Christmas in Cebu City Jail: A female inmate’s take on making a parol
CEBU CITY, Philippines —Thirty nine-year-old Anna, a female inmate of Cebu City Jail, was all giddy and excited when Jail Chief Inspector Elsie Eireen Alcomendras announced the parol making contest (Christmas lantern making contest) that each inmate in the female dormitory should participate in.
She had already formed a concept in her head three weeks before the contest was announced, and this gave her group in the female dormitory time to plan how they would go about making the Christmas lantern.
Given only with the guidelines that the parol would be four feet tall and would be made out of recycled materials, Anna, who once was connected to the business process outsourcing industry, recalled her life outside prison and how her family would prepare for the coming holidays.
The design and materials were still a blur in Anna’s head, but one thing that fuelled her enthusiasm to make the parol was the star-design they would make had given her a feeling of hope that someday she would have her freedom and again be with her family and spend time with them on Christmas day.
Aside from the feeling of hope, Anna felt more cheer in celebrating Christmas this year — her second year inside the prison — since she had in a way adjusted to her life there.
“Katong first time nako diri sa community mag Christmas — mix of emotion. Hilak, katawa, mingaw,” said Anna.
(My first Christmas here in the community, I felt a mix of emotions as I cried, laughed and missed my family.)
A lot has changed since that fateful November 2018, when Anna was committed to the facility in Barangay Kalunasan, Cebu City.
Anna, who is facing a drug case, said she missed the freedom that she had experienced when she was still outside prison, but she especially missed her family, whom she had not seen for quite a while.
She recalled how happy she and her family would spend Christmas.
Growing up surrounded with her relatives in Barangay Duljo Fatima, Cebu City, Christmas for Anna has always been the most anticipated time of the year with all the tradition of putting up the Christmas decorations together with her mom and dad to wrapping gifts for her nephews and nieces at least two days before Christmas day.
Such festive and exciting activity was what made her miss celebrating Christmas season outside of jail.
It took time for her to adjust to life there especially on the first year of being imprisoned.
Anna said the guards and her fellow inmates were able to help her out on the adjustments.
Anna admitted she had gotten closer to the people inside as they had worked together on the different activities inside the facility, which had helped them on their livelihood programs inside and in honing their creativity just like the parol making contest.
For Anna’s group, they have made a parol made up of the half part of an empty water bottle formed into flowers, which were glued together to form the star.
To give more color to the transparent bottles, Anna’s group decide to spray-paint the bottles using the colors blue, green, red, pink, orange and yellow, which were all chosen as the colors that reminded each person of her group about Christmas with their families.
While making the parol, Anna couln’t help but share her wish and perhaps, the others’ wish too this Christmas, which would be to spend more time with their families during the visiting hours this coming holidays.
“Gusto gyud mi duawon mi sa among pamilya, mahikap namo sila … taas unta nga oras kung pwede lang,” said Anna.
(We really hope our family would get to visit us so we could touch them physically… and a longer time during the visit if possible.)
Jail Chief Inspector Alcomendras said that part of the Cebu City Jail’s goal would be to make the detainees feel the spirit of Christmas even if they were away from their homes, and that was the idea of encouraging the women to create their own parol.
Alcomendras also said that they might also be able to arrange at least an hour of extension for the visiting hours this Christmas.
With the usual Tuesdays and Thursdays three-hour allotted visiting time, Alcomendras said they were planning how they would go about extending the visiting hours a bit.
“Among wish para nila nga joyful and happy ilang Christmas,” said Alcomendras.
(We do wish them a joyful and happy Christmas.)
As for Anna, who was putting up the finishing touches to her group’s parol, a small smile formed on her lips as she said, “Pasko na gyud sa amoa (It’s finally Christmas day here).” /dbs
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