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PRISON SERVICE, a personal account

vjt at ciw

36 years ago today, I was formally employed in the Bureau of Prisons (now Bureau of Corrections).  I was a  fledgling 23 year old bachelor, fresh from a stint in a private company (Mead Johnson Philippines) and just a couple of summers out from a graduate study at the University of Philippines, where I was for a time an instructor.  I majored in Psychology at Letran College.  My entry position in the government agency was as a Guidance Psychologist.  I will never forget this day because on the logbook, after signing my name, the day was 7-7-77.  For Filipinos fixated with numerical superstition, 7 represent a lucky streak, as in a card game “Lucky 7” and some Biblical connotations on said figure.

Hence, I got into an agency in a very auspicious period.  And what a day indeed.  On my first day at the agency’s Reception and Diagnostic Center, I was immediately greeted with a bang, literally.  As soon as I entered the perimeter gate, armed custodial personnel were already in position with drawn firearms.  On the other side of the barricade were bolo-yielding inmates.  There was an on-going riot and while dodging through into my office, I noticed around three inmates splayed on the ground each with a makeshift arrow buried in their torso and head, dead as a doornail.    My knees were shaking not because of the fatalities but because the spilled blood may stain my brand new clothing.  And my mother might scold me for being careless!

As if the number 7 would rule my career, I took note of every incident where said figure ruled my employment schedule.  When I was summoned for orientation at the training school, we were 7.  On my 7th month at RDC, I was designated as a Section Chief.  Thereupon, I was promoted as Chief of RDC and stayed as head of division for 7 years (including stint as OIC).  Then, I had an enriching involvement in various conferences and major seminars totaling 7—a credential compilation which qualified me to be promoted to the highest ranking post as Penal Superintendent IV at the age of 34.

Former President Marcos had the same numerical fixation with said number too.  So is, an infamous convicted politician (Mayor Antonio Sanchez).  Both would be engrossed in their forays with regards number 7.  It would figure out prominently in every official and unofficial act of both.  For Marcos and Sanchez, 7 was a lucky charm.  Encountering the worst however, the same figure would manifest in the most sordid way.  Marcos was driven out by 7 of his loyal peers headed by Enrile and Ramos.  Sanchez on the other hand would serve time for committing murder on 7 counts.

I don’t know if the same number would also manifest in the low points of my career.  I am very careful not to indulge in it for fear that it might also affect my universe.  Nonetheless, I stayed close to my notes trying to document every facet of my routine.  And indeed, 7 seem to be present in my sphere.  I have copyrighted 7 books for publication already.  I would enjoy and preoccupy my time with 7 hobbies (sculpture, music, literature, radio broadcasting, painting, poetry and martial arts).  I completed and received 7 academic degrees.  And to date, I have already taken almost 7 significant top positions in my agency.

On the whole however, with number 7 or whatever, the prison service would always be a part of my being, a component of my personal whim, a significant segment in my quest to contribute something for the betterment of a sector in our humanity.

And I intend to continue with my subjective crusade up to the age of 77 onwards to 107 up to 177 if I still look like someone by then worthy to be reckoned.

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