W e're all in this together. No matter how dark one’s past, no one is hopeless. Those two powerful messages resonated loud and clear at the San Sebastian Church on October 21 as over 400 former drug dependents gathered to hear a Mass celebrated by Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle to mark the first anniversary of Sanlakbay (One Journey), the Archdiocese of Manila’s active response to the drugs problem in the country.
The first message was demonstrated by the coming together of a number of entities, notably the Catholic Church, represented by Cardinal Tagle and Caritas Manila; the PNP, represented by NCRPO Chief Oscar Agbayalde, and Rotary, represented by Rotary Club of Makati Pres. Jun Jun Dayrit. The second message was proclaimed from the pulpit by Cardinal Tagle in a homily that welcomed the drug surrenderees in the Church’s loving embrace. Also involved in the program are the Dept. of Health, Ateneo and the University of Sto. Tomas.
With Pres. Jun Jun were PN Bimbo Mills, Dir. Chris Ferarreza, Dir. Peter Manzano, Derrick Tan, Bong Gumban and First Ann Cecille.
One of the highlights of the program was the turnover by Pres. Jun Jun of the Club’s donation to the rehabilitation effort–a brand new van, laptop, printer and smart TV—to Caritas, which is running the program. On hand to accept the goods were Cardinal Tagle and Fr. Bobby de la Cruz, minister of Sanlakbay. Some 400 loaves of Gardenia bread from RC Alabang were distributed to the guests.
Since the start of the program a year ago, a total of 139 former drug dependents, who surrendered to police authorities under PNPO’s Oplan Tokhang, have graduated from the program, among them 52 from four parishes who graduated last Saturday. At present, there are 12 parishes enlisted in the program, with 18 more expressing intention to sign up.
The program is rooted on the Church conviction that rehabilitation, not punishment, is the better option in getting substance abusers to turn a new leaf.