IT’S TIME TO RETIRE
My professor in National Defense College of the Philippines quipped and advised us, his students in military science, sometime ago, to “go down the stage while the audience is still clapping.” It would have been my signal reminder whenever I take a sensitive task. As soon my job is up, that is all. No fanfare, no frills, just deliver the goods and back to the chair.
On May 2014, my birth month, I intend to bow out from the Prison Service. It has been 37 years. No prisoner could have lasted that long even if his penalty is multiple Life Terms. I have been in the business of supervising prisoners for close to four decades and time is up. I was a fledging 23 year old bachelor when I first entered the rusted grilled campus of the National Penitentiary and at this point, at the age of 60 (my Visayan friends would pronounce it as SEXTY), I formally plan to exit the scene.
It has been an adventure working in prison. I barely could count the days when I intentionally absented myself. It’s all fun and exciting serving the prison community. One can see relief from harangued faces after counseling is done. And what makes it engrossing actually is the story behind each tale about the inmate. A prisoner is virtually a book. In the whole agency, that is 34,000 inmates or 34 K stories or books! And their tales are as real as the bruise they have received and the scars they have created.
In the prison community, there is pain everywhere. There is lamentation. There is fear. There is constantly something that resembles dread and trepidation. Prisoners have gone through a terrible initiation in the criminal justice system from the time of arrest, detention, prosecution, court trial and promulgation. Entry into the gates of prison is like getting into Hades or Hell. And for the denizens, those who guard the ramparts, those who man the doors are seen as satanic as can be. And worst, I was one of them! I belong to that sector that restricts something, prohibits a lot, that controls so much, that imposes several limitations. The mandate is that no one flies out of the cookoo’s nest.
And there I was day in and day out. I could see guilty faces, sometimes meet innocent wiles. There were aggressive postures and subservient pleas. I could not even reconcile talking with a high risk prisoner and getting impressed with his blameless outlook. Indeed, a tiger in a cage is cute and cuddly than the one found in the forest. Whoever invented prison must have thought of capturing a segment of humanity to be appreciated for what it is.
I would surely miss those days after I retire from the service. All I have are memories. Of being at logger heads with my superiors, of being contradicted by peers, of being disregarded by subordinates. It was part of territory. Threats were even spices that made service that suspenseful. But what made working in prison worthy were those moments one would share with a resentful community. The friendship that would be forged in this situation is like heated metal forged in cold water and wind; it is solid and strong. And in the course of my immersion, I had made thousands of friends.
In a few exciting days, my career would blossom and would shift from drama to literature. I intend to write the best and the worst, the most and the least but first, a book about celebrity prisoners.
Retirement here I come.