Like a ship slowly foundering on stormy seas, 56-year-old Carlito “Carlet” Grefal’s life has been one tumbling emotional roller coaster ever since he got ensnared with that deadly alcoholic vice when he was just 16 years old.
“My drinking binges at the time usually would start as soon as I received my week’s wage on Saturday afternoon. After then, I would drink, drink, and drink, until I fell to the ground,” Grefal related.
And due to this noxious habit, which lasted for more than 40 years, Grefal gradually lost his ability to work, care and provide for his loved ones and culminated with him landing in jail in 1998 for almost six months until he got freed due to a legal technicality.
Instead of dropping this deadly vice, he continued to drink at a greater intensity until his daughter Cezarine left him when wife Adelina died some time in 2006.
His path to recovery and redemption ironically started when “Ondoy” battered the Philippines leaving thousands of people displaced, Grefal, in wake of the gigantic floods it spawned last September 26, 2009.
Positives brought by “Ondoy” include a chance to work at Tzu Chi Foundation’s cash-for-work program wherein devastated Marikina residents were paid a daily wage just to clean their houses and communities.
He added that this charitable gesture made him want to know more about Tzu Chi. Grefal got his chance to learn more about the works of the organization when he was hired by the group as part of the work crew tasked to construct the Tzu Chi Marikina Educational Recycling Center (TCMERC) in Barangay Fortune, Marikina in May 2010.
The wholesome atmosphere at the TCMERC and congenial nature of the Tzu Chi volunteers detailed made Carlet give up his drinking vice, which culminated with the latter expressing his intention to be a member of the foundation.
To join up, he was initially told that he has to drop all his vices to be one, aside from doing his part in spreading the message of love and compassion being earnestly propagated by founder of Tzu Chi Foundation, Master Cheng Yen.
He also said that he took seriously the advice of senior Tzu Chi volunteers and started to live a clean and wholesome life.
Carlet was eventually invited to attend Tzu Chi’s prospective volunteer training camps where he was told do his utmost in helping the needy, being compassionate, loving one’s self and others, and doing everything possible to protect the planet from further degradation.
Aside from this, Grefal was also taught that gambling, drinking, smoking, and gossiping are activities that bring nothing but bad luck and ill health to persons who habitually does them, lessons he took to heart. Carlet eventually won his gray uniform on November 16, 2010.
And since receiving his Tzu Chi garb, Carlet totally abstained from drink and focused his energies on basketball, biking and other worthwhile endeavors. The only regret he has now is that his wife is not here to witness his transformation.
“If she were alive today, I would be able to give something back to her as she was the one who sacrificed everything to keep our family afloat. My only wish is that she was here to see me this way,” Grefal said.
He also stressed that his only wish now is to live a longer and useful life so that he can give something back to Tzu Chi Foundation and act as example that even persons with destructive vices can be reformed if provided proper guidance and encouragement.
Carlet’s change for the better was personally witnessed and narrated to us by daughter Cezarine who told us that her father got more caring and considerate ever since dropping off his drinking habit.
“And now, ever since he gave up that vice of his, he has become more generous to his family and neighbors and spends much of his time fixing our house, and buying clothing and other items for us,” she emphasized.
Cezarine attributes her father’s change to the fact that he has taken to heart all the teachings and lessons taught to him by the Tzu Chi Foundation. Her observations were also echoed by Violeta Bumatay, Carlet’s group leader in Barangay Nangka, Marikina, and owner of the store where the latter used to buy liquor.
“Ever since he got his gray uniform, there have been no instances I know where he touched the bottle again,” she said in Filipino. Bumatay also pointed out that no one in their community, either friends or enemies of Grefal, have reported seeing the latter going back to his former habit.