Jake Beltran (in black), a reformed drug surrenderer and graduate of the Ifugao Reflection Camp (IRC), thanks his family for their acceptance and support during his rehabilitation in the camp.
IFUGAO PROVINCE, CAR (DWDD) – Ifugao Province is home to one of the most famous landmarks of the Philippines, the Banaue Rice Terraces for which many tourists — both foreign and domestic alike — travel nine to 11 hours from Manila to marvel at its majestic view.
For Jake Beltran, a tour guide, Ifugao does not only boast of the rice terraces or the lush vegetation and accommodating locals. For him, Ifugao is a haven. It is a place of healing. It is a home for people like him – a drug surrenderer who wants a new chance in life.
Jake is among the 109 “campers” who graduated from the first cycle of the Ifugao Reflection Camp (ICR), a half-way home institution, managed by the provincial government, that features community-based rehabilitation and aftercare programs and services for former drug dependents and drug peddlers with the aim to train into becoming volunteers and advocates, and eventually into leaders in their own communities.
The camp is one of the featured drug rehabilitation centers that follow the Yakap Bayan program of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), the lead implementer of the third pillar of the National Drug Rehabilitation Program (NDRP), the “Aftercare, Transformation, and Reintegration Support for Recovering Drug Dependents.”
Relying on drugs
“Nung second year high school ako natutong gumamit ng marijuana (I was in second year high school when I learned to take marijuana),” Jake said as he recalled how he started his addiction to the illegal herb.
In 2012, he was introduced by a friend to a higher form of prohibited substance.
“Paalis na ako para mag-abroad nang nagyaya yung kasamahan ko ng salu-salo, tapos inalok sa akin yung bisyo (I was leaving for work abroad when one of my companions invited us to a gathering. It was there that I first tasted illegal drugs),” he said.
After three years, he returned to the Philippines full of hope that he can find another job to support his family, but luck was not on his side.
“2015 nung umuwi ako rito, tapos nag-apply ulit ako pero dahil nabigo ako. Niloko kami ng agency, kaya nalungkot at na-frustrate ako kaya bumalik ako sa pagdodroga (It was 2015 when I returned to the country. I tried to apply for another job abroad, but because of my dismay over the recruitment agency that duped us, I returned taking drugs),” said Jake.
His dependence on drugs strained his relationship with his family and shook his religious faith. The problems wrought by his addiction is what prompted him to finally drop the habit.
Located at the compound of the Ifugao Provincial Jail at Tiger Hill in Barangay Baguinge, the IRC became Jake’s special place for reformation and spiritual healing.
“Sa Ifugao Reflection Camp, doon ko natutunan ‘yung mga masamang dulot ng droga, kung paano nito sinisira ang katawan at ang kinabukasan, kasama na ang relasyon sa pamilya (It was at the Ifugao Reflection Camp that I learned the ill effects of drugs. How it destroys your body, your future, and your relationship with your family),” he said.
For six months, Jake participated in six rounds of activities which included physical, psychological, and spiritual therapy sessions, as well as, life skills capacity building and financial literacy trainings.
As early as 4:00 in the morning, Jake and his co-campers wake up to do exercise inside the camp, cook their own meals, and prepare themselves for the series of therapy sessions and personal development trainings such as lectures on the effect of substance abuse and on stress management. They also participated in confidence-boosting activities and spiritual sharing sessions with pastors.
The campers are also allowed to be reintegrated in their own communities through engaging in volunteer work.
“Nagkakaroon na sila ng sense of service, ‘yung volunteerism (They now have a sense of service through volunteerism). The more they are visible in the community, the easier they will become accepted by their neighbors and other members of the community,” explained Joseline Niwane, the provincial social welfare officer and IRC over-all camp coordinator.
The “new” Jake
When asked about the progress of Jake, his father, Demetrio Beltran, proudly exclaimed how his son has changed for the better.
“Ang napansin ko sa anak ko noong pumunta sa IRC, malaki ang kanyang ipinagbago. Iniwasan na niya ang mga bisyo (I noticed that my son changed a lot since he participated in the programs of the IRC. He veered away from vices),” said Demetrio.
Jake also joins Bible fellowship sessions in their community and shares testimonies to the members of the fellowship group about his experience in the camp.
Currently, he supports his family by working as a tricycle driver, and by running a small poultry farm where he raises ducks and native chickens. He is planning to expand his farm to accommodate hog-raising and to set up a vulcanizing shop or motorcycle repair shop from the savings that he acquired from being a tour guide.
He also shared that he is taking part in the disaster response trainings of their municipality, an advocacy also promoted by the IRC.
“Inaabangan namin ang susunod na training sa ropemanship at mountain search and rescue para madagdagan yung kaalaman naming para pagdating man ng mga disaster, may kaalaman at kahandaan na kami. Makakatulong na kami sa kapwa namin at pwedeng makasagip ng buhay kung kailangan (I am still waiting for the next trainings which are on ropemanship and mountain search and rescue. If and when disaster strikes, I will be more prepared because I am trained on disaster response actions. I will be able to help others and help save lives in emergencies,” said Jake. DSWD SMS / MCAG