Recovery Advocacy in the Philippines Bill White and Emily G. Mora


Birgit Schmidt

International headlines abound of the harsh drug policies and killing of addicted people in the Philippines, but the prevailing mantra of the international recovery advocacy movement--recovery by any means necessary under any circumstances--is nowhere more evident than in the Philippines. There is, in fact, a rising recovery advocacy movement in the Philippines mobilizing people in recovery, affected families, addiction treatment and allied service professionals, and key community leaders. The latest manifestation of this movement is the Recovery Summit: Sustaining and Celebrating Life in Recovery held at the Grand Caprice Convention Center, Cagayan de Oro City, Philippines on August 1-2, 2018, with more than 100 people attending.

Opening speakers at the Recovery Summit included Cagayan de Oro City Mayor Oscar S. Moreno, Archbishop Antonio Ledesma, and Country Director Brandon Hudspeth of the International Narcotics Law Enforcement Bureau of the US State Department. Plenary Speakers included Clemente Abella of BERA, Serenity In The Steps, Ms. Therese Castillo, Dr. Gina Hechanova, Dr. Violeta Bautista, Martin Infante, Richardson and Christian of Fazenda De Esperanza, Mr. Jonathan C. representing Narcotics Anonymous, Ms. Baby Ruth La Victoria speaking of her lived experience of recovery, and Mr. Keith Navarozza representing the Recovery Coaches Association of the Philippines (RCAP).

The speakers addressed such issues as how Western concepts of treatment and recovery support could be adapted for the Philippines and how best practices could be identified to support long-term personal and family recovery. Particularly poignant were the speakers who shared their lived experiences as persons in long-term recovery. Former Mayor, Dr Dixon Yasay, facilitated an action planning workshop whose recommendations will be shared with concerned agencies and key governmental leaders. The event received widespread newspaper and television coverage and was followed by three training courses and the International Credentialing exam for addiction professionals (ICAP) and recovery coaches (RC).

Another highlight of the Summit was presenting the Pillars of Recovery Awards to Bob and Emy Garon, acknowledged "Father of Recovery" in the Philippines, International Society of Substance Use Prevention and Treatment Professionals Philippines (ISSUP), Mr. Clemente Abella, Chairman Ed Castillo of Seagulls Foundation and ISSUP, Martin Infante of Self, George Gonzales, Malyn Cristobal of Living Free Foundation, and Rene Francisco of It Works Rehabilitation Center.

Below is the message on behalf of Bill White presented to the awardees and those present.

I speak to you this evening as a person in long-term addiction recovery and as a recovery historian, and am particularly delighted to do so at this Recovery Summit.

More than 15 years ago, I wrote of a new recovery advocacy movement rising around the globe. I described the simple but transformative ideas that were emerging from new and renewed grassroots recovery advocacy organizations. In the earliest days of this movement, we announced that addiction recovery is a reality in the lives of millions of individuals and families, and we offered ourselves as living proof of that proclamation. We noted the many pathways to addiction recovery and declared that all should be cause for celebration. We observed that recovery flourishes in supportive communities, and we affirmed that recovery gives back what addiction has taken from individuals, families, and communities.

We spoke of a day when recovering people and their families and friends would mass as far as the eye could see in cities across the world. We spoke of a day when families who had lost a loved one to addiction would march to save others. We spoke of a coming day when people with days of recovery would march beside men and women with decades of recovery. We spoke of a day when those in Twelve Step fellowships would march arm-in-arm with people in secular and religious pathways of recovery. We spoke of a day when people whose recoveries began in therapeutic communities would stand in fraternity with people in medication-assisted recovery?all of us putting aside our differences and celebrating the growing varieties and styles of recovery experience. We even envisioned a day when people in recovery from countries around the world would stand collectively to carry the advocacy torch. We envisioned a day when people in recovery would extend a broad menu of recovery support services around the globe.

That day, which we thought would take decades to achieve, has arrived. We stand here today as the living fulfillment of that vision. Today, we stand, here and around the world, reaching across geographical, political, racial, and cultural barriers, to mobilize our growing numbers and influence. Today, we stand to reach our goal of engaging those who still suffer and creating a world in which recovery is supported and celebrated. Today, we stand to remind ourselves and to send a message to those still wounded: Recovery is contagious. If you want it, you have to get close to it and stay close to it. You have to catch it and keep catching it. And you have to pass it on to others!?

For far too long we have knelt with bowed heads, not in humility or prayer, but in shame. Today, we stand as one in our gratitude for the fruits of recovery and in our commitment to service. Today, we stand to write the future of addiction recovery in the Philippines and in the World. Today, we stand.

Below are some images from the 2018 Philippines Recovery Summit. As we often say, recovery will find a way.

Recovery Summit 2018 Recovery Summit 2018Action Planning Workshop Action Planning WorkshopPillars of Recovery Awardess Pillars of Recovery AwardsCasual Time with Participants Casual Time with ParticipantsDance of Recovery Celebration Dance of Recovery Celebration