Rudin Gonzales Jr., founder of the One Algon Place Foundation Inc.
MANILA, Philippines – Hope springs eternal for beautiful minds and loving hearts.
These are the inspiring words of steel trader Rudin Gonzales Jr., who founded a facility dubbed “The Academy of Hope” for patients suffering from chronic mental illness and substance-related disorders, dismissed as “hopeless” by their families and communities.
With prayers and determination, Gonzales, his wife Annie, and their three children conceptualized the facility as part of their long-cherished aspiration to help people, especially drug dependents, alcoholics and co-dependents.
Located at 0633 Barangay Mamatid in Cabuyao City, Laguna (tel. no. 584-4301), the sprawling home-like facility was established by the One Algon Place Foundation Inc. (TOAPFI or Algon) in early 2004. The word Algon was taken from the middle name and surname of the foundation’s chairman, ALmendral and GONzales, respectively.
It used to be a fishpond owned by the Gonzales family who later converted the one-hectare private family resort into the Academy of Hope for Filipinos with mental illness. And for the Gonzales family, this was the start of a dream that became a reality.
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Gonzales came from a poor family. His mother was a teacher, and his father an accountant. Bullied as a kid, the future steel trader concentrated on his studies and excelled academically, graduating from Ateneo de Manila University; he also studied at San Jose Seminary.
Being the fourth child in a brood of 10, Gonzales pursued a career in the international trade of steel, raw materials, and agricultural products. He also became a jet-setter.
He is now retired from his illustrious steel trading. But it was during one of his trips abroad when he was diagnosed with the genetic diseases polymiositis and dermatomiosis. When he was 45, he was finally diagnosed with the disease through muscle biopsy. “The doctor told me that I would die if I will not do something radical,” he recalled.
Gonzales took steroids for several years to control his disease. It was during his moments of struggle with the disease when he realized his advocacy to help people and their families suffering from drug dependence and mental disability.
Gonzales changed his lifestyle, and took up healthcare management course at Asian Institute of Management. He prayed hard just like during his seminary days. “Once again, I prayed the rosary non-stop. And I felt God’s presence. At the AIM library, my son Jun-Jun and I saw this thesis on drug, alcohol, treatment and rehabilitation center at our Cabuyao property. God sent a message.’’
It was at this point that Gonzales pursued the facility with the financial support of close friends and US-based siblings and relatives. And One Algon Place was finally inaugurated on Sept. 18, 2004.
“During the first two years, we tried very much to look at the treatment from an intellectual point of view, how we could make up modules so that we could acquire change of the person with substance problem and mentally disability. And we have progressed. We found out that the real change must not only come from the intellect but also from the heart.”
“Our treatment plan and case management cover four aspects, which are biological, psychological, social, and most especially, spiritual,” he said.
Putting up a rehab facility is not an easy job, as issues on funds continue to be one of the concerns for the foundation. The facility does not receive any assistance from the government for its operating cost. Negative cash flow has always been an issue but somehow friends and relatives continue to support.
“God is always with us,’’ Gonzales said. “Nothing is impossible with the Almighty.” On board the foundation are prominent personalities of the Catholic Church who help “run” the facility. Msgr. Manny Gabriel is the incoming chairman this year. An expert on Church corporate affairs, he has been the spiritual director of the facility for two years now. The other spiritual directors are Msgr. Jose Chito Bernardo and Msgr. Ernesto Joaquin who are behind the facility’s spiritual framework.
The Academy of Hope caters to individuals diagnosed with the following disorders: psychosis such as schizophrenia, schizo affective disorder; mood disorder like depression and bipolar disorder; anxiety disorder and somatization disorders; cognitive, developmental and mental retardation; substance-related disorders, and personality disorders.
The Academy of Hope is composed of two schools: the School of Life and School of Soul. The School of Life caters to those diagnosed with psychosis, and cognitive and developmental disabilities. They are taught the “how to’s in survival” and assisted in coping with the society’s demands and even encouraged to excel and be independent.
The School of Soul, meanwhile, aims to help those who had difficulty in handling problems, relationships, and life choices. It was built for those who had substance and non-substance dependency disorder, personality disorder, and mood and anxiety disorders. Through its programs, the “students” are encouraged to face life and its many challenges — and succeed.
The Academy’s building has four dorm halls and seven student suites. It is also equipped with a library, gym, two pools, man-made lagoon, sauna and a chapel. The resort is a great place for swimming, canoeing and watching fish, especially koi. It has a small forest perfect for hiking and meditation.
“It’s a peaceful environment perfect for healing as well as meditating,” Gonzales said, adding that the quiet environment is also a perfect place for group skills enhancement, leadership and team-building personality development, and retreats and recollections.
Gonzales still goes to the Cabuyao facility in every Sunday to deliver talks depending on the theme of the week. He said One Algon Place will soon expand by purchasing the adjacent property and focus on research and development. “R&D will take a prominent role in the future,” he said.
Nine years on, the Academy of Hope is on the right track in pursuing its mission of achieving wellness among “helpless students.” “Everyone deserves a happy ending to start a hopeful and loving beginning,” Gonzales said.