Official Publication of the Philippine Information Agency Bicol Regional Office, in cooperation with the RIAC-REDIRAS - RDC Bicol

Monday, October 10, 2016

The Story of Leonie: Drug user turned partner for change

LEGAZPI CITY, Oct. 10 (PIA) -- "Getting into prohibited drugs or being dead drunk will not at all solve one’s problem,” Leonie said.

Leonie Buhion Belarmino, 51 years old of Bulan Sorsogon, is a recovered drug dependent.

 He is married with three children, all boys,  but bad fate has dismantled his family.

The third child among 11 siblings, Leonie is born to parents whose income is just enough to support the family especially that all their children are in school. Life was tough for the family so he decided to help his father earn a living.

After school, he would go with his father fishing and on weekends he would sell fresh fish. Leonie shared that he finds happiness when he is able to help his father earn a living.

“Pangarap ng aming mga magulang na kami ay makapagtapos ng pag-aaral,(It’s our parent's desire to see all of us finish our studies.)," Leonie said.

Getting into drugs

 Through peer pressure, Leonie started to drink “tuba” at the age of 13.

Tuba” otherwise known as coconut wine is a sweet, fresh or mildly fermented sap taken from tripping the young expanded flowers of the coconut.

For Leonie and friends, it is the most affordable instead of buying hard liquor. But it was from this coconut wine where Leonie started his vices.

Since Leony never stopped from earning a living even at an early age, he always have some penny in his pocket.

Influenced by his friends and some schoolmates, he started to take cough syrup and marijuana. Addiction greatly affected his family especially that he already started to sell his personal belongings and tried to get his mother’s medicine.

His mother has a heart ailment of which one of the prescribed medicines is a tranquilizer.He started using this prohibited drugs in 1997 causing big problem to his family.

Feeling unwanted and with the thought of getting away from addiction, Leonie went to Manila where he worked as a promo boy for eight years but things didn't turned out that way.

“Lalo akong nalulong sa droga kasi yong tinitirhan kong pinsan ay gumagamit din ng bawal na gamot”. Meron akong perang pambili hindi lang ng marijuana kundi shabu at minsan tinikman ko na rin ang cocaine, (The more that I get addicted in Manila because the cousin I'm staying with is also a drug user. I'm earning so I could afford to buy not only marijuana but shabu and even cocaine.)," Leonie added.

His father learned of his addiction so in August 20,1986 he was brought  to the Psychiatric Department of Quezon City General Hospital where he stayed for three months rehabilitation. Upon discharge he was able to return back to work and got married the next year.

"Pinanindigan ko ang isang mabuting ama, inayos ang paghahanap buhay at pilit kong kinalimutan ang droga,(I stood by my family as a good father, worked hard and really tried to forget drugs)," he said.

Life’s Struggle

After marriage, Leonie lived with his family in Laguna. However his work as a salesman demands being away from his family most of the time.

One day he learned that his wife left their abode with another man, bringing with her their children. Adding in to his burden is the death of his his eldest son due to vehicular accident.

He still tried and did everything to win back his wife but to no avail.

His frustrations pushed him to return to his addiction.

“Ang paghihithit ng shabu ay ang aking paraan para makalimot sa aking madilim na karanasan sa buhay, (Drugs was my way to forget all those experiences)," Leonie sighed with tears falling on his cheeks.

He vividly recalled losing his job, money, friends and contact with his family for almost seven months.

"I had acute psychological and behavioral problem. Ako ay naging taong grasa. Para makakain, ako ay namalimos o kumuha ng mga tira-tira sa mga restoran o carenderia, (I became a psychotic vagrant, lived in the street, begged and ate left over foods from restaurants)," Leonie said further baring that he was able to reach Manila from Pangasinan on foot.

However, his family didn't gave up looking for him.He was found by his brother and brought to Mandaluyong Rehabilitation Center for treatment. He was then brough back to Bicol where he was admitted at the Department of Psychiatry of Bicol Medical Center in Pili, Camarines Sur.

After three months, he returned to his family but was still taking shabu from time to time while his psychotic behavior recurred.

Family’s Support

His family's support has been a big factor in his recovery.

He was then admitted at the Malinao Treatment and Rehabilitation Center (MTRC)in Malinao, Albay for one year. Upon discharge he went back to his hometown and stayed with his father.

His siblings funded his capital to start a small business. He invested the amount in a buy and sell business while his brother brought him a tricycle for easier mobility of goods.

“Malaki ang tulong ng aking pamilya sa aking pagbabago. Hindi nila ako pinapabayaan, (The continous support of my family is a big help to my recovery)," he said.

Since his family and other siblings are just staying in one compound, Leonie had all the time to bond with them and have someone to talk to.

Realization and Intervention

 Leonie realized that drug addiction has messed his life. He wanted to change for good.

 According to Leonie his stay in the rehabilitation center paved way to let him see life in a different scale.

"I decided to be back to the Lord. Detoxification and withdrawal from drugs was the most difficult in the rehabilitation program. But with determination I was able to surpass these difficulties.” said Leonie

Having shown good performance while in the rehabilitation center, Leonie was identified and qualified to be with the intervention group of the START.

During the intervention, the START provided medical treatment and recovery through spiritual strengthening of a person. It also provided him a cash grant of P5, 000.00 for him to start livelihood activities.

From the grant, Leonie bought a motorized banca and had it rented giving him an income of at least 500.00 per week.

Leonie proudly said that he is now able to help his brothers and sisters provide a living for their father and now able to send financial support to his two son.

Now a partner for change

Leonie is now a strong partner in the advocacy campaign to educate and prepare families and communities on the adverse effects of drugs.

He is also actively involved in the promotion of family life enrichment activities especially those who are recovering from drug dependency to equip them with parenting and life skills to ensure a drug free home.


The Strategy Toward Acceptance, Reintegration and Transformation (START), which was piloted in Bicol region, is one of the DSWD’s program which focuses on the organization of recovering drug dependents who will later become the advocacy arm at the community level and shall be equipped through the provision of the following existing basic, social and psychological services such as Assistance In Crisis Situation (AICS), economic and livelihood assistance, emergency shelter assistance and referral services.(MAL/SAA/DSWD5-PIA5/Albay)

No comments:

Post a Comment