Punished. Locked up. Shunned. Pushed away.
Maybe some have their reasons, maybe others simply weren’t thinking straight, but none of that really matters, does it? To the public eye, a criminal record is a scar that runs across your entire being, not unlike the mark of Cain, scaring people away and shutting doors in your face before you even realize they were there to begin with.
It would be easy to give up when you’re behind bars. After all, what kind of life awaits you in a world that continues to move forward while you endure years in a limbo of your own creation?
Alias Flying Bee, an inmate in Malabang District Jail, felt the same way while awaiting his release. After almost four years in the penitentiary, he confessed that he felt like life was passing him by, like society had moved forward while he was stuck in a seemingly never-ending routine inside thorny walls.
Life outside, while something he was working towards and something he looked forward to, felt like a distant dream. Starting over and getting his life together was always something he planned to do the moment he set foot beyond prison walls, but where would he even begin?
It felt like he was just waiting to re-enter a world that remembered neither him nor his existence.
Or so he thought.
Just as he was stewing in these sentiments, the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao’s (BARMM) Ministry of Basic, Higher, and Technical Education (MBHTE)-Technical Education and Skills Development (TESD)—came to Malabang District Jail in search of special clients for their livelihood and scholarship program, where they offer skills training and NC-II opportunities to special communities.
Just like that, the answer landed on his lap.
Flying Bee saw it as a chance to make a plan, so they didn't waste any time applying for a spot in their tile setting class at the RML Multi-Skills Training and Assessment Center Inc., which is one of the pattern institutions in the TESDA program.
Training went as smoothly as he hoped—it was his first time even getting his hands on the materials, much less doing the job—and on February 14, 2023, their class of 25 under the Tile Setting program graduated along with 75 beneficiaries of other programs within their district jail.
Aside from their newly-acquired skills and NC-II, they were also given cash assistance to improve their chances of starting over when they finally leave the high walls of the penitentiary.
Still wishing to pull his weight in their home, half of his cash assistance went to Flying Bee’s family, while the other half he kept for himself while he waited out his sentence.
Throughout all of this, though, Flying Bee confessed that the program reminded him what it felt like to be a part of society, saying that despite their faults, it reassured him that the government has not forgotten them and that they were still a part of the community.
He told the other people in jail, not just in their district jail but all over the country, that they should work with government programs like these because they are in their best interests and give them chances to improve their lives and get back into society.
He also expressed his gratitude to the Bangsamoro government for giving him a second chance to start anew and expressed the hope that they would continue to do so for more people like him out there who felt—and still feel—lost and hopeless. (PJF/PIA-10/Lanao del Sur)