‘A love letter to our hearts’
Yesterday’s drizzle didn’t stop more than 800 inmates of the Cebu provincial jail from delivering a heartfelt performance before the high-ranking churchman sent by Pope Francis to represent him to the 51st International Eucharistic Congress (IEC).
Cardinal Charles Maung Bo, archbishop of Yangon in Myanmar Burma, was impressed by their performance and described their dance as a “love letter sent directly to our hearts.”
Bo urged them not to give up hope while in jail, saying that the Eucharist was about hope.
He asked the inmates to pray for one another, for the Catholic Church and for their loved ones waiting outside for them.
Bo then went down to the quadrangle to shake the hands of the inmates.
Bo earlier wanted to visit the prisoners of the Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center, which gained international prominence in 2007 when a video of the inmates dancing to Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” went viral after it was posted on YouTube, a video-sharing website.
Clad in their signature orange uniforms, red sneakers and white gloves, the inmates opened their 10-minute performance with Michael Jackson’s “They Don’t Care About Us.”
The dancers in front wore yellow shirts with the logo of the 51st IEC printed in front.
They wore white gloves to emphasize hand movements during their interpretation of the IEC theme song “Christ in us, our hope of glory.”
Toward the end of their performance, the inmates grouped themselves to form the monogram IHS or Iesus Hominum Salvator (Jesus, Savior of men).” Larry Biason, 45, was a standout among all the dancers.
Not only was he exceptionally tall, his hair was all white. Biason was left by his parents in front of a church in Albay when he was a baby.
He lived a comfortable life in the company of priests and nuns, but was swayed by friends to engage in vices during his teenage years.
“I had been to many places since then, thinking that it would give me fulfillment. I was wrong,” he said.
In 2010, he was arrested in Barili town, Cebu, for possession and sale of illegal drugs.
Biason then joined the famed dancing inmates when he was detained at the CPDRC.
He admitted he felt honored performing before Cardinal Bo, the papal legate to the 51st IEC. He could not help but smile especially when the cardinal greeted them “Pit Senyor” and “Maayong hapon (good afternoon),” after their performance.
Biason felt a little twinge of disappointment when he was not among the lucky inmates who got to shake hands with Bo.
He said he would have asked the cardinal to pray for him and his fellow inmates.
“I would ask him to pray for inmates like me, whose cases haven’t progressed for so long. I pray we would be given attention,” he said.
Biason said the last hearing he attended for his drug charges was in 2013.
Choreographer Vince Rosales said the inmates had been practicing since December because they thought that they would be dancing for the IEC delegates and some balikbayans.
They didn’t know that they would be performing for the Pope’s representative himself.
Rosales recalled that they were told by Cebu Auxiliary Bishop Dennis Villarojo, 51st IEC secretary-general, to give them a video of their performance on Dec. 26 which would be viewed by Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma.
While there were official hand movements to go with the lyrics of the IEC theme song, Rosales said he was told to incorporate the CPDRC style into their performance.
Apparently, the church officials in Cebu were happy with what they saw in the video.
A CPDRC choreographer since 2006, Rosales said he has never been happier for the inmates.
“I am so happy I was given this task by the Archdiocese of Cebu,” Rosales said.
He quipped that maybe the complainants would have mercy on the inmates and drop the cases filed against them so they would be freed immediately.
Fr. Crescencio Ubod, president of the Cebu Archdiocesan Prison Apostolate (CAPA), thanked Cardinal Bo for his presence at the provincial jail.
The CAPA is among the religious organizations working with the CPDRC inmates.
“Since we introduced Christ to them here, it is my prayer that we can still be with them when they are finally set free,” he said.
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