By Alex Lumaque
Au will be celebrating his second Christmas inside the Roxas City Jail of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) in Barangay San Jose this year.
The 52-year-old Person Deprived of Liberty (PDL) is facing charges of violating Republic Act No. 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.
He is among the 294 occupants of the jail facility’s male dormitory.
But while in jail, Au keeps his time busy learning various livelihood skills through the BJMP’s Welfare and Development Program to prepare and give him and other PDLs the opportunity to be productive members of the community again when they get out for good.
He composed a team of 20 housemates set to repair hundreds of Christmas lanterns and traditional parol made in the previous years for the city government and a township developer.
The lanterns are more stylish than the parol because of the running colorful light bulbs added to it.
These parols and lanterns are hung along the major thoroughfares in the city.
“As one of the PDLs working for the repair of parols and lanterns, I feel happy that I will bring joy and the spirit of Christmas to all,” Au stressed in a message conveyed thru BJMP Unit Welfare and Development Officer Senior Jail Officer 3 Ernie Olendo.
With the magical time of the year coming near with the onset of “ber” months, Olendo is also taking the season as an opportunity for the PDLs to generate income while everyone pulls out their Christmas decorations ready for the big day.
“We will have another team of about 20 PDLs for orders in the production of traditional parols and lanterns,” said Olendo, a regional PAGASA Awardee of the Civil Service Commission (CSC) in 2020 and a recipient of recognitions from the BJMP 6 as the welfare and development officer for years.
The welfare and livelihood program also introduced handicrafts and hollow block making, bakery, and vegetable projects in the facility which are earning income for the PDLs.
Olendo noted that the program has been instrumental and a “defining moment” for the PDLs’ realization that getting through the hard times has been much more beneficial in the long run than having an idyllic life outside.
“They are happy if their products are sold,” he noted, adding that PDLs also developed self-esteem and motivation that they can still work and earn income after all that has happened in their life.
But for Au, more than the skills learned inside the jail is a deeper understanding, learned the hard way, that the spirit of Christmas is borderless.
The simple joys of appreciating their creativity are already an affirmation and a holiday cheer that is giving them new hope and inspiration behind bars. (AGP/AAL/PIA Capiz/Photos from BJMP Roxas City)