Urdaneta City Jail, Pangasinan


An inmate in the Urdaneta City jail makes paper stars to pass the time while awaiting his trial. They usually don’t have scissors or anything sharp inside the cells so their paper sculptures are created by folding, crimping and tucking in small scraps. An old calendar, cigarette packets, a discarded magazine. And their hands.

I learned that they are also not allowed to have guitars in their cells because the bass strings can be used for unnecessary harm or for sawing through a bar. (huh?) In one detention center, the Rock Ed team wasn’t allowed to enter the cells so we had to conduct our inter-action with the inmates through bars. If you’ve ever talked to anyone through bars you know that it takes a toll on your eyes because you don’t quite know where to focus. On the bars or his face. Can’t do both. That’s just the way it is.

There are also very many niceties that aren’t applicable when saying goodbye to people who are incarcerated. ‘See you around’ doesn’t quite do it. ‘Take care’ sometimes becomes fraught with meaning and can be a frightening augury for them. Waving. Even the harmless “Sige po, mauna na kami. Salamat sa oras,” becomes inappropriate. At very many points during the ‘Rock the Rehas’ jail visits, even we ---- did not feel free.

Holidays come and go for inmates, as it sometimes feels for people who are in the so-called ‘outside.’ Possessing nothing but time, many inmates still produce artwork with the little that they have or what they are “allowed” to have.

Time, resources, and freedom. In the spirit of a new year crack, we ask ourselves: what do we do with ours?

A brave new year to all from Rock Ed Philippines.

Text: Gang Badoy
Photo Credit: Paolo Picones © 2006