Huwebes, Hulyo 28, 2011

Feature: A production that shows reform; an agency that transfroms

Indeed, all is fair in love and war. And also in jail.

At least for inmates in Camp Sampaguita, New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City who have spoken their hearts and minds out through a creative medium known as musical play. 

Held on July 22 at the Amoranto Sports Complex Theater during the 35th founding anniversary of the Parole and Probation Administration (PPA), an attached agency of the Department of Justice, the musical play is also the product of the PPA's reformative-transformative approach in the country's criminal justice system. 

The musical-play entitled "Bilanggong Walang Rehas" centers on the life of Angelito Reyes, a Cebuano native, who is recently sentenced imprisonment. There, he meets different characters with different life stories to tell-- sad, frustrating, full of misfortune-- stories filled with desperation and lives haunted by regret and denial. 

Angelito is opened to the harsh and depressing realities of prison life as constant fights are seen, dark secrets revealed one way or another, sad stories pour in from family members outside. However, it is also in that same cell where he learns to hope, respect, and love himself as well as his brother-inmates. 

Values and messages of hope are recurrent in the play as one of the characters, the friend and sort-of mentor of Angelo, teaches Angelo about having faith in the Lord when he said, "Pagdarasal ang kailangan upang makamit ang kapayapaan. Maaaring magbago ang buhay ng tao sa isang iglap lang." 

The play showcases the stories of the other characters-- the real score behind their "imprisonment". The narrative reaches its climax when Angelito's mentor-friend gets killed by a petty fight with another inmate. The incident strengthens Angelito's character. He behaves well in jail until such time that he is granted pardon and eventually released from prison.

"Bilanggong Walang Rehas" was written and directed by Siddha Araneta, a Bilibid prisoner himself. All the 30 cast in the play are all inmate-students of Camp Sampaguita as well, and according to Siddha, the story is based on the true life stories of inmates and what is truly going on in prison. The play is a showcase of talent worthy of praise given the limitations in practice time and venue and other privileges regular thespians enjoy. The band in charge of the background music and the sound effects are inmates themselves-- all these are proof of the many positive changes a reformative justice system could give to the unjustly labeled dregs of society. 

The production is also one of the culminating activities for the week-long foundation celebration of the said agency as it clings tight to its advocacy of providing humane, integrative, and meaningful corrective measures to those who were sentenced imprisonment for crimes committed. It is also in cooperation with the Block Rosary of Our Lady of Fatima and the Bureau of Corrections.

As PPA Information Officer Elanie Layawen said, the PPA, together with Bureau of Corrections have been steadfast in its ideals of making something positive and useful out of the prisoners as well as probationers, parolees, and pardonees. The Alternative Learning System (ALS) of the agency is one way of tapping into the inner strengths and latent skills their clients possess. "And eventually, as the time draws nearer to their release, these prisoners are confident to face the outside world with renewed hope and forward-looking as they are armed with skills and knowledge gained from the ALS," Layawen added.

The ALS is a non-formal education/training system where inmates are given lessons in skills development in various fields like the arts, technical courses, and even college courses. It is one way of reforming prisoners into skillful and knowledgeable constituents.

Also present during the occasion is Quezon City Mayor Herbert Bautista who underscored the word "rehabilitation"-- not only the physical, but also the emotional and mental part of prisoners as well in order to be brought back truly healthy to mainstream society and be reintegrated as purposeful and productive citizens of the country. 

The Probation and Parole Week was held from July 18 to 24, centering on the theme "Matuwid na Landas, Susi sa Pagbabago at Kaunlaran." 

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