Learning from experience

ISN'T it amazing how our experiences that have been a product of our own decisions, both good and bad, shape us?

For Ryan Espinesin Aba-a, what he thought were bad decisions when he was younger turned out to be a great lesson in making him realize what should be valued most in life.

Aba-a, born on November 23, 1984, finished his elementary education at SIR Elementary School and high school education at Davao City National High School.

He started going out with his so-called "barkada" in high school who had influenced him to take on different vices such as smoking, drinking and drugs.

"First year pa lang ko sulod-sulod na 'ko ug mga barkada kay siyempre first year gud pa-choy choy (I was still in first year when I joined a group of friends because in first year you want to be cool)," he said.

Aba-a said that those vices, especially taking illegal drugs with his friends, became his lifestyle until he was in fourth year high school.

Until one day, he was caught by authorities together with his friends while engaging a pat session.

"It was only when I was caught when my mother knew that I was into drugs since I never created much stir at home," he said in vernacular.

Among the 12 of them who were arrested, Aba-a said that he had it worst because the drugs were found in his possession and those he thought were his friends denied involvement.

"Mao toy nakasakit ato kay pagtuo nimo, salig na kaayo ka kay amigo mo pero dautun ra diay ka nila (That was the most painful part because you believed in them and trusted them. They destroyed me instead)," he said.

Aba-a was detained at the San Pedro Police Station for three days.

"Luoy kaayo akong mama kay nanghangyo gyud siya na makagawas ko ato (I pitied my mom during that time, she was pleading with the authorities to set me free)," he said.

Aba-a was released from jail through the help of his mother. Just when he thought that the case of possession of illegal drugs was not filed, a warrant of arrest came just in time for his birthday.

"I thought it was all over but a subpoena came and I needed to hide from them because we still did not have money for bail and I don't want to be caught again," he said.

When they already had their needed money Aba-a appeared and went through a series of court hearings where he pleaded guilty.

Aba-a, who was still a minor during that time, was placed in the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) rehabilitation center for drug dependents.

"I was not expecting them to put me in the DSWD rehab, I thought I would be placed straight in prison," he said.

What Aba-a thought was a 15-day detention turned out to be for one year. There he learned how to do basic household chores like cooking and doing laundry while overcoming his drug addiction.

"During my withdrawal stage, I was angry all the time. But I showed them how I really wanted to change and my houseparent saw that I had the potential to change. They even found it hard to believe that I was placed in there for drug addiction," he said.

Aba-a, who was the youngest among three siblings, realized during his time at the rehab center the real importance of family especially his mother.

While undergoing rehab, Aba-a still continued his fourth year in high school and saw school as a way of redeeming himself.

The judge did not want him to stop schooling so he was sent and picked up from school religiously until he graduated in 2001.

He went to college at Holy Cross of Davao College where he took Bachelor of Science in Economics major in Management Commerce.

While in college, Aba-a tried taking illegal drugs again until he was in second year college.

"Narealize ra jud nako tong time na dili nako gnahan kay murag lain na kaayo ba katong pag-gawas na sa akong pag-omangkon, anak sa akong ate kay murag naa na koy laing kalingawan (It just occurred to me that I had to stop my vice because it was bad. At that time too, my sister gave birth to my niece, who took much of my time)," he said.

His barkada drifted away since he was no longer taking drugs.

"Pag-dili nako dili na gyud (Once I said that my drug using days were over, they were really over)," he said.

Aba-a graduated college in 2005 and worked in a local mall until he decided to work for DSWD in 2009.

"Proud kaayo nako akong mga houseparents na nagbag-o ko didto ko nag-trabaho (My house parents are proud of me because I have changed and that I now work with them)," he said.

Aba-a is currently the DSWD city roving bookkeeper and cash card in charge in Davao City and Samal for the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program.

He also now has his own family with his wife Amor Degal Aba-a and blessed with one daughter named Tyra Elisha.

Aba-a through what he had experienced, also helps other children who are going through drug addiction in their community.

"I always advice them to give importance to their studies and their families," he said.

Taking his experience with him, Aba-a said that he had no regrets because he knew that it was of greater purpose.

"Gwapo pud na nakaagi ko ato kay at least karon naka-apekto pod siya sa akong pagkatao ba, kabalo nako kinsa akong duolan kabalo nako kinsay masaligan (I did not regret the experience because this shaped me. I know now whom to go to and whom to trust)," he said. (KGL)

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