Light at the end of the tunnel

By: Ador Vincent S. Mayol March 18,2017 - 08:54 PM

With a flaming heart as background, Lia narrates how she was transformed from being a heavy drug addict and prostitute to becoming a woman of faith and hope. (CDN PHOTO/ADOR VINCENT MAYOL)

A woman’s rebirth amid the evils of illegal drugs.

There is hope for drug addicts, including those many have written off as hopeless cases. Their stories and struggles are real. They held on to God and found their way back.

Today, we begin a three-part series on the lives of people who are living proof that even the worst of drug addicts can change, and of the men and women helping them get there.

The first in the series is the story of Lia. It is not her real name to protect her privacy and that of her children’s. The interview was conducted with the consent of the subjects and the Dilaab Foundation Inc.

When she was 14 years old, Lia had one ardent wish.

“Gusto kaayo ko makahuman sa akong pagtuon (I really wanted to finish my studies),” recalls Lia, now 40 years old.

Born to a poor family, the eldest of six siblings thought of education as the only way out of their bleak state. But her life did not turn out the way she had wanted.

Lia was forced to drop out of school after the fifth grade since her parents could no longer afford to make both ends meet. Despondent, she left home and family, bringing her school report card in the hope that she would find an employer who would send her back to school.

Pia, a native of Marikina City, traveled to Cebu and found work in Barangay Subangdaku in Mandaue City as a househelp to a couple who promised to send her to school.

But three months later, before she could return to school, a harrowing experience completely changed her life.

While lying down in bed at night, her male employer, whose wife was away from home at that time, came, stripped off her blanket, pointed a knife at her and turned the lights off. Lia tried to resist but was overpowered.

“Na-rape ko. (I was raped),” she says, her voice still trembling from the memory of the night she lost her innocence.

Lia left her boss’ house, leaving all her things, except for her school report card.

Far away from home, she met girls her age who showed her the ropes of surviving in a cruel world.

One night, she was led by two female companions to a ship where she met a radio operator who offered her a glass of cold orange drink.

After consuming the liquid, she felt strange and lost consciousness. Lia later found herself naked in a bed inside the ship. Trembling in fear, Lia put on her dress and crawled her way out of the room and off the ship.

LIA reaches out her hand to touch an image of the crucified Christ at the International Eucharistic Congress’ Pavilion. Amid her dark past, she says God never gave up on her and instead led her back to Him.  (CDN PHOTO/ ADOR VINCENT MAYOL)

LIA reaches out her hand to touch an image of the crucified Christ at the International Eucharistic Congress’ Pavilion. Amid her dark past, she says God never gave up on her and instead led her back to Him.

Molested once again, Lia wallowed in despair and blamed God for her misery.

“Aw, gusto diay sa Ginoo nga malapukan ko og maayo, sige pakit-on nako siya kon unsaon nakog paglapok ang akong kaugalingon. Imbis ako rang tiil ang nalapukan, gitiwas gyud nako ang akong tibuok nga lawas,” says Lia, breaking down in tears.

(Since God really wanted me to get dirty, then I would show Him how to make myself muddy. Instead of just dirtying my feet, I decided to completely cover myself in mud.)

Path to perdition

And the dirtier, the better, it seemed, as Lia turned to illegal drugs — a habit that would shape her life for the next 26 years.

“In using illegal drugs, I became daring. I wasn’t ashamed of anything,” she said in Cebuano.

Lia’s account chronicles the tales of drug addicts who lived in their own prison, taking refuge in short-lived comforts of illicit drugs.

From one drug addict to another, the stories are similar. Factors such as peer pressure, curiosity, exposure to physical and sexual abuse, stress and parental guidance greatly affect a person’s likelihood of drug use.

Aside from shabu (methamphetamine), Lia also used Nubain, a restricted injectable painkiller, which is one of the country’s most abused drugs.

Drugs became her way of life, providing her with fleeting joy and pleasure.

To sustain her habit, Pia turned to prostitution, entertaining up to three customers every night. She also had five live-in partners.

“Mora ko og langaw nga bisan asa lang dapo. (I was like a fly that perched everywhere).”

In 1994, only 17 years old, Lia got pregnant. She did not know who the father of the child she bore was. She never cared much about herself, but Lia never thought of having an abortion.

In fact, she later adopted two other infants who were abandoned by commercial sex workers like her.

Miserable life

But Lia says she was never much of a mother.

Her son, now 22, tells Cebu Daily News that having a mother who was a drug addict was an ordeal nobody will want to experience.

“I told myself that it could have been better if I did not belong to this family. I don’t mind if I sleep on the streets as long as my parents are not hooked on drugs,” says Tim (not his real name).

Since his mother was out of their house most of the time, Tim could only study between house chores. At times, he even had to bring his three-year-old brother to school.

To earn money, Tim went all over Mandaue City to collect garbage for a fee. In a day, he earned about P250. But much of his earnings didn’t go to him. Lia would frisk Tim and force him to give up P200, leaving him with just P50.

He also endured his mother’s verbal abuse.

The several times he begged her to stop using drugs, she would let out a string of abusive words, including telling him he had no right to lecture her because she would have been better off raising pigs that she could sell instead of a son who was useless.

Although Tim knew his mother did not mean what she said, he was badly hurt.

But Tim has a lifeline.

As his mother got more hooked on drugs, Tim turned to God.

Every night, he says, he kneeled down in prayer, begging for divine intervention, that Lia would find her way out of being enslaved to vices.

Tim’s prayer was heard.

‘I yield’

In July 2016, when the government introduced Oplan Tokhang — a campaign that involves policemen knocking on houses of drug suspects and asking them to surrender — Lia decided to cooperate for fear that she might get killed.

She turned herself over to the Subangdaku Police Station, where she was listed as the number one drug user in the village.

“At my age, I never expected to change myself. Why stop only when I already spent much for this vice,” Lia recalls telling herself.

But God, she says, never grew tired in calling sinners back to Him.

Without knowing where it would lead her, Lia joined a community-based rehabilitation program for drug dependents, going through the lengthy process of recovery and healing.

New life

The program known as Lahat Bangon or “Labang” was jointly run by barangay officials of Subangdaku and a priest whose project was later adopted by the Archdiocese of Cebu in the hopes of saving drug addicts.

Lia finally decided she had enough of a disjointed life, hooked on illegal drugs and engaged in the flesh trade.

“I was tired. It was as if my soul was looking for its body. I go everywhere just to look for happiness but to no avail,” she said.

Lia returned to God like a prodigal daughter who found her way back home.

“I realized that in every difficult situation, God was there to help me. It was I who rejected Him. Indeed, real happiness comes from God alone.

Without Him, we will never be truly happy,” she says.

Today, Lia says that leaving behind her old life was the best decision she has ever made.

“Everything I lost, I got back — the love from my family, the trust from neighbors,” she said.


Sometime in August 2016, Lia was cooking food at home when her son suddenly called her “mama” — a word she never heard from him for some time.

“My son used to call me ‘Hoy.’ So when I heard him call me mama, I hid and cried. In my life now, there is nothing more important than my family and God,” she said.

Tim now says that if he has to do his life all over again, he will still choose Lia for his mother.

“Despite all she went through, I’m still proud of her. She took care of me, and I owe her my life,” he says.

It’s been eight months since Lia has given up drugs and her drug tests were proof that she has kept her promise to stay clean.

“For me, hope begins now. I fell over and over again, but I stood up. Just give me the chance to prove my worth,” says Lia.

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TAGS: addict, anti-illegal drug campaign, Dilaab Foundation Inc, drug user, drugs, Mandaue City, Marikina City, Subangdaku

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