Allan: Christmas in Prison

SAMMY Baluyut holds a prison ministry where he shares the Word of God to the inmates of the Baguio City Jail and the Benguet Provincial Jail. Like other churches he is given a slot at least once a week. However, he goes further by soliciting the help of the VFW Post 124 led by Post Commander Alex Fores and Senior Vice Commander Eduardo Narvaez and other partners like the BSBT Foundation led by John Dalleg Allan Jr. (a non- profit organization that I previously led until my husband took over). These and other funds are used to buy personal items like toothbrushes, soap, towels etc. to be given during the Christmas Party where share a joy means games, Christmas carols and gifts.

I have attended several programs and parties in the Baguio City Jail and it's always been a time of reflection as how the inmates try to amuse themselves with various activities to while the time in jail. We have conducted Christian services for many years as part of the church ministry, and as a city councilor, I became part of facilitating the conduct of skills trainings and other education programs. And as a professor in the University, I paneled a study of the City jail. The programs and attitude of our jail wardens are considered more human and facilitating.

As was explained by John Allan who used to be a correction officer for 18years, these people in the jail are not yet convicted and are waiting the decisions of the crimes they are being charged. Yet with the slow justice system, there are those who stay in the jail for many years before decisions in their cases are given while others who have money will post bail and continue business as usual. And while they are in jail, some become hardened with the experience of abuse from fellows but others take that opportunity to change and take courses offered in the jail to prepare them to go back to society.

The season of Advent ends and then Christmas, but Advent sometimes lost its meaning because Christmas parties are conducted even in November 30 like the SIPR. Advent is supposedly a time of waiting for the birth of Jesus and it is a preparation for the faithful, yet parties are conducted every day by Christians themselves. Moreover this is with the thought of “what will I get in the exchange gift” “what will I win in the raffle” what will I bring in the potluck”. It is so far away from the essence of giving, because it is now that of receiving. It has become a much commercialized festival with giant Christmas trees (that some people continue to criticize) instead of a Belen that depicts more the reason for the season. And to make things more complicated we miss the reason why Jesus came as a baby.

Isaiah 61:1-4 (NIV)

“The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me,
because the LORD has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,

To proclaim the year of the LORD'S favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,

and provide for those who grieve in Zion-
to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.

They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD
for the display of his splendor."

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