PDLs anchor their transformation on faith and love
by Kristine Cassandra B. Dychitan
In a flash, I turned into a freelance writer for an article that talks about the Rehabilitation Programs of the NVPJ (Nueva Vizcaya Provincial Jail). Before getting this opportunity to write, I had a way much more different kind of living than what and where I am now. I was young, wild, and free, and curiosity made me explore in many ways. Some were good and some were bad, which all became part of my journey and the reasons for the changes in my life.
Just like other college students, I was that someone who tried to get a degree to pursue her hopes and dreams, but also that someone who’s involved in illegal activities. I was a girl who planned out her life and had high hopes for the future that it would turn out to be the way she wanted. I have always thought that I got my life together until I realized that I really don’t have it when things started falling apart right before my eyes. I tried so hard to fix everything, even myself, but due to unfortunate events, still, some things had to change. Indeed, no matter how good my intentions were, there will always be things and situations that are out of my control. I was not able to finish college and messed up the plans I made just because I allowed my emotions to control my choices and decisions in life. That’s when I started losing faith and direction in my life. It was all fun and games until the consequences of my actions finally hit me and brought me here. Now, I live my life as NVPJ “inmate”.
Before I entered this institution, my perspective then was different from what it really is. I thought it will be hard for me because I will be dealing with different kinds of people with different cases. True, it is, but only during the first few days when I was still in the adjustment period. As the days passed, I’ve learned to adapt to the new environment and people in the best way possible for me to enjoy and love the new life and place I’m in.
Our jail management provides us programs, projects, and activities that are necessary for our rehabilitation, such as those pertaining to education, health, and livelihood. They also engage us in useful and exciting endeavors such as religious activities, and major celebrations, including Prison Awareness Week, Graduation, Christmas, and New Year, among others.
In the realm of education, those who are willing and interested to learn are offered short courses by the TESDA (Technical Skills Development Administration), such as welding, baking, automotive servicing, and many more. Inmates are also given the chance to finish their elementary and high school education through the DepEd’s ALS (Alternative Learning System). We are glad to know that completers of these programs are being awarded certificates that can be used for employment purposes outside prison life.
The health of inmates is also looked upon by the institution. We are all given free medical check-ups and, just recently, we were subjected to Tuberculosis Screening. We have registered nurses who regularly work at the NVPJ, so we have no hard time asking for medicines or first aid when we get sick or need medical assistance.
Holy Mass during Sundays and other religious activities used to be regularly held here, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, some of our activities had to stop in the meantime. Nevertheless, our jail management pursues ways and means to make sure that we are properly taken care of. Doctors, nurses, chaplains, teachers, volunteers, and other frontline workers visit us from time to time to share with us what we call here as “Biyaya” or in English “Blessing”, such as hygiene kits, foods, free check-ups, and, most especially, their comforting words for us not to lose hope.
We are thankful to all of them for providing these good deeds, which are beneficial for our emotional, mental, and spiritual well-being.
Life can be boring sometimes especially for us inmates who are experiencing the most limitations. Doing nothing is the hardest thing for us, but through these programs, projects, and activities, we feel productive as those who are in the free society. It makes us think that even though we are here, our time is not wasted away.
Through the institution’s programs and activities, there are doors opening for us, opportunities to showcase and hone our knowledge and skills. During the last week of October 2021, we had the Prison Awareness Program, an annual event for jail facilities across the country. The program was made up of different activities. There were literary contests, such as essay and slogan writing, and poster making; sports competition, i.e., table tennis for men and badminton for women; and Bible quiz that was conducted by the VIPS (Volunteers in Prison). We enjoyed every activity despite us maintaining physical distancing. We felt re-united again because it has been a long time since we last gathered for such activities compared to the pre-pandemic days. The celebration’s main program was held on the last day of the week, Sunday. We then had our Holy Mass and final celebration of the event, with Governor Carlos M. Padilla, former Governor Ruth Padilla, and our Provincial Warden SFO4 Carmelo B. Andrada (Ret) also joining us to give some inspirational messages that rekindled hope in our difficult times. This was also the day when we got to know the final judgments on the contest categories that we joined in. As a participant, I was very glad to know that I won, bagging first place for slogan and essay writing, and third place for poster making.
What made me happier was getting recognized by Mr. Jimmy L. Calata who, along with his fellow contest judges, appreciated my essay composition. Our warden introduced Mr. Calata to us, who then asked us to contribute articles to the provincial government’s newspaper. I was indeed overwhelmed by their positive response, and I will continue taking it as a motivation to write. Considering my life before, I did not see myself as someone doing this. Yes, I did write as a requirement in school, but who would have thought that I, as an inmate, will be given the chance to write in a newspaper? I did not even join in any contest before and here was my first time, and I won. The prizes are just bonuses for me, as what made me really a winner was my being able to muster the courage to join and achieve a feat in the process which I can be proud of. I am certain that this will not only benefit me but also our community. I am taking this as an opportunity to have a break. This took me away from the melancholy hill and put me somewhere where the sun is bright. It will help me exercise my mind in a healthy way because as I write, I’ll find myself reminiscing about the good times life allowed me to experience, and through it, I get to remember how good and beautiful life is. This is what also helped me compose my essay and put what was really on my mind given the theme, “Jail Volunteers and Chaplains: Gifted to Give Love that Restores Life, Hope, and Healing in Prison Community”.
Here is what I have written for the essay contest category:
“In this journey called ‘life’, we are going to meet people along the way. We don’t meet them by accident or just mere coincidence. Everyone serves a purpose in our life. God made us human beings and gave us the gift of love so we could experience the true meaning of life and what it means to be alive. The journey is not going to be easy, as there will always be hard times that will surely test our character and mettle. But if we use love as our guide in pursuing our life purposes, then we can be transformed physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
There are people who use love as their gift to other individuals. People who know the truth of love and share it are truly sent from above. They are an instrument of God, like the volunteers, chaplains, and other individuals who have always been there to help and support the prison community. These people know how deeply wounded the prisoners are for their wrong choices and decisions in life, and the resulting pain that is killing them emotionally and spiritually. By empathizing with them, they understand that prisoners also need healing.
Through love, as their medicine and tool, they can help in healing people and in bringing light and life to their dim world. Doing all these acts of kindness symbolizes them as someone who holds the torch in the dark so the prisoners can see the light and be guided in a way that they can face the new life with hope. And by being healed, they can also share their love with other people.
Indeed, it is through love that life, hope, and healing are restored, a manifestation that life is beautiful even if it is in a prison community. Life is all about love and the people who share it.”
It’s not all about the pen and paper and the topic that I have written, but more about loving and the good things that made it possible for me to write those words. I take this as a tool in building myself into the person that I want to become and to believe in that person as well. The memorable experience is helping me gain self-confidence and improve my weaknesses.
I can say that the institution and its partners are truly helpful to us. I am thankful for all the people behind such beneficial programs, projects, and activities that are aimed at maximizing our potentials, and for helping us to be productive despite our current situation in life. Through them, we get to rediscover our potentials and learn more about what we can and should do, which are necessary for our growth and development.
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?