TO HELP PEOPLE under the influence of drugs find a new direction in life, Fazenda da Esperança offers a different way of dealing with vices. Fazenda’s program does not dwell so much on people with a history of drugs; it leads them towards the discovery of God’s love as a source of love, hope and fulfillment. It does not follow the system of other rehabilitation centers whose military-spelled modules for their patients tend to be expensive. Fazenda is a literal farm of hope that helps in the problem of addiction in the country, at no cost, with the concurrence of their clientele.
Having had our spiritual fill from the Fazenda flock, Kuya Jowell asked me to accompany him procure refreshments for our entourage; the Ticzon contingent was with Ate Marivic, and Jowell assumed they would be busy taking the little girls around as to mind our absence. Frances is still a toddler and an easy ward but three-year-old Noelle is a piece of work. She is eager to know many things, catches every curiosity and nothing escapes her notice. Oh to witness the world’s wit through a precocious bundle of guileless gumption!
Unlike other rehab centers, Fazenda does not practice forced confinement or supervision by trained professionals. It does not use detoxification drugs or psychological counseling nor does it employ behavior-modification therapies. Fazenda’s drug rehab program is inspired by the Focolare movement’s spirituality of unity.
Having had enough of the cathedral’s charms, and the attendant photographic pursuit, we agreed that we were ready for lunch. The children were considered when KFC was chosen as the chow venue. Most of the cathedral crowd dispersed towards the food outlets lining General Luna Street so Kuya Melvin took Noelle for a stroll while Ate Nessa breastfed Frances. Until the throng thinned.
Focolare, like Fazenda, is an international organization that promotes the ideals of unity and universal brotherhood. It was founded as a religious movement in 1943 in Trento, Northern Italy by Chiara Lubich. Primarily Roman Catholic, it operates in 182 nations, has over two million adherents and is recognized by the Pope. The word “focolare” translates into “hearth” or “family fireside”. While Focolare is the common sobriquet given to this body, its official name, as approved by the Roman Catholic Church is Opera di Maria or “Work of Mary”.
Marivic wanted to see Fort Santiago, a stone’s throw away from the eateries, and was met with a consensual nod. Little did she know that I was already getting excited as we neared a former haunt. We passed the building which housed my old information bureau. It looked pleasantly refurbished I wondered (nay, wished) if the Fort was similarly situated. Nessa picked up the entrance tab graciously.
Focolare is co-founder (of Fr. Hans Stapel’s) Fazenda, one of the movement’s projects for the needy like Bukas Palad, Sulyap, “Carpentry” and other endeavors, which they deem as all part of the works of Mary. The current president is Maria Voce, who was elected in 2008.
The souvenir stalls along the left side of the Fort used to hold relics of the Spanish era such as cannon, chariot, and carroza. I remembered it was behind one such carroza where I took a lovely date, a fling that did not prosper. Blinking the memory away, I looked ahead and confirmed happily that the place was busily going through renovation. Wish come true.
Over the years, Fazenda’s unique therapies evolved into a successful rehab program founded on three key principles: spiritual life, work ethic and community life. Daily life in the Farm consists of the rosary, scripture reading, and Mass when a priest is present. When there is no celebrant, Mass is celebrated in the chapel within the center led by a sister (of the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus) so that patients can receive the Holy Eucharist.
I told my fellow happy pilgrims that the yawning gap undergoing construction in the middle of the ruins once held the chamber theater of plays staged by PETA’s kalinangan ensemble. Wistfully, my memory ticked off “Hanggang Dito na Lamang at Marami Pong Salamat,” “Minsa’y Isang Gamu-Gamo'” and “Sisa” as some of the live dramas I had the privilege to watch.
Unlike other treatment facilities, Fazenda does not charge fees but every patient must work to support himself. The ethic is based on the principle that “Where there is work, every patient will be self-sufficient and self-sustaining.” This commitment to the work ethic becomes vital to the total component of the Fazenda regimen and therapy. Which is faithful to the Gospel admonition, “He who does not work, does not eat” and makes it meaningful and relevant. For through hard work, the patients overcome the feeling of being a useless person, one that many drug dependents lived with for many years as they lost everything to drugs. Thus starts the process of change and therefore gives them strength to quit. Every Fazenda farm’s goal is to build an environment of family, where patients can grow in their own way and at their own pace. Giving and receiving unconditional love and forgiveness, inspired by spirituality of unity, founded on the commandment of Jesus, “Love one another as I have loved you.”
I don’t remember a Rizal Shrine then and was glad that, next to his monument in Luneta, our national hero has finally merited a reverential memorial from his metropolitan fellows. The enclosure was air-conditioned and a security guard (not dressed as a katipunero like his cathedral counterparts) offered the information that the exit is located upstairs. I was able to relate to that when I was exiting and heard his fellow guard call the attention of a couple who was about to enter through the way out).
Four of the testimonies which the video showed were by male patients:
– Nung sa labas ako, grabe yung araw-araw kong pamumuhay, tumitira ko ng drugs, umiinom ako ng alak, lahat ng bisyo, wala akong katahimikan pag sa labas ako. (When I was outside, my daily living was terrible, I was into drugs, I drank, did all vices, I had no peace of mind.) Noon, akala ko lagi akong tama, iyon na ako. Pwede palang alisin. (Then, I thought I was always right, (permanently) like that. I realized it can be erased.) He was saying all this while, with a chef’s cap on, he was busy in the kitchen.
– I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired kasi nakakapagod na rin talaga, naging cycle na (because it is really tiresome, it has become a cycle). Now my conscience speaks to me and it says nakakahiyang di kumilos dahil nagtatrabaho yung iba (it’s shameful not to move because the others are working). It deepened my faith in and relationship with God.
– We’re very much in touch with our spiritual side. Somehow, by talking to Him, I feel a very good relationship with Him. I’m thankful for the life I have, to work in the field, pasteurize milk, living simple without the use of drugs. A hard day’s work is a very good accomplishment for me. I’m thankful to ask help from and give help to others, for this place where I met God.
– Dito lang ako nagkaroon ng (it’s only here that I had) peace of mind (said choked up and in tears).
The shrine was more like a glorified exhibit highlighting Rizal’s legacies to the land. I took a glimpse of his cell and the courtroom where he was tried. There were framed pictures galore, an audio-visual room and memorabilia underscoring his great patriotism. I could not help take a picture of his mounted advocacy of Social Equality. And posted it later on facebook with the comment, “Did Rizal die in vain, I wonder.”
This kind of rehab program started in the Philippines when the parish priest of Mary Immaculate in Las Piñas offered a piece of land in Bangad, Milagros, Masbate to accommodate the first group of missionaries and volunteers in the country who came in June 2003. Some years later, a house for girls emerged, then another one for boys, in Naga, Camarines Sur, where 100 boys and 15 girls went through the treatment. Most of them remained in Fazenda and actively participated in the spiritual exercise of the community through prayers and sharing. Some opted to volunteer and assist those still undergoing the process. For the past 10 years, the Fazenda community is convinced that drug addiction or any kind of vices can be overcome through prayer and love.
We took ample advantage of that serendipitous visit to the Walled City as can be gleaned from the “portfolio” of photographs each of us took. Our next stop was the 26th floor of the Bocobo Residences, where the Ticzon foursome resides. I was expecting Noelle to regale us with her “hosting” skills and was not disappointed when she watched cartoons instead. I could not blame her for being a child because touring the Fort was a tall order for any adult (not so for young couples), ask her Dad who was carrying her on piggyback half the time. But she was quick to oblige later on with her nursery rhymes and “Angel of God.”
Fazenda is the first of its kind in Asia and the only one in the Philippines with an 82% recovery rate based on a one-year rehabilitation program.
Before we left their condo unit, Noelle said something that really cracked me up. And made me her fan forever. Upon entering, we all removed our footwear. While Melvin’s Mom, Ate Lyn, and Marivic doted on their grandchildren, Jowell and I uploaded the pictures. Nessa left to make her pediatric round at PGH so Melvin assumed the task of asking our choice of snacks, which he and Clarisse served shortly. Until Nessa returned and we were all ready for dinner at nearby Robinsons, the bill of which Marivic footed. While we were putting our shoes back on, Noelle remarked, “Grandpa didn’t remove his!”
I thank God for putting me in the midst of a life-changing milestone, Jowell and Marivic for welcoming me to their weekender, and Melvin and Nessa for their warm hospitality and lovely daughters. All on short notice. It doesn’t take a well-planned trip to somewhere far and exotic and expensive and sacred to feel what pilgrims experience. Sometimes, a casual invitation to a cathedral celebration can open the floodgates of family and pedagogy and community and unity and spirituality and joy and peace and hope and lessons of a lifetime.
Sources: wikipedia, youtube
ABRAHAM DE LA TORRE