New Bilibid Prison: Not As What I Thought As It Is

No one can blame me if I’m afraid of the prisoners, ex-convicts and especially the so-called Bilibid Prison, why? because of what I am seeing in the news, in televisions, in movies and even in print media; it’s terrifying how the place and the people behind bars are described!

When I was invited to have a visit at the Bureau of Corrections or commonly called as BuCor, at first I was hesitant especially that we will be actually going to the Maximum Security Compound, who wouldn’t? We all know that criminals who have committed heinous crimes such as murders, massacres, rape and the like are locked up in this facility, so I have all the reasons in the world to be hesitant and scared, right?

bilibid New Bilibid Prison: Not As What I Thought As It Is

But then, I guess I have to conquer my fears because I know that bloggers like me will not be invited to such institution if it’s not safe plus Director Gaudencio Pangilinan of the Bureau of Corrections, assured us that the BuCor is one of the safest place in Manila. So, I told myself, “this is it! I have to go!”

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New Bilibid Prison (NBP)’s control room

So, on June 8, 2012, my blogger friends and I went to the New Bilibid Prison (NBP). Upon entering the facility, I felt butterflies in my stomach that I think I’m going to throw up, I was nauseated and a little bit sweaty due to anxiety and apprehensions, in short…… I was terribly nervous, period. I didn’t bring my camera because common sense told me that it’s prohibited inside the facility.

Maximum Security Compound New Bilibid Prison: Not As What I Thought As It Is

When we were inside the Corrections, there were cameras everywhere taking pictures of us; I thought they were media people or some sort but then I felt dumb when I realized that the ones that have cameras and taking pictures/videos of us are all inmates and they are members of the production team for their own TV channel inside the facility! It’s called Bilibid TV3 (BTV3), managed and staffed by the inmates for the inmates.

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I was really amazed because who would’ve thought that a correctional facility has its own TV productions?!

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Anyway, I have also noticed some golf carts ( I was informed that they were made by the inmates), sari-sari stores, different chapels (for various religious affiliations), basketball courts, playground, studio (where the bands comprised of inmates, too, records and performs), hospital, and conjutel among others.

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Golf Carts

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Churches

Hospital New Bilibid Prison: Not As What I Thought As It Is

Hospital

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Alternative Learning System

They also have conjutel, a mini hotel wherein the inmates can have a private time with their family or their husband/wife every weekend on a scheduled basis.  Yes, the BuCor allows for overnight conjugal visits for their inmates!

Prisoners likewise have their set of “friends” popularly called as “gang”. But they are not that chaotic as what we are seeing in the news and movies. They were well-behave and courteous. The facility is also clean and “breathable”. According to the inmates we have interviewed, they are saddened by how the media pictures the BuCor and the inmates and that they can’t blame people, especially their families who haven’t remembered them for such a long time. Jaybee Sebastian, one of the inmates, sadly expressed that, “one will only realize who truly loves him/her and stays with them when they’re inside the BuCor”.

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inmates’ quarters

The inmates were just glad that the New Bilibid Prison is now starting to leave by its name – “New”. They have several programs/projects for the reformation of the prisoners, whom the society foresees to be hopeless and will always be in conflict with the law. The BuCor Mandate – Safekeeping and Reformation of National Prisoners – is now being carried in action in order to expunge the common notion of people about being an inmate in the so-called Muntinlupa facility, which is grossly opposite of what I have personally saw and witnessed during the one day visit.

Programs like livelihood are already implemented, enhancing the inmates’ talents on painting and other crafts is fully operational and they have their own recording studio for those who have talent for singing and those who are good in different musical instruments, among others.

livelihood New Bilibid Prison: Not As What I Thought As It Is

art New Bilibid Prison: Not As What I Thought As It Is


Feel Free Band: vocalist Luis Garchitorena is a 1996 Metro Pop Music Festival Champion

Bahala na Gang entertained us with their original composition

Jaybee Sebastian, BTV3 Head honcho

I was also impressed by their e-Dalaw facility wherein inmates can communicate with their loved ones here and abroad through internet – a really remarkable project that can ease the pain and longings of the detainees, as well as, give them a new perspective in life by letting them feel that someone is waiting for them outside the four corners of the prison.

edalaw New Bilibid Prison: Not As What I Thought As It Is

During the briefing, Director Pangilinan mentioned that the Bureau of Corrections is now starting to address major issues regarding the BuCor such as:

1. Outdated 1917 law
2. Low prison guard to inmates ratio -
3. Reformation Program
4. Modernization Bill & 10 year Road Map
5. Inmate records management
6. Transfer of NBP

Now, these issues has been gradually given attention and I believe that the BuCor’s Mandate will be able release inmates, who are productive, healthy, and less likely to be in conflict with the law again.

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BuRoc Director Gaudencio Pangilinan

Furthermore, we were likewise presented by the BuCor’s six imperatives of Reformation and they are listed below:

1. Health Care Program
2. Education and Skills Development
3. Livelihood and Livelihood Training
4. Moral and Spiritual Enlightenment
5. Sports and Recreational Program
6. Behavioral Modification

The bottom line function of BuCor is crime prevention as one recidivist less,  is one crime less.

When all of these imperatives will succeed, I guess Philippines will be one of the safest places to stay (due to less crime) in the world and we can be truly proud to say that “It’s More Fun in the Philippines”!

Now, I realized that prisoners inside the Bureau of Corrections are not truly “prisoners” in the true sense of the word, instead they’re just like a small community wherein all their needs are present (hospital, recreation facilities, chapels, education, etc.) and that they live harmoniously with each other.

For more details, you may visit www.bucor.gov.ph to know more about their projects/programs and how you can extend your help if you wish to.

Together we can create a peaceful and safe Philippines to live by.

Photo Credits: BuCor and Marriage and Beyond

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15 Responses to New Bilibid Prison: Not As What I Thought As It Is

  1. Mitchteryosa says:

    Wow! That was such a great experience!

  2. Ruth says:

    Interesting.. when we visited a juvenile center in Indonesia, I was worried to death, but interesting to know how inmates live their lives and try to change in a place like that. Thanks for the share.

  3. Badet says:

    This is very enlightening! Good job for the BuCor because they showed the positive side of life in bilibid. I didn’t know that they have Bilibid TV.

  4. Lawrence says:

    yeah, I agree to Ruth, this post is quite interesting

  5. levy says:

    galing! bat ba di ako sumama… dami ko nalaman sa post mo :)

  6. Ric says:

    Interesting info. Interesting visit and experience for you and the group. Nice facilities at mukhang neat ang place! Hope our government will continue to improve such places and facilities! Thanks for the info!

  7. Olga says:

    Their ALS and Reformation programs were featured in a television program before. Thankfully, they have changed our penal system and have focused more on reformation than on punishment. Hopefully, the inmates will have a decent life after they have served their term. Though from the looks of it, they might have a better life inside BuCor.

  8. Franc Ramon says:

    This is such an eye opener. I hope these prisoners would have a second chance in life.

  9. jared's mum says:

    i have heard about e-dalaw in the news + i guess it is one great idea! it helps ease the pain + loneliness of being away from their family while they are locked up behind bars. this post sure give me a whole new perspective about our brothers in prison.

    thanks for sharing

  10. Yuu Ki says:

    glad to know there are a lot of activities and projects inside BuCor…

  11. The MAC computer for their e-Dalaw program amazed me! LOL. Why not buy cheaper ones?

  12. David Clarke says:

    Things have really changed for the better since 2004. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jg2l-55VbC0

  13. Nice one kuya jaybee…. ingats ka lage jan, mgkikita kita pa tayo nina kuya..

  14. David Clarke says:

    I have much footage of our work of rehabilitation in New Bilibid Prison since August 2001. The pictures shown above show things 1000 percent better than they were when I was last there in 2004.
    For more footage just call me and I will make it available on Youtube. http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL16B9F709C8CA7AE7&feature=view_all

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