PRISON, a reader’s haven
PRISON, a reader’s haven
Alexis Adonis is the only media personality I met not in my capacity as prison spokesman but as prison superintendent. We met not to have a discourse on the issues of incarceration but to tackle how to treat his imprisonment. Yes, Adonis was a prisoner and I was his jailor for a number of years. Adonis was a radio broadcaster of note and with a considerable following who quoted a feature in a tabloid, read it in his bloc time said incident and which eventually made him a subject for libel. He claimed, although in a way hearsay, that a politician was running away from his hotel room in his birthday suit after the discovery of his indiscretion. The incident created a furor and an instant scandal. As a consequence, he was charged and brought to court.
After a few days of trial and as soon as the decision was to be promulgated, Adonis was nowhere to hear the court’s decision. And it was unfavourable to his cause. He was sentenced in absentia and was immediately hunted. In a few days, he was arrested and sent to jail. He never had the time to appeal his case. Accordingly, no one had the power to file a counter charge, much more so, file an appeal against a powerful and influential personality unless one intends to lose his fortune. Adonis had no such luxury in the first place. He was merely a radio announcer with little means.
With only a bag containing his back shirt and some personal things, he was ushered into the jail and after a few days, transferred to Davao Penal Colony (Dapecol). The southern prison was an outback in the early 30s when it was founded and it has evolved into a farming community. Adonis was one among those given orientation for farm work except that he was disqualified as a result of his physical attributes. Nonetheless, he was given special institutional assignment as moderator during programs and on ordinary days, as interpreter. He has a good commanding voice, a clear speaker and knows a number of dialects. He was for a time one of the most respected office orderlies.
It was during this time that I would oftentimes summon him for small talk. He would not argue his case like most of his fellow prisoners when confronted with their respective cases but would rather consult me on his case and prospect for release by virtue of his deteriorating physical health. While he was never given a heavy assignment, neither compelled to do general services, he nonetheless expect the State to go slow on him humanitarian grounds. I was there actually to check on his security condition considering that he was on a high security risk and I have been receiving reports on his situation as far as threats are concerned. My visit to his area would be repeated on a regular basis.
Every time I would call him for a cup of coffee, I would prod him to use his time reading. And if he still could find chance, which in prison is aplenty, he should dabble in writing also. I would see to it that my schedule would include a time for checking out book sale and procure those which I could share to Adonis. One time, I told him an experience I had with one of my professors during my masteral classes when I submitted a paper regarding imprisonment. It was somewhat thick and it comprised a lot of insights about the regime. The professor thumbed it down despite my scholastic claims. I realized that my mentor was correct. No matter how insightful and how expressive my composition is, I cannot speak for the detainee in defining imprisonment. It would merely be an exercise of imagination with nothing realistic about my paper. That was what I was telling Adonis. He must put to good use his experience as prisoner to write something about the experience. He had every time in the world to fulfil it. He owed the world the lessons he may impart. A lesson about survival. A lesson about tenacity. A lesson about endurance.
But first he must read a lot. Read voraciously if necessary. There are lots of man-hours lost serving time in prison. It is only in prison that time, a precious commodity in the free community, is to be wasted.
I never bothered Adonis since then and I allowed him to internalize what I was then suggesting. All I knew was that he indeed took time to read but mostly he was into a lot of interaction with his fellow inmates. He needed that of course to spice up his immersion and later in narrating what happened during the course of his incarceration. The characters that he met were indeed great materials if indeed he wanted to write his memoirs down. A year later, he would be reclassified to minimum security status and after a few politically scandalous situations that begrudge his petition for release; he was eventually discharged from his detention.
It never took a while when I received a phone call from the man. He was at that time engaging me for an interview in his radio program. He got his broadcast post back once again. A few months later, still readjusting himself after six years in prison, he would be vindicated in the international court of justice. Accordingly, a decision was handed down requiring Philippine government to pay Adonis an amount equivalent to the period of his incarceration as payment for the period it squandered from him in prison. He may have lost his innocence but definitely he learned something which almost all great men in history—who were themselves incarcerated too—gained in the process, this time as far as Adonis is concerned, with material and legal recompense.