The Manila City Jail is easy to overlook if you pass by it since it is surrounded by the homes of many illegal settlers.docx
The Manila City Jail is easy to overlook if you pass by it since it is surrounded by the...
. The Manila City Jail is easy to overlook if you pass by it since it is surrounded by the homes of many illegal settlers. By many accounts, the place demands that a person be very vigilant with his possessions, as it is frequented by pick-pockets and snatchers. A few steps from the entrance of the barangay where the jail is situated, there is a police station which fronts the jail itself. The traffic going to the jail and the cramped spaces we had to navigate made the trip uncomfortable but bearable. For myself I had resolved to make this experience a meaningful one. I resolved t undertake this visit not only because it forms part of my grade, but because it is a corporal work of mercy which I have so, so seldom done for the Lord and for the least of my neighbors. When we got there, what first struck me was the amount of people waiting to get inside the compound. These people did not seem to mind the narrow, dirty, and suffocatingly hot tunnel they had to go through in order to visit their loved ones inside. Most of the visitors were women. Many had children with them and there were even a few who were pregnant. But still they lineup, for minutes at a time or maybe even more, just in order to get inside the compound. The scene touched me. The inmates of the Manila City Jail are persons too, human beings capable of caring and being loved. The scene I had just seen demonstrated to that fact. No matter how grave the wrong they did, they did not lose their humanity, their identity. They are not beyond love. Those people who truly love them stay by their side and help ease the reality of their situation. Reflecting on this scene, I think about the many times I have been at fault also and have been forgiven despite of it. Central to the Christian faith is the theme of redemption. Our Lord is
a God of forgiveness. We as Christians should, as followers of Christ, reflect this ideal in our dealings with our brothers and sisters. But this is not always the case. There are times when we cling to the hurt that others have dealt to us or the wrong done to us is simply too great to be forgotten. In such times we seek revenge, which we often mask and call “justice.” After a short inspection we were admitted to the prison compound. In a short while I encountered my first inmate who helped us to find our way inside the chapel. Many inmates roamed the compound. Inside the prison grounds were a saloon, a chapel and even a temple belonging to the Iglesiani Cristo. The prison seemed liked a microcosm ofsociety.It was a small barangay on its own. A few inmates talked and joked with us as we went our way. They struck me as ordinary men, and where it not for their yellow prison shirts, one may not be able to say that this one or that was an inmate. The buildings inside the prison complex struck me as old and derelict. They are far from the standard of humane living conditions. Even a part of the chapel had a flooded floor, and that was the norm. If there is one structural sin prevalent in Philippine society, it is the neglect of public infrastructure and basic social services. Misuse of public funds creates additional suffering to the poor of this country. These inmates had to suffer substandard living quarters and malnourishment aside from the penalties imposed upon them. The inmates that were assigned to us were cooperative and shared many of their experiences to us. They joined us in games and they even sang. They were people who love fun and parties too it would seem. I help in preparing the food and even served them personally, which was a humbling experience for me as I do not usually do this. The activity was a joyous occasion both for us and for the inmates. As we left, many had smiles in their faces as they bade
as goodbye. One even shook my hand. Perhaps it was in gratitude that we remembered them and took time to visit. The activity helped me to think of others and be concerned. As we passed by the entrance on our way out, I saw a sign above the entrance which filled my heart with joy. I felt glad that we did the activity. The sign echoed the words of our Lord: “…I was in prison, and you visited me.”