An Open Letter to My Country

To my fellow countrymen,

For the past two years, I have seen several reports on local TV about the death of about 20,000 Filipinos due to the drug war. I’ve watched and heard the cries of family members as they witnessed their sons, daughters, fathers, and mothers, friends and relatives, murdered before their eyes. I’ve watched and read so many fellow Filipinos promoting and supporting these killings; set strong in their beliefs that this is what the country needs, that these people are the real problem and that they have no hope of ever changing, and I’m here to tell you that is a lie.

Growing up, I’ve always known that my father was a former drug addict. At the young age of 15, he already started with recreational drugs, and throughout his life would go through four different rehabilitation centers and was thrown in jail twice. He went through drug addiction for 23 long years and throughout that time tried to get his life in order, but always failed. The reality is drug addiction is not a choice, it’s a disease. “Addiction is a chronic, often relapsing brain disease that causes compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences to the addicted individual and to those around him or her” (Gould, 2018). My father was what many would call a hopeless case.

Dad grew up in a dysfunctional family. His father, my grandfather, was a good provider but not a loving father. He was verbally and physically abusive, and never really showed any appreciation for his children’s efforts. So my father sought happiness elsewhere and fell into substance abuse. He found temporary joy in drugs, and in the sixties, it was something “cool” for most to try. For many though, it was a phase. For him, it was almost half of his life. I’m not here to condemn my grandfather. He himself did not grow up with a dad of his own as my great grandfather died during World War II, and for many of my grandfather’s faults, I truly believed he loved my father as he did not give up on my dad.

This I believe is what has been lost in our country, our hope in others. My grandfather was always there for my dad. He sent him to school, always giving him a second chance when he fell short. He saved no expense just to help him overcome his sickness and though he was angry, he never cut him off from their family. He knew that he could change and eventually he did. My dad would go on to speak about his triumph over addiction, he spoke in conferences about his struggle and how he overcame it through his faith in God and the support of the people around him. For 16 years, he would not touch a drop of any abusive substance.

However, in 2015 the unthinkable happened. My father relapsed and I watched as the man I admired for his strength fall back into his darkest moments. It was a struggle for me and my family, and I would never romanticize what we went through during this period. My father spent thousands of pesos a week on drugs, endangering the financial stability of our family. Drug pushers would come to our home with the substances he bought and we feared for our safety. He was irritable and easily angered and although he never hurt us physically, we were never sure if we were truly safe around him. We were scared of policemen and other people finding out what had happened. To say it was a difficult time is an understatement.

But we continued to love our father and believed in his ability to overcome addiction. We did not give up on him. We continued to show him kindness and to be there for him. Although there were moments when we fought and were vocal about our anger and disappointment, we made it clear to him that we believed in his ability to fight back. Today, my dad is clean again. He has not touched drugs for almost two years now, but if he does we will continue to be there for him. I admire my father’s ability “to rise again.” Despite his many failures, he continues to grow, change, and evolve. He continues to learn from his mistakes.

Growing up as the daughter of a former drug addict, he has taught me to do the same, but most of all to love those who have made mistakes and remind them of the goodness they have within them.

We must not forget that drug addicts are first and foremost human beings who are capable of goodness, change, and growth. They have the ability within themselves to overcome addiction if we give them the opportunity to. I firmly believe that most of them want to heal from this sickness but if we kill them, we rob them of their chance at a better life. They are not the problem, there are avoidable circumstances (such as poverty, domestic abuse, loneliness, and depression, among others) that if we choose to focus on, I know we can solve this issue.

The battle is not with people, it’s the circumstances in which they are in and we, as soldiers, need to be armed with love, hope, and faith in one another.

Written by Dorothy Louise Cudo, WYA Asia Pacific Intern Alumna