A PLACE I USED TO CALL…”HOME”! 

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By Lito Gruet

 

Once upon a time, this probinsyano broke into the fashion and movie industry. I rubbed elbows with the elite, worked in 5-star hotels, traveled to different countries to model, came out on tv and the big screen. Then DRUGS came into my life and my world spiraled to oblivion!

Just like that, everything was gone! And the once unthinkable happened. I began sleeping in parked jeepneys, beside church buildings and along the dirty rocks of Roxas Blvd. The slums became my “home”! There, I have seen how drugs destroyed lives and entire families.

I now “rubbed elbows” literally with assorted criminals, because the drug dens were so cramped. As a “celebrity” back then, I used to meet up with friends at Manila Pen, the Hyatt, and many exclusive hotels and clubs. In the slums, I met up with my new “barkadas”… users, pushers, bukas kotse gangs, swindlers, forgers, pickpockets, prostitutes, pimps, snatchers, hold-uppers, human traffickers, pedophiles, carnappers and the usual “ninja cops” who were the “protectors” of many criminals.

The entire neighborhood competed in the drug trade, entire family members were independent pushers. Children as young as 5 became drug runners. Children SOLD by their own parents to buy drugs or used as “collateral” for a drug consignment deal. You know…. the “NORMAL” stuff in a typical drug-infested community where even the Barangay Captain and tanods were also addicts, pushers and “protectors”.

I stayed with a small-time drug pusher and washed even his and his wife’s soiled underwear just to get a free fix. Oh yeah… when I got really, really hungry…I SHOPLIFTED chocolates and cookies in malls to be able to eat! Occasionally, I would rummage thru thrown food packs from fast food outlets for “barely touched” food.

And steal empty soft drink bottles to claim a ‘deposit’ in the sari-sari store…good enough for a Spanish bread or 2. Being arrested and jailed several times did not deter me, nor did the time I was almost killed by drug syndicate members.

The once “glamorous” Pitoy Moreno model became a law-breaker, a homeless, jobless, broke, free-loading drug addict, a willing kasambahay and “utusan”!

Everything didn’t turn out bad though… because I gained a wealth of experience to share! To help educate and warn others. This is God’s purpose I believe! And HE saved me from this enslavement and gave me back my life, dignity, and self-respect after the horrible lesson of life.

I became a rehab center director (Dare) for 10 years and have been “clean” for 19 years now and counting. And all the ailments I was suffering from? Borderline diabetes, hypertension, cystitis (bladder infection), gout, urinary tract infection, hepatitis…. ALL GONE!

And now it is my turn to try to help save lives thru my mission and advocacy to fight drug abuse. Thru social media and being invited to share my testimony and give drug abuse talks, especially to the youth. God is AMAZING!

Yes… I lived life in the slums. And I know what addiction, real hunger, and despair means!

 

 

(This disclaimer informs readers that the views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in the text belong solely to the author, and not necessarily to the author’s employer, organization, committee or other group or individual.)

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