OVER 1,500 Christmas lanterns or parols made by inmates were hanged on electric light posts on the streets of Iloilo City, as the City Government prepares for the simultaneous official lighting ceremony on Saturday, November 16.
The project, called "Brighter 2019 Christmas," was made in collaboration with the City Government under Mayor Jerry Treñas, Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI)-Iloilo, Zonta Club of Iloilo, Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) District Jail, and other stakeholders.
Inspired by the goal of Treñas to level up Iloilo City, the Christmas Lantern Committee was organized under Executive Order 67, Series of 2019, dated September 2, 2019.
Dr. Sandra Sarabia-Gomez, chairman of the PCCI-Iloilo, was optimistic in making 1,000 lanterns with the help of its sponsors from different businesses in the city. But for this event, 1,500 6x6 feet parols will be lighted.
The organizing committee is also composed of PCCI-Iloilo president lawyer Jobert Penaflorida and board of directors Maritess Lim, Vincent Abellar, Alma May Tayo, and Vidette Ong of the Zonta Club of Iloilo City.
The support group is composed of Junel Ann Divinagracia of the City Tourism Office, engineer Salvador Pedregoza of the City Engineer's Office, and Jail Superintendent Mary Chanette Espartero of the BJMP.
The project would not be made possible without the persons deprived of liberty (PDL) or inmates of the BJMP District Jail of Iloilo City.
Espartero told SunStar Philippines that she is happy that this year's Christmas celebration of the PDLs and their families would be merrier.
"If before we consider them the lost, last and least of the society, this time, they can still prove that they are capable of change," she said.
The inmates are being paid P900 for each piece of lantern they produce.
For the 1,500 lanterns created this year, the inmates earned around P1.3 million.
The money, Espartero said, will go to the inmates who made the lanterns, while some of the funds will be used to help the less fortunate.
"Families, friends, and wives of the inmates also helped make this project work. They are the ones who bought the raw materials for the lanterns," Espartero said.
She said the BJMP did not receive any centavos from the lantern project.
"Our [BJMP] role is only to check those materials through the security, making sure no prohibited materials or contrabands mix," she said. "So far, we have not intercepted any illegal items during the making of the lanterns."
Espartero said she was glad that they met the October 15 deadline set by the City Government and the organizers. The project started last September.
"At first, they only wanted 1,000 lanterns. But since there were so many sponsors that wanted to join, they requested an additional 500," Espartero said.
Since there were 500 additional lanterns, she said they were still able to meet the extended deadline.
More than 100 skilled lantern male workers worked on the project. At present, there are 883 male inmates of the BJMP.
Espartero said the BJMP is just the facilitator of the project.
She also clarified that the money used in making the lanterns are not from government funds. The cost of each lantern is being paid by sponsors or donors who want the names of their businesses printed on the lanterns.
Espartero said after Saturday, November 16, the inmates are ready to again accept orders from other individuals or local government units.
Meanwhile, Senator Franklin Drilon will join the official lighting of the 1,500 lanterns in the city.
Penaflorida, president of the Iloilo Festival Foundation Inc., said there were requests to keep the parols until the end of January 2020, as Iloilo City welcomes its guest for the much-awaited Iloilo Dinagyang Festival and the Chinese New Year Celebration. (SunStar Philippines)