Cebu Dancing Inmates: The Lighter Side of Life
Much had been said about our fellow dancing inmates in Cebu Provincial Detention Rehabilitation Center (CPDRC) that they became another YouTube sensation few years ago when they performed Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” From doing simple exercise routines evolved choreographed dance numbers that made them famous worldwide.
Cebu dancing inmates’ performance is scheduled every last Saturday of every month and is open to the viewing public for free but donations in cash or in kind is highly appreciated. We came to witness the July performance and saw hundreds of people dominated mostly by Danish and Japanese tourists.
We were taken abound because the Japanese media requested for the song “Thriller” just a day before the performance and was immediately included in the playlist. Although the documentary was focused more on the daily routine of the inmates and their personal offenses, we got to witness the day where they made the local and international audience really happy. It was the first in time in history where a generous donor sponsored hundreds of red converse-like sneakers to all dancing inmates.
CPDRC warden Romeo Manansala was kind enough to let us dwell inside the prison cells and interviewed notable inmates and some star dancers. We saw inmates inside one cell cooking chicken adobo as we started the interview. They answered in few words and very timid because we were told we are the first media allowed to interview inmates inside their cells. On the other hand, there were some inmates friendly enough to satisfy our queries as I thought it was rare for them to mingle with people from the outside.
At the time of the one-hour performance where they performed at least 11 songs, I could see genuine smile in their faces amidst the extreme hot weather. I guess the warm reception they get from the audience serves as their inspiration. Moreover, their respective family gets to visit and watch them dance too.
It is heart warming to know that apart from living behind bars, part of the donations go to their cooperative programs such as an in-house bakery, sari-sari store and selling souvenir shirts, straw and paper-made flowers. They have 3 TV sets as well catering to channels 2, 5 & 7 located on every corner of the huge open space. It was peculiar to see mostly everyone setting up their own hammocks during their siesta time as well.
We may not know exactly the feeling of living inside a prison cell but I had a rare glimpse of what it is like joining these inmates as they shared whole-heartedly their daily routines and that they had made a global difference with incorporating music and dance as part of their rehabilitation program. These and more would showcase the lighter side of life of being a Cebu dancing inmate.