LIGHT FROM INSIDE. A star lantern handcrafted by persons deprived of liberty (PDLs) in Montevista District Jail light up light up the streets of Nabunturan town in the province of Compostela Valley. (Photo courtesy of BJMP Region XI)

MANILA -- This holiday season may be the merriest of the year for most of  Filipinos, who lengthily observe Christmas with many saying the celebration starts as early as September.  

While most people are celebrating with the traditional Simbang Gabi, puto bumbong, and bibingka, persons deprived of liberty (PDL) under the custody of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) were busy early in crafting beautiful lanterns that now bedeck the streets and parks in some of the bustling towns and cities in the country.  

Most of the livelihood programs they're engaged in are parol-making (lantern making), bonsai-décor making, bead works, bamboo crafts, and other Christmas decors, depending on the design commissioned by different local government units (LGUs) and private entities. 

"Malaking tulong ito lalo sa pamilya nila. Livelihood program kasi ito ng BJMP habang nasa piitan sila (It's a big help, especially to their families. It is the livelihood program of the BJMP while they are in detention)," BJMP chief Jail Director Deogracias Tapayan said. The LGUs provide the materials for production and pay the PDLs labor fees. 

Private individuals can also order lanterns, snowman, and gift boxes made by PDL at BJMP offices with prices ranging from PHP700 to PHP1,800. 

Ngayong taon, hinihikayat ng BJMP ang lahat na maging bahagi ng pasko ng ating mga PDL sa pamamagitan ng pagtangkilik ng gawa nilang mga parol (This year, the BJMP encourages everyone to include the PDL in celebrating Christmas by patronizing their lanterns)”, Tapayan said in a statement. 

Based on records, 65 percent or 100,452 PDLs detained in 478 jails nationwide are engaged in livelihood projects in time for the Christmas season. 

A 10-percent increase in the number of PDLs engaged in livelihood projects was documented from the first to the third quarter of 2018.  

“The PDLs are encouraged to participate in livelihood and skills enhancement programs in the BJMP not only because this is a part of their development plan while in detention, but this serves as an additional source of income for their families,” Tapayan added. 

For Christmas 2018, the PDLs in Davao City Jail-Annex produced a total of 475 handcrafted parols (lanterns) with labor cost of PHP436,200.  

These were installed on the streets of Davao City and have become one of the Christmas attractions in the metro. 

The local government of Nabunturan, Compostela Valley, meanwhile, ordered 50 pieces of custom-built lanterns crafted by PDLs in Montevista District Jail. 

These lanterns are now seen sparkling the busy town streets of Nabunturan.  The PDL from Urdaneta City District Jail made lanterns out of plastic bottles, which are now hung on the corridors of Labayug National High School in Sison, Pangasinan. (PNA)