Doing one’s best with God amidst adversity
by Marjorie E. Manuel
When I was at a young age, God has given me a big responsibility to fulfill. With that, I came into different kinds of businesses and did not care about the factors whether they are good or bad, or big or small, for as long as I am earning a lot of money. I was so immature that I was not able to handle it, even myself. I did not know then what to do and where to go. I was lost, just like a sailor who lost his way and got stuck on a lost island and waiting for someone to come and rescue him.
Then, one day, a big obstacle came into my life. I was imprisoned for a certain case. I was totally lost and hopeless. My life was such a mess. I never imagined that I would be here in jail.
One morning, while I was sitting along the aisle watching my fellow inmates doing their usual chores, I asked myself “What are these people doing in this kind of place?” They are all busy. I saw them joining religious activities, attending Alternative Learning System (ALS) classes, and participating in the institution’s livelihood programs.
I was so amazed that they manage to spend their time doing those to be productive. I was then curious and wanted to try those too. I asked if I could join them and try to learn how to do handicrafts. They responded positively, saying that they were glad to have me as their new workmate. It was also on that day that I did my first wallet made of beads. I was so proud of myself and enjoyed doing it. It occupied much of my time.
As time passed by, I also learned how to do papercraft, mostly, during the Christmas season where we make “Parol”, a star made of paper and cellophane, and used as decoration for the season by our patrons.
Baking also caught my interest. I helped in fixing and washing the utensils used in making pastries. That way, I also earned enough money to support my daily needs.
To continue my education, I enrolled in the ALS program of the DepEd, and the TESDA’s short courses on livelihood and business opportunities.
But most importantly, just like the rest, I also made sure to spend some of my time attending religious activities, as they are indeed helping me in my moral and spiritual development.
I learned that the Nueva Vizcaya Provincial Jail is responsible for the custody and moral development of us, persons deprived of liberty (PDLs). By creating an environment conducive for growth and transformation, the jail management and TESDA had inspired us to participate in business and entrepreneurial activities that will create greater employment opportunities for us once we are set free from this place. The knowledge and skills gained will surely be of great help to us, especially those whose families were left in a difficult state. This development program of the institution is indeed a logical tool to help fight the cycle of poverty caused by imprisonment.
I finished several TESDA courses, including Hilot Wellness and Massage Therapy, Nail Care, and Hair Cutting. We can certainly use for employment purposes the corresponding National Certificates that were awarded to us. Even while in jail, we are already applying the skills that we have learned to earn and save money. We offer our services and get paid by customers.
With the help of our jail management, our livelihood endeavors expanded, as we were also given the privilege to manage our own small food business, the “Pancitan” and “Silogan” where we serve different kinds of noodles, meals, and meriendas. Before, I was only their dishwasher until I also learned how to cook.
All these made us productive and proactive.
The imposition of health and safety protocols due to the COVID-19 pandemic, however, has caused most of our livelihood programs to stop. But despite that, the management continued to help us to be more resilient and still gave us the opportunity to continue with our livelihood projects. We were assisted to use social media, part of which is adapting to the digital processes and new normal in general, along with the appropriate strategies to sustain our income-generating projects. Although the pandemic has indeed constricted our programs and activities, we were nevertheless able to pursue major activities such as the Prison Awareness Week celebration, where some of us had the chance to showcase our talents and skills in essay and slogan writing, and poster-making, among others.
When I was in the 7th grade, I was a member of the Journalism Club in our school. I enjoyed writing and once dreamed of becoming a writer, but it suddenly stopped because of adversities. And now, with the help of the jail management, the conduct of such contests made me recall my dreams and continue honing my skills. I participated in the essay writing category to try if I can still write, and this is the piece that I wrote:
“Giving the best, God gave us his Son Jesus Christ, and that was indeed His very best gift to us. Whatever we do, we do it well. A successful man is one who looks for the best in others and gives the best he has. We must use our lives to make the world a better place not just to acquire things. That is what we are put on earth for. We should each give then as we have decided, not with regret or out of a sense of duty, because God loves those who give gladly. Justice demands that we seek and find strangers, the broken, and prisoners, to comfort them, and offer them our help. Always look for a way to help, keep our eyes wide open for ways to show kindness to any person who needs help or encouragement. Be kind and tender-hearted to one another no matter what status we have in life, each one could be a good manager of God’s different gifts. Every special gift we had received from God must be used for the good of others. We should be of one mind, see others through eyes of love, and be full of sympathy toward each other with tender hearts, and humble minds. Love is not just a feeling. It is an act of giving that complements our will. Love is easy to talk about and feel. Love is a language that the deaf can hear and the blind can read. The only power that can restore us is the power of God’s love.”
I won a place in that contest, and a man named Jimmy L. Calata congratulated us and told us to write in the provincial government’s newspaper. That is why I am writing now, and the sailor that I have been waiting for all along is already on his way.
Life is a beautiful journey, it has different colors, different emotions, and different happenings, and there is always a reason why it happens. Too many of us are hanged-up on what we don’t have, can’t have, or won’t ever have. We spend too much energy being down when we could use that same energy going or at least trying to do some of the things we really want to do. We make choices every day, some work out and some don’t. We can pull something good out of every mistake and, hopefully, we don’t get to do those mistakes again. We can just apply the learning in moving forward.
PREVIEW/DOWNLOAD the three NVPJ feature articles with captioned photos in Portable Document Format (PDF) here:
(1) PDLs anchor their transformation on faith and love
(2) Doing one’s best with God amidst adversity
(3) Bilangguan… Kaparusahan?