Surpassing behind bars for the One

BEING behind bars won’t stop the world-famous dancing inmates of the Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center (CPDRC) from joining the 30th Sinulog revelry.

The Sinulog festival is one of the colorful and grandest celebrations in the Philippines — and the world, having been featured not only in local media but also in the international scene. This year, the YouTube-sensation inmates would perform their grand slam number for the Sinulog.

For two years, the inmates have danced on the tune of the Sinulog beat to give the audience a feel of the festival even inside the prison — but this year is different.

Four days before the Sinulog special performance, Capitol consultant on security Byron Garcia said: “I changed my mind (having Sinulog beat for finale). Instead I want to send the message to our audience, local and foreign, that Sinulog is the time of peace, freedom and democracy, which is why we decided to perform the ‘They don’t care about us’ song by (late) Michael Jackson.”

Michael Jackson’s song is about how people view criminals negatively and how the police treat them inside and even outside the jail. Yet with these discrimination and prejudice, the inmates know that someone up there knows who they really are, and that is more important, the lyric states.

Garcia said people, including the inmates, should not be victims but be ambassadors of peace and love.

Described as a “thorn amid the roses,” being the woman choreographer to men-dominated inmates, Gwendolyn Lador said she is blessed teaching the inmates because they are far different from the persons most people thought they were. She admitted that she was hesitant to do the job at first but when she interacted with them, it changed all her first impression.

Convicted with multiple murder and sentenced to 90 years imprisonment, Marfury “Arabo” Barberan, playing as John Travolta in one of the dances, said he is happy with what he is doing inside the jail.

Lador said this year’s Sinulog performance attracted more foreign and local visitors compared with the previous years. In fact, during the said performance, a number of people have donated thousands of pesos for the inmates.

About P255,000 were raised, which will be divided among the dancing inmates and will go directly to their personal accounts that the government provided.

As part of the Sinulog celebration, while the whole Cebu province enjoys the grand parade on Sunday, the dancing inmates would have a sports and fun fair with their family and friends.

French visitors Anouck Justafre, Helene Huard, and Claire Damour said the experience was heartwarming.

They said that in France, it is not possible to be with the prisoners compared with their “amazing” experience here. The three ladies heard about the dancing inmates in YouTube and the Lonely Planet travel magazine.

“I could really see their sincerity when dancing ‘Sorry sorry by Super Juniors’. It implies that they are repenting from their wrongdoings,” said Cebuana Corrie Pantollano.

The inmates’ interpretation of “They don’t care about us” was the first in the world to be danced with 35 persons, surpassing Michael Jackson’s seven-dancer performance, Garcia said.

Among the 15 song titles performed are from the albums of Queen, Michael Jackson, Laura Branigan, MC Hammer, and Asia’s 2NE1, Wonder Girls, and Super Junior.

*Published in Sun.Star Online–Sinulog blog:  videos and photos by author.


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