MILAGROS, Masbate — They had been searching for healing everywhere, some having spent much money, only to find the peace they had been looking for at Fazenda da Esparança (Bukid ng Pag-asa), a ranch that offers a special way to help drug dependents.
Combining farm work with spiritual activities, the center at Bangad village in Milagros town, Masbate province seeks to enlighten drug dependents willing to be healed.
Here, there are no psychiatrists and psychologists and the “boys” are never treated as “patients.”
Fazenda-Philippines director Roland Mühlig, a 28-year-old German volunteer, said the center runs under three core principles: spiritual life, work ethics, and community life.
He said the “boys” are given work in the farm, and taught perseverance, discipline, and unity. They maintain a rice field, a dairy farm, a vegetable garden, and a small bakery eight hours daily.
The Fazenda is the only supplier of fresh milk and the only source of lettuce in the whole of Masbate. It is also known for its cassava cake, cookies, and flavored milk.
The boys at the Fazenda are now also into bee-keeping and T-shirt-printing.
The revenues from the boys’ ranch work sustain the center, which offers free rehabilitation.
Roland said the experience at the Fazenda is important to the boys as it makes them realize they are also capable of doing something productive, that they can sustain themselves.
“Most of them, when they were still outside, were idle or got involved in stealing,” Roland said in Filipino. “Here, discovering that they can do it, their fruitfulness helps restore their dignity.”
Christopher Chan, 34, who has finished the Fazenda program in February this year, said aside from the free service, he “liked the idea that you work here for your own keep.”
Having stayed previously in a government-run rehabilitation center, Christopher said there are no other centers like the Fazenda where there is a family atmosphere among the “boys” and the “volunteers.”
“We would watch movies on Friday and Saturday nights. Where else can you find a center like this, where sometimes, we go to the beach and island-hop?” Christopher said.
But above all, he added, what he cherished most was having been taught how to meditate and live the Gospel daily. “We were not automatically good and kind people the moment we entered the Fazenda premises. The constant challenge was for our lives to be gradually transformed,” he said.
He added that the Fazenda life taught them to pray first thing every day. They were also taught how to love and live with the people around them.
Christopher said, even now that he is back to his life in Manila, he continues to live the lifestyle he had learned at the Fazenda.
Roland, who started as a volunteer for the Fazenda in Germany when he was 19 years old, said they only accept “boys” who are willing to undergo the rehabilitation program.
“Here you can see that our gates are just left open. We have fences but they were built for cows and not (to restrain) humans,” Roland said in Filipino.
“For as long as the boy is not willing, even if you detain him for months, he will not change,” Roland said.
He lamented that some rehabilitation centers simply focus on educating their patients that drug abuse is wrong.
“They do not really provide an alternative (lifestyle) for the boys,” Roland said.
Settled on a 352-hectare land donated by Fr. Pierino’s Mary Immaculate Development Foundation Inc., the center was built through donations.
(For inquiries, call Roland at mobile phone number 09155014041 or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org)