“Lipay kaayo ko, nakakita na gyud ko ni Papa (I’m so happy, finally I have
seen my father).”
Teary-eyed Kurt John, a first-grader, uttered these words as he embraced his father, Jomil Velasquez, for the first time.
Jomil, 26, from Subangdaku, Mandaue City, got hooked on drugs while working in a local foundry firm. His girlfriend, who was then pregnant, severed their relationship because of his addiction. Communications were cut off until one Sunday, Jomil unexpectedly met his son who was accompanied by the child’s grandfather. Geraldine, the mother could not come because of her work.
“This is the greatest gift from God for my graduation, it’s a dream come true,” said Jomil, also teary-eyed during a recognition ceremony for drug surrenderers.
“I am ready to settle down with her,” added Jomil referring to his son’s mother.
Jomil is one of the 14 drug surrenderees who completed the six-month community-based Barangay drug rehabilitation program called, “LaBang” or “Lahat Bangon,” an intensive half-day daily live-out program during weekdays with light activities on weekends.
Aside from Jomil, a family composed of a father, his son and brother-in-law also availed of the program
Eleven others are undergoing make-up sessions to be able to complete the course.
“We have recognized the first batch of 14 drug surrenderees who have achieved a lot during this six-month period. In fact, they all tested negative for drugs in a test conducted on the day before recognition day,” said Fr. Carmelo Diola, chairman of Church-based Dilaab Foundation and author of the LaBang program.
Diola shared Archbishop Jose Palma’s view that the significance of the program is the engendering of a sense of belonging in the recovering addicts which they can lean on in case of a relapse. ”The opposite of addiction is connection, there is now connectivity between the surrenderees and also the volunteers,” Diola added.
Archbishop Palma in his homily during his Pontifical Mass which opened the ceremony, said that the two tested Church-based rehab programs LaBang (Lahat Bangon) and SuGod (Surrender to God) should be replicated and spread throughout the archdiocese so that in “our own way we can respond to call of caring for drug surrenderees.”
“The more the two programs would be replicated, the happier it would be. I am happy, something good is happening with Divine Intervention,” said the 66-year–old Church official as he looked forward to the launching of Cebu Archdiocesan Program for Drug Dependents (CAPDD).
The ceremony was attended by 14 recovering drug dependents, their families and friends, as well as volunteers from Narcotics Anonymous, other volunteer groups, Subangdaku Barangay Captain Ernie Manatad and representatives from Ugnayan ng Barangay at Simbahan (UBAS), who also helped facilitate the program.
“This is inspiring to do more for the good of our constituents, share this with other barangays,” said Manatad. “There is hope for recovery,” he added. (Roger V. Paller)