For Baguio inmates, merry handicraft-making goes beyond Christmas

THE men and women inside the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) in the Baguio City had long started crafting things to bedeck and brighten up the surroundings outside the prison walls even before people start shopping for Christmas

The inmates make colorful lanterns, home decors, and accessories out of bamboo and recycled materials like wires, paper, and plastic bottles. These, they sell to public and private institutions, even to private individuals, who may take a fancy of their handicrafts.

As a value-added and to make their handicrafts last longer, this year, the inmates have incorporated beads in their handiworks.

“Some of our service providers suggested that we make use of something that can last or be used for a very long time. That is why we decided to innovate our products and make use of beads, especially for the handcrafted Christmas decors,” female dorm warden Senior Inspector April Rose Ayangwa said.

The peak season for making lanterns may now be over. But handicraft-making goes beyond Christmastime for the PDLs.

Making such handicrafts is a year-long activity for them, as part of their reformation program and to help them and their families get by while they are inside the jail.

Since the start of the Christmas season, the inmates’ handicrafts, especially the colorful and unique lanterns, have been on display in the BJMP facilities in Baguio City for sale to the public.

Male dormitory warden, Chief Inspector Crispin Dornagon Jr., said all the profits from the handicrafts' sale go directly to the inmates who made them.

For the female dormitory inmates, the proceeds are used for the prison's so-called home visitation program, where BJMP personnel visit the families of the inmates and give them gifts on Christmas, and basic needs afterwards.

The year-long handicraft-making activity for the PDLs is a livelihood program aimed at enhancing their skills, creativity, and even their self-esteem, as despite being deprived of liberty, they know that they can do something good and productive, that they can actually earn for themselves and their families and that they are no longer liabilities to society.

Like the beads they have incorporated in their handiworks, they have, in essence, an added value to themselves, beyond Christmastime.

The activity is also meant to prepare the inmates for a new, productive life, once they are released or when the courts drop the charges filed against them.

“This kind of activity will definitely improve our PDLs (persons deprived of liberty or inmates) because they will be more productive. This kind of activities can also ease their boredom and can seem to reduce their imprisonment time,” Ayangwa added.

Apparently, it also gives the PDLs a sense of accomplishment.

“Actually, during my stay here I have learned a lot of things. I did productive things here that I was not able to do when I was still outside,” confessed “Miles” (not her real name), one of those active in the handicraft-making.

“In fact, it seems like I am enrolled in a school. We are like family here. Whenever we have an addition to our cell, we surely help them and train them. We teach them the basics of handicraft-making. Eventually, it becomes their passion,” she added in Filipino.

The inmates in Baguio make and sell a variety of gift items -- lanterns, accessories, resin sculptures, decors, bags, purses, key-chains, bonsai beads, mugs with rattan holders, and all kinds of pillows. But on top of these, they also make pre-ordered cakes, breads, and pastries, available daily at the BJMP bakeshop.

For “DJ” (not his real name) from the male dorm, he said it is not just about the financial gains but the skills and life lessons they learn from the activity that he values most. He said it inspires them to change for the better and believe that they still have a purpose in life, despite their “dark” past. (PNA)


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