Remembering love: Memory work of orphaned children in the Philippine drug war

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The “war on drugs” in the Philippines has left a generation of Filipino orphaned children in deep grief and social disarray. Using feminist memory work as critical methodology and intervention design, this study examines accounts of 56 orphaned children and how they exercise agency embedded in the collective remembering of a traumatic past (i.e. rooted in painful memories of tokhang or community police operations) and to identify social structures that marginalize their present and future lifeworld.


Findings show three overarching themes namely: (1) reclaiming stripped agency in the loss and injustice of the past, (2) holding on to crippled agency in the sadness and insecurity of the present, and (3) carrying on with agency to hope for healing and justice in a reimagined future.


Insights and recommendations to critical praxis of social work in light of an ongoing drug war are further discussed which include strengthening civil societies and intersectoral collaborations, integrating specific social provisions for tokhang survivors in the creation of a national orphan policy, and using digital memorialization. Guided by enacting ethics and politics of caring for and with the marginalized, social workers working alongside expanded communities of care are called to remember love despite traumatic pains and to restore homes for orphaned children in the midst of state insecurity.