Two prisoners were overheard seriously exchanging pleasantries and thoughts about prison life. One of them is still new, recently admitted to serve time while the other has already spent almost a decade in prison. They both graduated from the same school in the province of Southern Mindanao and they immediately found a common ground. Their conversation went this way:
New Prisoner: “I was in high school in Notre Dame when I saw you in the intramurals. You were our idol in basketball at that time.” (He smiled at the prisoner sporting a different uniform reserved for those conscripted to help prison guards supervise newly received inmates.)
Old Prisoner: “That’s right, I was a college freshman when I was active in sports. I was a member of the varsity when I had this case on hazing.” (He smiled back at the newly received prisoner and turned serious having recalled his case.)
NP: How is it here in this penal colony? Is it true that inmates without gangs are literally abused?
OP: That is fiction. Only those who are belligerent, and there are a few of them here, are disliked and most likely to get into trouble with guards. Otherwise, everything is at a standstill here. There is one lesson in prison everyone must take to heart if one intends to survive—one must be humble.
NP: How long have you been here?
OP: I stayed three years in jail. And over here, I have been seven years already. All in all, I have spent almost ten years.
NP: How is your family? (He brought out a clean shirt with the logo of his school and gave it to his new friend as a matter of courtesy.) “By the way, I have shirts here I bought before being transferred here. I know you will like it, to remind us of the good old days.”
OP: Thank you. Well, in jail, I was constantly being visited by my family. There were instances when the warden would even allow me to go home. I was the jail cook and the guards relish the finger food I would prepare for them, especially when they have a drinking binge. For preparing something for their mini feast, I would be allowed to stay overnight in my residence. Over here in the penal colony, since it is far from my community of orientation, my family seldom visits. Well, for two years, I would appreciate their presence but after that I would hear nothing from them. But I understand.
NP: So you have no visitor for several years already?
OP: Well, there was this lady who was introduced by a fellow inmate, a cousin of his wife, who took fancy on my loneliness and she has been my regular visitor. I even wrote the office to reflect her name as my fiancée. She does not look good though but she helps me a lot. She gives me my regular allowance for my cigarettes, she brings me good clothing, at times medicine, She updates me on matters of interests like floods, calamities and conditions obtaining in the free community. By the way, do you have relatives near this place?
NP: None that I can think of. But having seen you in a way made me stable. I thought that the world has closed on me. With you around I think I will survive.
OP: My first few months were terrible. I had no one to turn to except for the amiable prison guards. The younger set is fair compared to the older ones. But you get a lot of approaches and moves when the older ones would teach you some lessons. It takes a lot of adjustments. You must never be choosy. You must never preoccupy your time counting on days and tinkering with deficiencies here. Everything here is deficient but you will realize that the prison community is a cut higher than the free community in terms of requirements. If the food is spoiled, you can make a complaint and it would be heard. In the free community, if you do not work, no one will throw you a piece of bread. If somebody is trying to fool you, you can just report and it will be taken up. In the free community, no one is interested in your cause that is why one is predisposed to take the law into his hands. But don’t be dependent because time will come when we will be released and will be confronted with a sick system. If you have a skill, hone it to perfection while you are here. If you have none, think of a skill you would gain a mastery of. That to me is the blessing of incarceration.
NP: So, probably by now you have gain a skill already?
OP: That is right. There is no way to survive except to think of what you should do to your time. Everyone here waste time. There is no other way. You cannot count your days and weeks and years. It passes by and you must ignore it. Depression in prison kills. But it kills the mind first. In my case, I use the time to have several skills. It makes your day right. I know how to barber. I know carpentry. I know masonry. I know bricks and hollow blocks making. I intend to learn more.
NP: Thank you for your thoughts. I became strong already.
OP: I forgot something. Believe in God. It makes you stronger every day.