“Ako’y naririto sapagkat hindi ko matatakasan ang aking sarili.

Hanggang hindi ako nagiging matapat sa pagpuna sa aking sarili,

Sa mata at puso ng iba, ako’y tumatakbo.

Hanggang hindi ko inilalahad ang labi ng aking lihim, ako’y walang kapayapaan.”

This declaration was part of the ‘Camper’s Pledge’ which was articulated by around 90 Ifugao Reflection Camp (IRC) graduates who participated in their first general assembly last week at the Baguige Open Gym in Kiangan, Ifugao.

They were part of the 109 IRC graduates who were able to finish the first cycle of the camp’s six-month community-based drug rehabilitation program which includes physical, psychological, spiritual reformation, and capacity building and skills training to prevent them from returning to drugs and forming new addictions, as well as, to assist them to become productive citizens of the country.

The IRC follows the framework of the Yakap Bayan, the inter-agency project of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) which features the third pillar of the National Drug Rehabilitation Program (NDRP) or the Aftercare, Reintegration and Transformation Support for Recovering Drug Dependents.

Ang hangad natin dito, mabago ang mga puso niyo, mabago ang mga isip niyo, mabago natin ang mga buhay nyo (Through the program, we hope to be able to change your hearts, change the way you think and change your lives),” said DSWD Assistant Secretary for Special Concerns Anton Hernandez during his inspirational message to the campers.

He also encouraged the campers to use their energy to be productive members of their community by veering away from drugs and other vices and to show others that former drug addicts can change for the better.

“Kaya ang hamon ko sa inyo, kailangan ipakita natin sa buong Pilipinas, sa buong mundo, ganito kami sa Pilipinas, ganito kami sa Ifugao. Ipakita natin na pwedeng magbago ang dating mga adik (My challenge to you is to show the whole Philippines, to show the whole world that drug addicts in the Philippines, in Ifugao, can change),” he affirmed.

Aside from recovery and rehabilitative programs, Yakap Bayan also features the unification of government programs and services of national government agencies (NGAs) such as the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Department of Agriculture (DA), Department of Health (DOH), Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) to provide aftercare services such as livelihood and skills trainings, and capacity-building activities, including trainings on disaster response.

Two weeks ago, two of the IRC graduates joined other disaster responders of the Kiangan Barangay Fire Brigade at the 4th Regional Fire Olympics at Lamut, Ifugao and were declared over-all champions. They are set to compete against other teams of fire responders at the national level in Cebu in the next few months.

Lastly, Asec. Hernandez challenged the campers to help in building the nation.

“Let us weave into reality the dream of a better, stronger, and more progressive Pearl of the Orient, our country,” he ended. ###