DANCING WITH IWAHIG INMATES

I had the honor to have a dance session with the inmates at Iwahig Penal Colony. I use the word “honor” because I found that these convicts are humans themselves, with dreams and aspirations, and for me listening to them, being one who gives them hope and rekindling belief in humanity and in God is a privilege.

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Dito sa institution na ito marami ang nagbago at naging mabuting mamamayan. Ito ang kabaligtaran ng uusigin at pagpapapatayin ang mga criminals which is now the outcry (I call it fad.. fashion) ng nakararami.

Iwahig was founded by the American colonial administration in 1904  as an open air penal colony covering 38,000 hectares of jungle and coastland. After a probationary period, long-term prisoners are allowed to become magsasaka, mangingisda, warden as the prison is self-supporting and self-managed.

The “lifers’” families organise their own community existence even bringing their family to live there. Vocational activities were available which includes farming, fishing, forestry and carpentry.  Prisoners were free to choose the vocational activities they wanted.

Noong 1955, ay inilabas ang Administrative Order No. 20 na nagbibigay ng karapatan sa mga napatunayang repormadong bilango na icultivate ang mga bukirin sa Iwahig.

Isang napuna ko ay despite na mahigit sa 2,000 ang bilanggo na convicted of homicide, karamihan ay minimum security prisoners na nakatira sa dormitories and work on the agricultural projects within the penal colony.

Isa pang nakausap ko ang nagsabing, may 22 taon na siyang laya, ngunit di na siya umalis sa Iwahig at doon na rin siya nagkaroon ng pamilya at nakapagpatapos ng isang anak sa Kolehiyo at isa ay nasa high school.

Kapunapuna rin ang community sa loob ng Penal Colony na ang mga nakatira ay mga kawani, mga laya at parolado, mga taga labas at lahat sila ay malayang kahalubilo ng mga bilanggo.

After naming magsayaw, isang bilanggo ang lumapit at nagbibenta ng mangga at 100 pesos daw isang tali. Para lang daw may pambili sila ng sabong panglaba ng asawa niya.

Binigyan ko siya ng maayos na halaga ng pera at di ko kinuha ang mangga, telling him na “ayan may pambili na kayo ng sabon, ang mangga naman ay ibenta ninyo sa iba para may dagdag kayong panggastos”

It was a rare and an “awakening” experience dancing with the inmates.

Waking each one of us that we are all brothers in this world.

That we are all entitled to a life. A life full of understanding.

—000—

“How long must we wait to change.This world bound in chains that we live in. To know what it is to forgive, And be forgiven?” – Kenny Loggins

 

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