which featured the third pillar of the National Drug Rehabilitation Program or the Aftercare, Reintegration, and Transformation Support for Recovering Drug Dependents.
Through the Yakap Bayan, former drug dependents are transformed into community volunteers, and eventually community leaders and advocates for change who contribute to nation building.
Life outside the Camp
Just a few days being outside the camp, Jovy is taking small steps towards a new journey, especially now that she has found another reason to move on and live a happy life: her granddaughter.
“Idi rimwarak, umuna nga inaramid ko ket apan ko inala iti apokok nga isu iti awir ko tatta. (When I left [the camp], the first thing I did was to go pick up my granddaughter whom I am now looking after),” she shared.
Aside from being a full-time grandmother, she keeps herself busy by selling barbeque and by taking care of another child which she is being compensated for.
In spite of how busy she is, however, Jovy still looks forward to more opportunities for a better life. “Kayat ko kuma nga manayunan pay iti ilakok. Agtalipapa ak kuma ta awan ti talipapa ditoy ayan mi (I hope I can have more products to sell. I also want to set up a small market because we do not have one in our area),” Jovy said.
When asked how she felt about the staff of IRC, she answered that she remains grateful to the people behind the second chance given to her. “Iti tulong iti IRC kenyak ket daytoy panag akseptar ko iti basol ken iti pangbalbaliw ko. (IRC helped me to accept my mistake and repent),” she shared.
Aside from the intervention provided at IRC, Jovy had also received friendship and support from the people around her.
For the staff, it was Jovy’s will to change for the sake of her family that in turn inspired them.
“We saw the strength and determination of Manang Jovy to change for the better. We are happy to see her continuing to fulfill her goal of being able to provide for her family and to send her children to school,” one social worker who worked with her, said.
At present, Jovy continues to live her life outside the camp. Despite the challenges of her past, she is now living with pride and enthusiasm while being an inspiration to others.
“Haan da kuman nga padasen ta awan iti nasayaat nga naited na kenyak. Uray maamuan da, haanak met mabain ta nangyari met nga totoong buhay ko (Others should not try using [illegal drugs] because it did not do me any good. Even if they find out [that I had used drugs before], I am not ashamed because it is true and a part of my life),” Jovy shared.
By Nerizza Faye G. Villanueva