TALAVERA, Nueva Ecija: Their love story redefines the Tagalog romantic novelty song “Isang Linggong Pag-ibig.”
Sarah Concepcion, 22, and Johnel San Pedro, 23, admit they never expected their brief meeting in uncertain times to end up in romance. They used to live in fear daily since the government laid the drug dragnet.
Sarah led a more checkered life. A school dropout, her former boyfriend and his gang mates taught to her to use shabu. It was her first try and soon she became hooked on drugs. She admitted that she wanted to end her life with a drug overdose but something strange stopped her.
Johnel surrendered to his village chairman in Barangay Bagong Sikat at the peak of “Oplan Tokhang,” while Sarah was arrested last month.
They were alleged peddlers and users of shabu who cooled off for a while when the killings during anti-drug operations started in Nueva Ecija.
Both were presented to Mayor Nerivi Santos Martinez who separately endorsed them to the local Bahay Bagong Buhay Reformation Center.
“The choice is yours to make, you should live happily but be an active citizen in our community.” said the mayor told the surrenderers.
Matinez said 53 village chieftains committed to give each reformist at least P1,500 for their meals at the rehabilitation center.
Chief of police, Supt. Joel Neil Rojo, said Sarah and Johnel with 28 reformers were the third batch of 1,982 drug surrenderers in this town. They were admitted last September 4, for the physical, mental, social, and spiritual values reformation.
“You should live legal, fair and just lives, don’t be afraid to say “NO” to your (bad) friends, unfriend or unfollow them on (FB, Twitter) social media,” Rojo said.
Overall supervisor of the rehab center and deputy head, Chief Insp. Vinia Rocofort, said she hopes that Sarah and Johnel’s relationship would last forever.
Sarah recalled their encounter: On Monday, the first day of the 12-day rehabilitation regimen, she didn’t like Johnel at once but he was very kind-hearted and surprised her with three red roses with attached card that said “You are beautiful, you are my dream girl.”
On Tuesday, he gave her imported chocolates with a note: “I like your eyes. I miss you day and night.”
He gave her a gallon of ice cream, bread, juice and lollipops with a little pink Hello Kitty bag of souvenir items on Wednesday.
During their early morning physical fitness exercise on Thursday, he handed her a brand new white Kitty face towel embroidered with their names and two hearts linked by an arrow. He also slipped a note saying: “To the woman with loveliest smile in the world.”
“On Friday, when I went to the laundry area he came with a box of powdered detergent. He carried the clothes I was to wash and whispered ‘I love you, I want to marry you’,” Sarah said.
On Saturday he grabbed her hands and said “If you’re drowning I would part the sea and risk my own life to rescue you.”
They became lovers on Sunday.
On September 15, the two completed the initial stage for the values reformation package and their closeness to each other was by then very visible. The reformers were given a chance to make a five-minute testimonial speech during the closing ceremonies. The crowd was teasing and clapping for Sarah and Johnel .
Rocofort said they hope that the romance between Sarah and Johnel will end at the altar. The police chief and the mayor volunteered to stand as wedding sponsors should this happen.
Records of the provincial police Oplan Tokhang double barrel reload ed show that Cabanatuan City with 5,000 surrenderers topped the local government units with the most drug users and pushers who volunteered to reform; followed by Talavera town with 1,982; San Jose City – 1,200; Gapan City – 1,100 and Palayan City – 800.
CELSO M. CAJUCOM