The Challenge of Social Justice

by RJ Limpo

Social Justice is defined as the fair and just relation between the individual and society (source: Wikipedia). It is easy to imagine that in an ideal world, administration of such fairness would be easily attainable. However, looking closely at the local setting, we would be hard pressed to find such an ideal. Specially if we look into the social services that our government has to provide for.
For example, let us look closely into the workings of our local jail facilities.

Each municipality has a city jail. This is supposed to be the “holding area” for an accused aka PDL (persons deprived of liberty) to await promulgation as to whether he or she will in fact be convicted or otherwise. In the meantime, should the PDL be reliant on the PAO or the Public Attorneys Office for representation, (unless they can afford a private attorney) and find a schedule at the local courts for the hearings to be heard, It will take no less than a couple of months up to a couple of years to reach a decision.

Meanwhile, as one enters the facility, their world stops. Instantaneously finding oneself in a room full of strangers, sharing a 30 square meter with anywhere between 50-60 people in it. Sharing only one bathroom with only one bath allowed per day with one timba of water as your ration.

Most of the day is spent here. Inside the cell. Day in and day out.

This absence of Social Justice is what drives our efforts at the SSAP – Prison Ministry to keep servicing the needs of PDLs in terms of Spiritual building through weekly catechism classes and quarterly social integration programs to keep them in touch with what is going on outside the iron bars and the concrete walls.

And among the most recent projects that have gotten off the ground is the bakery at the Makati City Jail. Through your generous donations, PDLs are now able to produce their own bread products which they use to generate funds to supplement their basic needs in the facility. Since most of the donations came from our parish, we aptly and fondly call the bakery Pan de San Antonio.

Projects like these keep the PDLs busy, productive and made to feel useful instead of wallowing in midst of their suffering.

Incidentally, October 24-30 is National Corrections Consciousness Week (NACOCOW) which is a nationwide campaign of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) to showcase talents and uplift the spirits of PDLs. In line with this, we will be offering some of the bread products produced at the MCJ bakery during this weekend. We pray for your continued support to the SSAP ministries.

As published in the October 23 issue of the Parish Bulletin.


The Prison Ministry, Headed by RJ Limpo

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If there is one word to describe the Prison Ministry, it would be chances. This is where the ministry draws its energy to execute its programs. From the many instances in the Bible that Jesus gave which showed a countless number of chances for people to change.

There’s the story of the adulteress, where Jesus asked that he who is without sin to cast the first stone. Jesus is clearly extending a change for change. All he asked from her is to repent and change her ways and in turn she would be saved. Also in the story of the penitent thief who asked Jesus to save him at the last hour during the crucifixion, he too was given a change and was saved. These are just two clear examples of the changes that Jesus extends to us. Jesus tirelessly gives us changes to change.

Instead of looking at our sinfulness, He sees the potential greatness in us as we learn from our mistakes. This is what drives the Prison Ministry to fulfill its mission to bring Christ to the inmates. To make them feel that there is a world out there that is giving them a chance at life despite the sins they have committed. All our efforts are guided by the principle of showing the face of Christ through the various activities we have set up for them.

We highly encourage all the parishioners to join us in the many enriching activities mapped out through the year!

Read more about the Prison Ministry>>>>>


IMG_4899Here is a quick look into the day-to-day crosses that a prison inmate carries:

The average size of a prison cell is about 30 square meters (about the size of a condo studio unit) Each cell usually houses about 50 people, sharing 1 bathroom. Beds are arranged in double decked and in some cases situated inside the bathrooms.

All meals are single pitched, either sautéed vegetables or fried fish at best. Rice is of the lowest quality and the utensils of the worst kind. Plastic plates and unmatched silverware and thick-lipped glasses are what are normal in jail situations.

Some jail cells have it better than others. But during the Christmas Outreach in Taguig City Jail (TCJ) last December, one inmate was thankful for our mass and activity at the quadrangle as she said she has not been outside her cell since 6 months prior to our coming.

In TCJ, due to the absence of a chapel, masses are only held once a month. And attendance is also by chance as only about 20% of the population can be accommodated to hear mass at the quadrangle.

All these crosses though weigh much less than the cross of judgment. Living with guilt and the feeling of being judged is perhaps the heaviest cross anyone can bear. Ours is a harsh society —quick to judge and convenient to neglect. Some inmates experience abandonment even from their own family members. There are inmates who do not have “dalaw” from years on end.

This Lenten season is a reminder of the aftermath of judgment. The result of judgment is the cross itself. Jesus reminds us not to condemn but to forgive so we too may make our own crosses lighter for ourselves.

Should you wish to donate or participate in any of the Prison Ministry affairs please get in touch with RJ Limpo () or Teng Jorolan ().

“BRINGING THE FIESTA IN TAGUIG CITY JAIL” By Alli Raval – Prison Ministry Head

The Prison Ministry together with Fr. Reu Galoy, the SYA Volunteers and JPIC Scholars brought the fiesta to Taguig City Jail by having a “Master Chef” cooking challenge last May 30, 2015. For one day, inmates bring back happy memories of cooking for their loved ones. A total of 400 kilos of vegetables, 120 chickens, 25 dozens of eggs, and so much more were given for them to cook a 3 course meal to share with their fellow inmates numbering to about 1,000.

This cooking challenge is the jump start of more activities for the TCJ inmates. We are currently in the process of helping them build a “Multi-faith Purpose chapel.” We are finalizing the plans and will start construction soon.

This will be the second chapel that the Prison ministry will help build. The first one was in Makati City Jail completed last 2013. This chapel will enable the residents to have a venue where they can have catechism lessons, recollections, teachings and the like. We will help them build not just the chapel but also their relationship with God.

plan for Chapel

plan for Chapel

We would like to appeal to you and to your generous hearts to support our Francisfest 2015, a fund raising project featuring CECILE B. LICAD with the ABS-CBN Philhamonic Orchestra for the benefit of Santuario de San Antonio Parish Foundation’s outreach and charity programs.

by Marco Joson Merencillo – SYA Member

Life can be tedious at times. The daily grind to work can drain the energy we have. That’s why we look forward to the weekend because it’s the time to unwind, meet friends and eat out. But for a moment, imagine yourself in jail… what will you look forward to? Your freedom? Your visitors? Or your food?

In Taguig City Jail (TCJ), I found out that the inmates are fortunate enough to have breakfast, lunch and dinner. Surprisingly, the menu changes everyday, which consists of chicken, beef, pork, fish, vegetables and rice. A variety of Filipino staples such as tinapa, menudo, chopsuey, adobo, lomi, sinigang and tinola are served. All of these seem nourishing enough but I believe it’s not as satisfying as a homemade meal nor even surpass a restaurant dish.So imagine the delight of the inmates upon learning that they will have a cooking competition called Master Chef, a contest organized by the Prison Ministry together with Single Young Adults (SYA) with the participation of JPIC scholars of Santuario de San Antonio Parish.

May 30, 2015 was the day of the cooking competition. As I went inside the jail premises,the entrance was decorated with bamboo sticks and flowers made from colored paper. Moreover, rainbow-like flags hanged above the tents to create a fiesta atmosphere. The place did not resemble a prison at all.

Piece by piece, our volunteers brought inside the penitentiary all the items for the contest. We unpacked and distributed the ingredients into 12 tables. Each working area has a team of 5 members of the same gender. Hmmm… will the men win? Or will it be the females who are mostly the cooks in the house?

Following a few words of encouragement from our leader Jolly Gomez, our host Alli Raval started the contest by shouting “Game on!” Then the participants rushed to finish a minimum of three viands: appetizer, main course and dessert. After more than an hour of cooking, each team presented their dishes to the judges: Chef Nino Laus and Chef Isaac Bravo. Suprisingly, the meals looked and smelled delicious. At the end of the taste test, the judges declared Table #9 as the winner of the competition! Later on, I asked the judges why did that group win? For them, the team’s menu of pinakbet, pochero and turon stood out from the rest, which can even be served in a restaurant.

As a volunteer, I was fortunate to witness such a rare day of camaraderie amongst the prisoners and guards. The officers enjoyed taking pictures of the festivities and mingling with the participants.There were no rowdiness or fights that occurred. Smiles and laughter filled the premises. It was apparent that the inmates enjoyed the Master Chef competition. I saw how they lovingly prepared the meals as if they were cooking it for their own family. At the end of the day, what mattered most was the event reminded the inmates of their own home… where in the food is more delicious when you cook from the heart.

By Albert Puyoc – JPIC Scholar

Isang magandang karanasan ang aking nakamtan nong panahon ng kami ay pumunta sa Taguig City Jail. Excited at may halong kaba at takot ang aking naramdaman nang kami ay papunta pa lang sa aming distinasyon. Noong kami ay papasok na sa Taguig City jail unting-unting nawala ang nararamdaman kong kaba dahil sa aking mga nakita. Tinutulungan kami ng mga preso buhatin at ihanda ang mqa gamit para sa aktibidad. Ngunit hindi pa rin nawala ang nararamdaman kong takot sa maaring mangyari sa aming sa loob ng preso. Nang nagsimula na ang aming aktibidad para sa mga preso, unting-unting napalitan ng saya ang takot na aking nararamdaman. Napagtanto ko na hindi naman pala ganuon kasama ang mga taong nasa loob, tulad ng aking inaakala. Kinalaunan may mga preso kami nakilala at nakausap. Sa naramdaman ko habang kinakausap sila, sila ay simpleng tao tulad natin na nagkamali lamang. Kaya dapat nating silang patawarin at bigyan ng pagkakataong magbago. Kung ang Diyos nga ay pinatawad tayo sa mga kasalanan ating nagawa, tayo pa kayang mga tao. Masaya at naging matagumpay ang aktibidad na ginawa ng Prison Ministry at ng SYA at ng Santuario De San Antonio Parish. Dahil sa aktibidad na ito nalaman ko na myroon din palang aking galing sa pagluluto at iba pang mga bagay ang mga preso katulad nila. Nabago ang aking paniniwala at pagtingin sa mga preso dahil sa karanasan na iyon. Napagod man sa huli, naging masaya pa rin ako dahil naging bahagi ako sa aktibidad na tulad nito at nakatulong ako sa aking kapwa.

JPIC Scholars

JPIC Scholars

“Makati City Jail – Master Chef Season 3” by Alli Raval

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Last February 22, 2014, Prison Ministry held an event MASTER CHEF SEASON 3 in Makati City Jail. This event is the most anticipated activity by the residents and the Single Young Adults (SYA) as well. We have been doing this for three years now and the residents want another one next year. This activity give the residents a sense of freedom . . . choosing their own ingredients, cooking their specialty dishes and sharing it with their cell mates. They are very competitive with the choice of dish and even the presentation. The top 3 winners were given cash prizes and all of the participants – 5 residents per cell representing the 12 cells were given food and toiletry items as well. It was one fun and exciting Saturday for all of us. Tiring yet fulfilling.

The Prison Ministry has many activities lined up for MCJ residents such as Lenten Recollection, Santa Cruzan, Barrio Fiesta, Film Showing, Sportsfest, Medical and Dental Mission and Christmas gift giving. We also have Catechism classes for them every Monday. It has been a challenge for us earlier on looking for Catechists and “Biyaya” to give them after every lesson and after every activity, but God provides. In behalf of the Prison Ministry, we would like to thank you, our dear Parishioners for your donations that support this program. We look forward to be with you in our activities.