08 April 2011

welcome to new bilibid prison.





before this visit, this is all i knew about bilibid. its wide, high, and thick, white walls. i see it in the news and in movies. that's just about it.







just this february, i was invited by 2010 toym and towns awardee, and rock ed founder, and all around amazing woman gang badoy to sit in her creative writing class at bilibid. "really, bilibid? as in, inside?" that was my reaction when gang first told me about it. i couldn't believe that someone i know actually teaches there, and more than that, that regular people like me can actually go in, without any relative or contact inside. YES, of course i took the chance to go.





along with me, gang also invited 2009 toym awardee, top philippine fashion designer, and design mogul rajo laurel to share his thoughts and see what possible projects he can do upon meeting the class.

*notice how i emphasized that gang and rajo are toym awardees? its my sercret dream (well, its not a secret anymore after this, haha!) to do something great enough with my life to deserve a toym award. i don't know what exactly it is yet, but it is one of my big dreams, and hey, its free to dream. :p



entering bilibid, i was pleasantly surprised. pleasantly surprised because it was beautiful. it was a nice, organized, peaceful village. yes, village! there's a park, there are rows of establishments, churches, stores.. lots of plants, handicrafts, benches.. a real village! i wish i could share pictures but my personal camera was not allowed inside! and neither were mobile phones! i hope my description through words would be enough. :) i'd ask you to close your eyes and imagine, but then you wouldn't be able to read this.. hahaha, so that won't work. :p

as soon as we got passed the wide, high, and thick, white walls, there were rows and rows of steel gates and security checks that we had to pass. scary and intimidating, i must admit. as soon as we passed the final gate though, the mood totally changed. i kid you not, the sun was shining, the breeze was cool, the birds were chirping, and the friendly smiles of the inmates greeted us! don't get me wrong. i know they are in bilibid for a reason and that they are serving time for something they might've done. but they were really, really warm to us. as we walked by, we felt like such vips because gang is such a popular figure in bilibid, greeting people left and right! we joked with her that if there were elections inside, she can totally run, and win! hahaha! they were nice enough to walk us with umbrellas through the compound. we passed a huge park where they had lots of gazebos, a basketball court, tennis court, and lots of plants. we passed their hospital. we passed their countless tables of handicrafts that they were selling. from wood to plastic to cardboard to paintings, these men had serious arts and crafts talent! we passed a row that i found so inspiring. they had such respect for each individual's religious beliefs. there was a whole row of churches, from a catholic church to a mosque, to a mini iglesia church, to jehovah's, and many, many more. you hear of stories of people in prison who get to read the bible many times over. when you get to go inside, you can definitely see how your life can be completely devoted to God. we passed rows and rows of classrooms. from painting to soldering, to alternative learning classes. yes, you can actually finish your studies and graduate while inside bilibid. religion, education, vocation, a sense of community. from that short five minute walk from the gate to the classroom, these are the things i saw were important in life inside bilibid.





we got to gang's creative writing class and we all did a little self-introduction to be able to break the ice within the group. gang likes to invite friends from different fields to her class, like rajo and myself, to allow her students to conduct interviews, and then write about it for class. some of her students like writing poems, some like writing narratives, some prefer tagalog, some prefer english, some write more casually, and some more formal. as they read their works one by one, there were so many times that i wanted to just cry out of overwhelming emotions. i just had to stop myself because it would've been to oa to cry out of nowhere! the point of view of someone who has had so much time to think on his own, is so powerful. about how and why they are serving time, without going into too much detail, about how they miss their families, and how they have found purpose in their life while inside bilibid. a lot of them thanked God for being in prison for 5, 10, 15 years, because it is here where they found solace and peace, and it is here where they discovered talents and passions they never thought they had.





aside from learning about each other's lives, rajo decided to take things a step further by challenging the class to make furniture. as soon as rajo took out the photo of his peg, the class starts crowding around, and others who weren't even in the class went in just to see what the new project is and how they can help! rajo wants to make a way for them to create pieces that he can then sell here outside, and proceeds of course would go back to them! isn't rajo amazing?!





after the class, the students eagerly walked with us to take us around for a tour of their nice, little community! photos weren't allowed by cameras from the outside, but there was an "official camera" which is where all these photos i'm sharing with you are from. while we were walking, more stories were exchanged. about how the inmates after some time become teachers at the school and ministers in the church. it was very inspiring.





a lot of the students asked me, "bago ka pumasok dito, anong ideya mo ng bilibid?" i honestly said that i thought bilibid was a concrete building with steel bars, that its dark, that inmates are just in their cells, with limited hours a day to go out. they simply smiled at my answer, giving me a so-ano-na-ang-tingin-mo-ngayon look. :p they knew that they were more than able to show us that bilibid is not a scary prison as we might think a usual prison would be. this was maximum security, but they are a peaceful, progressive, happy community inside. :)





our last stop before leaving bilibid was the base of the kulay org. they are a group of painters inside bilibid and boy are they talented! some of them have been painting for years, some of them just learned how to paint while inside. most are oil on canvass and some will seriously rival artworks we would see in galleries in makati! rajo fell in love with this one artworks with birds, and we all fell in love with the mixing plate which gang got to bring home! signed by the artist pa!



and i was able to take home a few things!



a painting of jesus christ.
at the start of the class, gang asked everyone to stand up one by one to introduce themselves before rajo and i introduce ourselves. one of the students, mark, stood up, said his name, then politely asked me "ma'am, katoliko po kayo?" i said, "yes." and then he did some hand gesture to a friend standing by the door. by the time he finished introducing himself, he handed me this beautiful painting and said, "regalo ko po para sa iyo. sa totoo lang, pagpasok ko dito, hindi talaga ako marunong sa pagpinta. dito na lang ako natuto." i told mark i will proudly display this in my room.



a personalized mini rocking chair.
that actually serves as a celphone holder while charging! who would've thought?! i also got this sweet gift from another student in the class, rowen. in just a few minutes, they were able to etch my name in the wood! they gave the same item to gang and tammy as well! i remember rowen telling me as we walked out, "simple ka lang pala in person, just like pinky webb, when i'd see her visit hubert here, simple lang din siya."



a handful of letters and poetry.
they just scribbled a bit, tore off a page from their notebooks, and handed it to me. they were all so appreciative of the time rajo and i spent with them, and they were hoping we could come back soon. they all signed their letters with their name, dorm number, then the words "bureau of corrections, muntinlupa", as their actual address. for me, nothing beats the age old practice of handwritten letters.



packs of focaccia bread.
yes, as in pillow like packs of focaccia bread with olives and cheese! a few minutes in the oven toaster, and its crispy on the outside, soft on the inside! really delicious! and i'm not just saying that. this focaccia bread is sold in the bakery inside bilibid. yes, there is a bakery inside where you can buy all kinds of goodies! see, it is not a not-manly thing to bake! haha.







i never thought the words "welcome" and "bilibid" could be used in the same sentence. but i did feel so welcome in bilibid. the biggest thank you from the bottom of my heart to gang badoy, rajo laurel, tammy david, and to all my new friends at bilibid! it is not everyday a girl gets to hang out with inmates, and learn serious life lessons from them. i will never, ever forget this experience and i hope to visit again soon. :)

44 comments:

Cd said...

Hi ate bianca! :) I'm glad you enjoyed your visit. I once visited the bilibid during my freshman year in college, almost 4 years ago. It was an annual thing for Ms. Pepin Aguilar to bring her students to Bilibid. And like you, I also learned that Bilibid is not always like that in movies, and that the inmates, though they were once bad, they are trying to be good while they are inside, and hope to have a new life when they get to go out.

I remember my inmate partner saying, that being inside helped them change, and told me that now na I know how they are in the bilibid, dapat tayong mga nakakaalam na nasa labas ang magtama ng wrong connotation about them since they can't do it :)

Camille said...

bianca this post is so inspiring. it touched my heart to the core. omg i'm crying while typing this i'm so oa. i hope i can pay a visit to the inmates too. any information on what i should do or who to contact?

Anonymous said...

thanks for sharing ur experience inside the bilibid bianca! i am teary eyed after reading ur blog. i dunno, but i have a soft spot for prisoners nows.. before, i use to think all jail prisoners are hard criminals and they deserve to rot there, but after watching prison break, i realized that yeah, some of the people inside are not that bad as we perceive them to be. i realized that they are also persons, that whatever mistakes they've done in the past, could transform or redeem themselves if given the right guidance or second chance.

justjen said...

i cried on the part when someone handed you the painting.. Ive been to rizal provincial jail for jehovah's witnesses preaching work. Im glad you enjoyed your visit. Please dont stop inspiring us Bianca.

-Jen (blog, fb, twitter follower)

Michelle said...

Woow!

The painting is breath taking. I'd pay money to own that. Amazing!

Anonymous said...

I wanna thank you for this post. This is so inspiring, really. What you had in mind before about bilibid was just like the one I had. But after reading your post, just like you, what I imagined about bilibid changed. And it makes me wanna go visit too. I'm so glad you became a public figure that you can use it to inspire a lot of people. Please continue these good things you're doing. You do help many of us to be a good person.

Thank you again, I really mean it. :)

mokzjm said...

hi Ms Bianca,
you really inspired me lot!promise<3.Thank you for being an inspiration not only to me but also to every youth out there.I love how your blogs touches my heart and leave a lesson to live.And by the way, this blog left me teary eyed..(huhuhu).Hope this blog will take away negative thinking about Bilibid Prison and the people inside, which actually I was thinking before.

Once again,thank you..thank you so much for being an inspiration.Wish to see you in person:)May God Bless you more and your family.

Vim said...

wow! That was so nice bianca! I never thought bilibid is such a beautiful place! God bless u more!

Caris said...

Awesome! My dad used to give out Bibles for those men in prison. When you look at them, it feels that so much in them have changed! New life :)


I would def love to go and actually see the new person in them.



xo!

Cazeil said...

Hello Idol Bianca!!

Na pa WOW at na pa WOAAA ako when I was reading this blog of yours. I couldn't imagine how nice life could be if you were given a chance to mingle with these kinds of pipz here on Earth. In fact, I'm also so touched when you received the painting. In the pic of that Jesus Christ painting, it was very clear na may crucifix, tapos mukha ni Jesus at mga mata sa bandang ibabaw. But when I scrolled down and saw the group pic na hawak2x mo ung painting na un, na pa WOW tlaga ako. Kc kitang kita sa painting ang mukha ni Jesus na i think when He was suffering on the cross. I'm speechless and so amazed with the talents they got/developed inside the prison. In fact, many people are thinking that Bilibid prison is one of the worst place ever here in the Phils. as what movies usually portrayed and that's what I thought too. Upon reading this blog,I'm one of the people who realized that I'm wrong about what Bilibid prison is...DEEP SIGH... I'm really blessed to follow you in twitter and found your blog.I really enjoyed reading your blogs Idol Bianca! God speed! Take care always! Hope to meet you in person someday. <:

mimaigurl said...

Wow! Thank you for this one Biancs...nice post about Bilibid..nakakainspire ang experience mo sa lugar and with the prisoners..ipagpatuloy mo pa yan Biancs..

scarlet's walk said...

you're such an inspiring woman bianca! i hope more people from showbiz are like you... you're a supergirl indeed!

eymor said...

OMG!! This is so inspiring, Miss Bianca. :)

cherry said...

awwww. a very 'moving' post. the painting of Jesus Christ is really really nice too!

Sei said...

Hi, Bianca

I'm a student from Ateneo Law and am part of the Ateneo Human Rights Center. We just concluded the exhibit we held at Power Plant to showcase some paintings of the prisoners from Bilibid. The proceeds will be turned over to Kulay. :) And yes, we were able to sell a painting exactly like the one given to you.

Nakakabilid talaga si Gang Badoy! Thanks for sharing this to your numerous readers. Marami sanang ma-enlighten.

All the best! :D

Anonymous said...

OHH I HOOPPEE YOU READ THIS ONE.

Good evening Ms. Bianca! I am a 15-year old senior student from Las Pinas. See, it's really impossible to look for email addresses of famous personalities that we want to contact so I just took the risk to message you here, since I follow you regularly and we can contact you here anytime.

My friends and I are a group of aspiring film makers. I do the part of conceptualizing and scriptwriting. I would like to ask if you know anyone we can come to and collaborate with? Lol you might think I'm crazy! Call me crazy but we have this wild and crazy dream of collaborating with directors and producers to make a romcom flick that suites our current generation. I know, it sounds surreal if ever it came to life but there's no harm in trying. We do hope you help us out. Uhm, we sound desperate, don't we? Ahhhh, it doesn't matter. And hey, you're the one we messaged ALSO BECAUSE WE KINDA VISUALIZE YOU SUITING THE ROLE OF THE LEADING LADY. We're not being "sipsip," it's true! Really.

We're praying. God Bless! :)

Dea said...

Hello, Bianca!

Thank you for sharing this. Both my parents teach college at Bilibid, they make P35 an hour. It gives them a great sense of fulfillment. I am so proud of them for doing this. They have so many stories about the inmates, some of them are just heartbreaking. It's nice to see people visiting them.


Thank you for sharing these photos, like you, my image of Bilibid is that of prison cells with steel bars as well.

dressdishdestination said...

very nice post bianca! makes me wanna visit bilibid too!

Von_Draye said...

I was browsing the blog, (im at work... haha!!) i smiled..

will definitely READ the blog later..
just dropping by supergirl!

desire said...

bianca, i find it so cute and heartwarming when you wrote " i never thought the words "welcome" and "bilibid" could be used in the same sentence !!

giuliana said...

i love this post, bianca. it shows how real you are...like when we met in person, naniwala na ako na you are really beautiful inside and out.ill dream with u and pray that you get the toym award kasi deserve mo siya.thanks for enlightening us about bilibid. god bless you!

michelle said...

Hi bianca, ive been a frequent visitor to ur bog site and i've read all ur stories/sharings/ insights, and i've always wanted to thank you for inspiring all ur followers thru this medium.
i must say, of all the entries you have shared to us, personally, i am touched and moved the most by this recent story u posted.
continue inspiring people and making a difference.
From one of ur GRATEFUL followers.. :) - Michelle Ranges

MeG said...

Supergirl,

It's my first time commenting on your posts, but I've been following your blog for about a year now. After seeing you so many times on TV, reading your blog really allows your followers to get to know you on a more personal level, and i admire you for allowing people to do so. :) You are probably the most down to earth and humble celebrity there is and it's inspiring to know that someone like you still has the time to go out of your way to help a lot of people, long-term. Wish there were more like you in this world :)

You've been an inspiration to me and many many others. More power to you, Ms.Bianca! Supergirl indeed :)

sjo said...

you are a very inspiring beauty. stay beautiful as you are, inside and out.

cryz said...

Hi Ms. Bianca!

It was a very nice post...very touching! I admire you for your good deeds. It shows how beautiful you are…in and out! Despite your disposition in life you remain very simple and down to earth. Keep it up!

By the way, I would like to join with you in your charity and other social works. I would appreciate a lot if you could assist me on how to join to those charity works. Please send me the details in my email… mesmy_cryz8@yahoo.com.

Thanks a lot!

God Bless !

Crizzy

Kris Ablan said...

We used to lecture in Bilibid about prisoner rights, and facilitated the release of some prisoners who are "overstaying." Believe it or not, there are overstaying prisoners.

Bilibid is actually in much better condition than the city jails. If you want to see terrible living conditions, go visit Quezon City Jail.

bertopac said...

glad that u shared ur experience in NBP..i remember you tweeted it also..and u replied back on my comment which delighted me ofcourse..i never thought that NBP as like that also before i went there..i pictured it as somewhat place where berdugo roaming around and just a small mistakeul be attacked and squeezed to death..nut that was before..<=>..

littlemisshomosapien said...

What an insightful post. Now I don't look at prisoners the same way as before. I thank you for that. Here's a little TOYM award for you :)

lyka said...

Hi Bianca,

I will consider this as my favorite "bianca's blog post". You are very lucky to experience almost everything. :)

It is also my dream to teach in the bilibid.:)

Regards.

Anonymous said...

Uhmm, this is a follow up comment. Well this is not about your post, I just want you to know that, there are a lot of people supporting you. I saw the video that about Willie Revillame bullying a child and the one that he mentioned you together with other artists. I'm on your side, we are on your side. He doesn't know what he is talking about, and he got it all wrong. You have contributed so many things and in so many ways. You inspire us, you help so many children pursue their education, you are the ambassadress of UNICEF and so on. Don't feel so down when other people are judging and criticizing you, cause they know nothing. They don't how much you serve as an inspiration to so many many people. I'm not saying all of these things because I'm your fan and I love you, but because it's the truth.

Keep smiling B! We're here for you. :)

* I don't know if you'll post this comment, but it's fine if you're not going to. :)

Pinkish James said...

Thank you Bianca :)

I had the very same experience of teaching inside the Bilibid Prisons 9 years ago. I taught them some Jesuit liturgical songs through the help of JPIA. If I were given a chance to do it again, I would - very inspiring ang ginawa mo.

amaryah_2005@yahoo.com said...

why am i crying reading this and veiwing the pictures?naaalala ko lang cguro the experience when i went to davao penal colony (dapecol) when i was in high school.tnx for sharing..

bianca said...

i have THE MOST AWESOME blog readers. :) thank you guys. :) you really inspire me. i wish i could reply to you one by one. thank you, thank you for your wonderful words and know that i learn so much from you guys as well. :)

--bianca

Retort Naiveté said...

Hi, Miss Bianca. :)

I know this is a long shot but I've really been looking for a way to course a message to you. :) I've tried Twitter but apparently your DM has been disabled, probably due to the unfortunate (I cannot find the apt word - misunderstanding? issue? - recently. :| Either way, I admire how high-minded you have remained all throughout this mess.

Anyhow, I am a big fan of your advocacies and undertakings. being a young idealist myself, it is my dream to really inspire and effect change as well. In this light, I have come up with an idea (business/project) that has for its vision the same goal YSpeak embodied - youth empowerment and formation. I really, really would appreciate being given a chance to share with you these ideas of mine. :)

I know this is an extremely long shot but should you have the time, please drop me a line. :) Thank you very much.

God bless and more power on future undertakings. :)

-Tonette R.

Anonymous said...

I miss this kind of ministry...
used to be involved with one every Saturday, but sadly we moved. You are a blessing to them(as they are to you). Truly <3 the painting(didn't notice the effect from afar), it means a lot. Keep it up(dapat mag-clone ng maraming Bianca ka2lad mo).

bratty21 said...

keep it up bianca..... you really inspiring woman..... about the mess na nangyayari ngayon YOU don't deserve it coz lahat nang nanlalait sa'yo ay puro kasinungalingan.....
you can walk the straight coz wala kang ginagawang masama....

i;m always here for you.....

Lhai Cruz said...

Hi Bianca,
Nakakatuwa naman na despite your showbiz and other commitments, you took some time to visit NBP.
Galing! You have inspired me in a lot of ways. Pinatunayan mo na ang paggawa ng mabuti doesn’t always have to involve money, kahit little things lang even without money involved, as long as from the heart, will make a big difference.
That day, you gave those people something money can’t buy! I’m proud of you. I just want to say that you are one amazing Filipina. Your one of those people who make me proud to be a Filipino. Marami pa ring matalino at disente sa showbiz at isa ka na doon. You have always inspired me to do good to others. Thank you!
“Treat everyone with politeness, even those who are rude to you - not because they are nice, but because you are.” --- I know na ginagawa mo na iyan! You are very level headed, fine, beautiful lady! Please don’t ever change!

Anonymous said...

im crying while reading your post then my daughter asked me.."mama why u cry?", wala ako masabi kasi ang hirap magsalita ng umiiyak, I just hug n kiss her and let her sit beside me while reading your post..very inspiring..:)

Retort Naiveté said...

Oh. :) Thank you very much!! :) It's about an idea that I have, a project that melds a social cause and a business model together. :) Would very much appreciate a chance to share that idea with you but that would mean a longer message. :) If it wouldn't be too much trouble, please, please send your email address to tonetterivera@ymail.com. :)

Thank you very much. :) God bless and more power on future projects. :)

on_life_and_living_it said...

Hi Bianca. I hope you don't mind but I put a link of your blog into my blogsite. You and your works are such an inspiration, it should be shared to set an example to others. God bless! - mimi pambid

Sales on Heels said...

Wow! What and experience! Thank you for sharing! It's nice to know the bilibid prisoners are treated well and are supported in their quest to hone/discover the talents they have while serving time inside. Your description (yes...i tried closing my eyes to imagine it ;p) reminds me of Palawan's Iwahig Prison. I hope you realize the gift you have of creating an impact on someone's life and on the society as well. Please please please don't stop...you are much appreciated.;p God bless!:)

Maiza said...

Hello Ate Bianca,

Nice post. Thanks for enlightening most of us about NBP. I haven't tried visiting a prison here in Cebu but I do hope that it's as cool as what you describe NBP to be. They seem to be much organized and neater than what's outside. hehe

Thanks,
Maiza :)

Steph said...

My mom has been involved in prison ministries and she always tag us along in her visits. Back then, I used to take this ministry for granted but upon reading your blog, it made me realize that not all people are given the chance to visit NBP. Maswerte din pala ako kasi i get to visit these prisoners and talk to them on a regular basis. This post also made me admire you more kasi with your busy sked, you still managed to visit them. Truly, you are an inspiration to the youth of today. More power bianca. :)

Anonymous said...

Very inspiring blog post. I've been doing volunteer work at the New Bilibid Prisons for more than a year now. We teach the inmates at the maximum-security compound. It's one of the best decisions I've done in my life.. :)