By Minka Klaudia Tiangco
At 20 years old, Gerry (real name withheld) was pushed by his friends to take illegal substances. Since then, his life spiraled downwards.
His former habit ruined his relationship with his family, his wife, and his children. Last year, he was imprisoned at the Caloocan City Jail after being caught in possession of shabu.
But now, at 35, he is being given a chance to transform his life after being one of the 29 chosen inmates and surrenderees to be admitted to “Kanlungan,” the country’s first comprehensive rehabilitation complex.
The Caloocan City Anti-Drug Abuse Council (CADAC) inaugurated the complex, which is located beside the Caloocan City North Medical Center, on October 19, Friday.
Among those in attendance were Caloocan City mayor Oscar “Oca” Malapitan, vice mayor Maca Asistio, officials from the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) and the Department of Health.
“Drug addicts are not criminals, they are victims,” Malapitan said.
“Kailangan ay sila’y tulungan at ang pamahalaan ang dapat manguna sa pagbibigay aruga at serbisyo sa ating mga kapatid na naligaw sa kanilang landas. (We need to help them, and the government should be the first to give care and service to our brothers and sisters who have lost their ways).”
Kanlungan services include residential treatment, reformation under Balay Silangan program, outpatient services, and a community-based rehabilitation pod.
CADAC Executive Director Sikini Labastilla said the complex can accommodate up to 100 people and is exclusive to Caloocan City residents.
The rehabilitation complex is furnished with double-decked beds, a prayer room, an outdoor basketball court, and other amenities.
While the surrenderees are not allowed to go outside the rehabilitation complex, they can entertain visitors once a week.
Gerry’s plan for reformation is simple: he just needs to find a job.
“Pag nakalabas na po, syempre gusto ko mag-trabaho para po mapalapit sa mga anak ko. (After I am discharged, I want to work to get close to my kids),” he said. “Kahit anong trabahong kaya ko. (I can do any kind of work).”
Gerry lamented that he has not seen his two daughters since 2008. But with Kanlungan’s three-month program, the first part of his rehabilitation plan may become a reality soon enough.
During the rehabilitation program, surrenderees will undergo livelihood education training where they can study urban gardening, mushroom cultivation, and dress-making, Labastilla said.
Aside from this, those admitted will be trained on their listening and writing skills and will undergo a literacy program.
“Tuturuan namin sila. Paglabas nila dito, meron silang alam na pangkabuhayan. (We will teach them. When they leave, they will have knowledge on livelihood education),” Malapitan said.