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Bacolod City, Philippines Wednesday, October 9, 2019
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Orient Express
with Cecile Genove

Inmates turned entrepreneurs

Orient Express

Twenty-five beneficiaries of the Training for Work Scholarship Program (TWSP) of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) in Negros Oriental have successfully started their own business in March this year.

However, these beneficiaries are not your everyday recipients who are trying to make both ends meet, but are so-called persons deprived of liberty, the more politically correct term today given to individuals who have been arrested and held in lawful custody of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP).

Of the 25, 21 are those who have been detained for some time, while 4 are personnel of the BJMP in Barangay Azagra, Tanjay City, Negros Oriental. Together, they trained in bread and pastry production, thereby, earning National Certification (NC) II skills.

The pastry recipes that they learned are soft roll, jelly roll, chiffon cake, moon rock or “binangkal,” pizza, cinnamon, and pandesal. The training also somehow relieved them of stress and boredom. “Nakatabang gyud ug dako namo ang training, sanglit tungod sa among na-acquire nga skill nawala among kamingaw…na busy mi at the same time, nakatabang usab sa among mga panginahanglan kada adlaw,” shared 26-year-old Roxanne Macasilhig Bartolata, who has been detained for more than seven years now over a drug-related case.

“Bisan sa ingon ani namo nga sitwasyon, dako gyud kog pasalamat kay diri nako nakaplagan ang tinuod nga kahulugan sa kinabuhi…tungod pud siguro kay daghan kaayo mi diri ug mga activities,” said Raymundo Bonogon Jr., 42, who is chief expediter of the jail, thus, in charge of activities that help them develop their respective capabilities as well as enhance their skills for income- generating projects within the jail community.

A total of 331 inmates are assigned and distributed in seven dormitories. For their initial capital for a cooperative business inside the jail, each dormitory agreed to put up P500. The four BJMP personnel who were part of the training likewise pooled their resources for an additional P500, making a total of P4,000 as capital for ingredients, tools, and other consumables.

With the average daily expenses for bread and pastry production ranging between P450 and P500, approximately 200 percent of the daily capital serves as the return of investment. By far, each dormitory, according to Bonogon, has already received P1,500 as share capital for the last three months, including the BJMP personnel.

Moreover, the workers for the daily operation of bread and pastry production receive P285 per month plus two pieces of bread every time each scholarship beneficiary/graduate renders service for the operation. Such income, meager as it may seem, can somehow address their needs like toiletries, food stuffs, and the like. If they so decide not to partake of the two pieces of bread, this is convertible to cash.

Tanjay City District Jail Warden Vilma Catalan informed, “The skills, indeed, relieved and helped them ease their boredom. Also, it gave them a sense of self- fulfillment and their involvement to the operation of bread and pastry production also served as stress reliever, something that cannot be bought with money.”

A number of organizations donated to their endeavor. The Seventh Day Adventist Church donated 2 Phoenix Gasul with 38.8 kgs. and 39.8 kgs. of gas, respectively. With these two tanks, the operation was realized. Villaflores College of Tanjay City also donated a three-decker oven equipment, baking sheets, baking pans, weighing scale, calculator, and the like.

To sustain the business, Villaflores College continuously supports the undertaking with refresher courses on livelihood skills to augment the competencies and fully equip the beneficiaries. The outreach programs conducted by various organizations also contribute to the wholesome development of inmates.

Daily religious activities are held, too, like on Monday, teachings/Mass from True Foundation Christian Center (TFCC) by Pastor Joenyl Ongganon; Tuesday, teachings/Mass from Jesus is our Shield World Wide Ministries by Pastor Bernard Eleccera; Wednesday, teachings/Mass from Seventh Day Adventist by Brother Simplicia Nillas; Thursday, teachings/Mass from Bible Baptist Church by Pastor Harris Baybayon; and, Friday, teachings/Mass from Word of Life by Brother Jose Rodulfo Muñoz. Every Sunday, a Roman Catholic Sunday Mass is spearheaded by Brother Felicisimo Navarro and every second Tuesday of the month, a Catholic Mass is being celebrated by Msgr. Glenn Corsiga.

One may be deprived of liberty, but for these inmates of BJMP in Tanjay, their rights are respected and their welfare is met by individuals who care.*

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