VISITING AND GUESTING IN MALAYSIA

I was sent to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia as substitute speaker in the 2nd Annual Prisons and Correctional Facilities Asia and it was both very educational and informative.
It was very educational because there I learned a lot of approaches, advancements and programs which can be introduced back home in my country, the Philippines. During the two day conference, I was able to take note that Mexico, Curacao, Netherlands and Antilles were exploring administrative policies on early releasing. Columbia has already operated a house arrest and GPS tracking system. Brazil is on pre-trial and early release programs; Luxemburg concentrating on short sentence and early release, much like Andorra, Spain, Austria and Israel.


Well, that was par for the course. But the most significant insight I gained from my Malaysian journey, are the following: 1) That Malaysian Prisons are never experiencing congestion like most of its neighboring countries in Asia. The reason for this is the fact that the Malaysian government has an arranged correctional procedure in farming out prisoners to military camp for service of sentence. It has been referred to as the “Blue Ocean” approach. I have not received a clear explanation on why blue ocean. Anyway, the Malaysian prison has built a facility good for 40 thousand prisoners but it has only 33 thousand prisoners, 25% of which are foreigners. That means, according to a Malaysian prison official, they still have a “vacancy” for 7 thousand more.
2) That there are three major “races” dominant in the socio-cultural life of Malaysia. There are the, well, of course, the Malay, a strictly Muslim race. (Filipinos are closely related racially to the Malaysian nationals, even the language, the way it is delivered, the accent and all, everything seems a bit Filipino) There is the Chinese and the Indian. Moving around the capital of Malaysia, the city of Kuala Lumpur is a very revealing socio-cultural exposition.
In the Philippines, the Chinese and Indian play also a socio-cultural role and may have been mixed through inter-marriages, but in Malaysia, there is a distinctive separation and a sociological divide. The Malay are spiritually and conservatively on the side of Islamic faith. The Chinese are mainly Buddhist and the Indians have their respective beliefs based on their (or their ancestral) cultural upbringing. According to a Military observer, those from the Middle East—the pure Muslims—would rather spend their R and R in Malaysia than any other place or country in the world. Malaysia on the other hand plays a good host to their spiritual brethren, even offering economic expression in the country’s entrepreneurial landscape.
A cab driver, of Chinese descent, expressed his sentiment when asked how Chinese have assimilated into the Malay culture quipped, “Oh, over here in Malaysia, we, the Chinese and the Indian occupy the lowest rung in the society. We are the runners, the laborers, the marginalized here. We are never important except in running the wheels of the daily routine of the strictly Malay race. The Malay are very nationalistic next to no one in the South East Asia region.


No foreigner with dollar denomination could buy anything in Malaysia unless he converts it into Malaysian Ringgit. Any foreigner for that matter cannot use his currency unless it is in the local currency, much like Japan and any advanced country. In the Philippines, which I think would advance later, dollar are even preferred than its local currency.

But what amazed me is something I have as yet to find out the reason. I spent a great deal of time taking my meals in the so-called Food Street or Jalan Alor. It is one avenue, an ordinary alley about a kilometer stretch and on both side of the lane were restaurants whose tables have already spilled over the street. There were Chinese dishes, Malay, Thai, Cambodian, Vietnamese, delicacies from Asian countries, but I have as yet to see a stall from my country. Seems like there are none. But what amazes me, despite the splatter of excess food and spoilage of left over, there were no signs—no aroma of decay actually, and here is the clincher, there were NO flies at all! The scent of boiling broth, of grilled food, of leafy greens sautéed and heated along marinated meat and yes, there are exotic foods galore and of all meat supplies, there were different presentation of Asian cooking, especially on the manner of making a frog look delicious! I never tried eating one for fear that my throat would have warts later. My mother used to scold me before for playing with toad because I might get a skin disease all over—and it stuck in my memory, to the detriment of enjoying exotic food for a change.
I have seen Japan; I have toured Australia; dropped by Singapore for a while but Malaysia is something I could relay my racial connection with gusto except for the fact that at the exchange rate for my peso as against the Malaysian Ringgit which is 15 times greater—that is my P15 is equivalent to MR 1, indicates a situation where my country needs 15 more years of sincere governance to achieve what Malaysia has achieved at present. And, to think that sometime four or five decades ago, my country was above everyone else in Asia.
And by the way, there is also something that I observed, trivial it may seem. Unlike in the Philippines, 7pm in Malaysia is still daylight! But of course, at 6am in Malaysia, it’s still pitch dark while in the Philippines, the sun is about to burst. But there is something worth the local pride in Davao City where I am based if I will compare it with Malaysia. Davao cab drivers are a very, very honest lot than their Malaysian counterpart. I am also personally inclined or biased in favor of Indians, they act with cordiality, a bit humble and easy to get along with than their Chinese neighbor.

But on the whole, Malaysia is very much like Australia, Japan and Singapore—countries I have been to. Strolling around downtown is like malling in the Philippines. That is right, Kuala Lumpur is one big mall I have visited.

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KA NILO TAYAG AND ME

(ABOVE) Ka Nilo was brought to the National Penitentiary, a convicted subversive, a respected activist, an amiable young man, a dreaded communist, a high security risk prisoner and I was one of his jailors. This was sometime in late 70,s, around 1979. I was then a fledging 25 year old bureaucrat (prison psychologist). Ka Nilo, an accomplished youth leader, was 35 years old.
(BELOW). More than three decades later ( 33 years later to be exact). We were once again reunited by faith—faith in the belief on Nationalism. This time I am a 58 year old Prison Superintendent. Ka Nilo is a 68 year old Bishop of the Philippine Independent Church.

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In search of Freedom

A CASE OF A MISPLACED FUTURE
Stefanie belonged to a decent and hard working family. Her parents are all professionals and the foundation of their lineage reflected their middle class orientation. This, in a society where middle class is almost nowhere, and where those living under the poverty line prevail. She was clearly the apple of her parent’s eyes, the torch bearer of her ancestors, one who would carry on the breed towards a more professional future. She played the part so well. She was also the frontrunner, so to speak, of her school where she shone as one of its brilliant instructors. Her family is assured with her holding the mast and from thereon, the prosperity of the family literally within reach.
She mentored a lot of girls in her classroom, taught them the rudiments of morality and ethics, the value of education and discipline. She was the dutiful elder sister, the youthful mother, the icon of learning, the guiding light of pedagogy. But later she would falter and she would begin to descend down to the lowest rung of integrity. Is it because of love, one which every teacher romanticize during a lull in her class. Is it because she wanted to leap to a greater pedestal that she forgot the rules.
Let us start from below where we found her struggling to regain her life anew. At a glance, Stefanie is a sight to behold. Full of confidence. Poised. Self assured and confident. The place is not the academe though, neither it is the public plaza nor corporate boardroom. She is on her own, together with several persons all forlorn. It is no place for hope, it is no place for optimism and it is never a zone for any dreams at all. This is prison and this is where Stefanie, the wife, the mother, the career woman, the doting child toils in her days on ends until the legal system is satisfied. This will be her place for a number of years, not in school, not at home, not in her parent’s bedside, but in a spot where she tussles with conformity and routine. She was unfortunately pushed in an activity where her luck vanished in an instance.
In prison, she must have to adjust and live virtually among the so called Daiaides, those 49 daughters of Danaus in Greek mythology who murdered their husbands and were condemned to an eternity of carrying water in leaky jugs. The perilous background of her new environment dictates the emotions of its denizens and everywhere in all the four corners of the correctional facility one can find a decent place to contemplate. Yet she must find a place somewhere within her heart, if not in her mind. The teacher in her however would manifest in every activity. She would find herself leading the choral ensemble, acting as moderator and ceremonial speaker. She would occasionally render a song, she has a good voice in the first place, like that of Celine Dion, or if we are to patronize the Filipina, Charice. She must serve her time in a manner where her sanity could sustain an otherwise irrational environment.
Just a few years ago, she was enjoying the company of students, well adjusted to a life of perpetual learning, like all teachers are. Her love life became an intervention but that is what romance is all about. It promotes inspiration and condones sacrifices. She moved and adjusted to a life of coaching towards the period of competition. She bore a child, a bright son, but as she encountered one case after another and has been incarcerated for a number of years, the son has grown to a handsome young man, devoid of motherly caress and deprived of a domestic bliss a woman could only provide a child.
A few summers ago, as she was succeeding in finding prison as her temporary abode, still wishing that someday luck would favor her, another case, long in the archive of the court, would be unfolded. That case, similar to the cases brought before her would add on to her new penalty schedule. She would be slapped with additional penalty on top of her previous ones. She knew that there were more to come. As it were, per court documents, she must have to serve time for 8, yes, eight life terms. She could no longer stretch her imagination how she could live that long. She intends to raise the white flag already. She has been stressed fighting for justice for years already. She has resigned to her fate to live the remaining years contemplating on life in the company of her fellow prisoners. On the whole, she must have to serve 40 years in the prison community, straight, or believe in miracles, that she would be able to rejoin her family in just a few years. She has been in prison for almost a decade and she dreams that one day, she would see freedom while still able.
Every time a fellow inmate is called to receive the release paper, her heart aches. She longed for that day when she too would be the recipient of the same document. It would be the most significant paper she would receive in her life. That would mean rejoining her family, broken as it were from years of neglect. That would mean having to embrace her child and stay close with her parents, both weakened by years of praying for her.
Meanwhile, she must reinvent herself in the midst of her environment. She must transform her surroundings according to her taste, or face the prospect of being converted to the prevailing sad atmosphere of the prison community. She must encounter what Leonardo da Vinci realized before he unfolded a series of brilliant masterpieces, that simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. What better place in the planet where one can find simplicity of life than in the prison community.
She must endure her fate and ensure her faith. That is the only way to live freely.

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She was called POISON IVY

“POISON IVY”
Toxicodendron radicans, better known as poison ivy is a poisonous North American plant that is well known for its production of urushiol, a clear liquid compound found within the sap of the plant that causes an itching rash in most people who touch it.
Poison ivy can be found growing in any of the following three forms:
as a trailing vine that is 10–25 cm tall (4 to 10 inches)
as a shrub up to 1.2 m tall (4 feet)
as a climbing vine that grows on trees or some other support.

The plant may have been introduced during the American occupation in the early 1900s until it became an endemic plant used to decorate fences and walls of homes in gated communities. It has been said that snakes are afraid to scale walls when there is a poison ivy vine twirling on the perimeter.

The plant was to be heard again, this time as a signature tag of a seductive villainess in the famous Hollywood Batman movie series. Actress Uma Thurman typified the human cum plant who would try to defeat Batman and Robin in their crusade for justice, earning for her as one the most lethal outlaw that matched the bravado of the caped duo. She was Poison Ivy, a classic character that achieved quite a following among comic fans.

But the most remarkable and true to life adventure of another female denizen who was labelled as Poison Ivy did not come from imagination or literary woodwork. She was one of the most elusive and enigmatic felons the law enforcement agency of Philippine government ever bagged. Jails were no matched to her cunning however. While she can easily be caught and prosecuted, she had also that rare capacity to leave captivity if she really intends to fly from the cookoo’s nest. Her cunning in evading the law nonetheless ended until she was convicted for Theft and brought to the Penitentiary to serve time.

She was known as Poison Ivy, a label that would attach to her persona, not to her liking though but it stuck just the same because of law enforcement jargon in depicting its subjects. She had an amiable and cordial feature, a likeable projection one could instantly trust from a distance. She was genial and friendly, the type any person wanted to have to complete a task. She was an ideal assistant. In no time, she would be employed as aid and helper; and her employer would lose no time extending trust to her. That would be the signal when she would strike.

Her modus operandi is a template for property predators. She would prepare the meals for her employer, sprinkle it with a concoction that would sicken the stomach and when danger is sensed, especially if the employer has a history, say, of a high blood pressure or heart ailment, she would feign alarm and concern. She would even pretend panic and agitation. In the ensuing fright, employer would consent for an emergency hospital check up. The employer is immediately calmed, her arms virtually stabbed with dextrose. That would be the time when Poison Ivy goes back to the house and in her sweet time, ransack the place for precious and valuable items. Thereafter, she would still check her employer and pay partially the hospital for the admission and related expenses. That would be the period when she would bid quietly her employer goodbye. Once the employer is revived and is discharged, she would find out that she has lost every expensive and prized article in her house, including her trustworthy assistant.

She would roam the street, loaf around malls, moneyed and quite lavish enjoying the fruit of her surreptitious endeavour until such time she runs out of resources. Thereupon, she would again hunt for a prospective employer. That would be her routine. She gets employed, poisons her employer, brings her to hospital and drains her employer’s house of valuables. Until the law catches up.

She was charged, prosecuted and sentenced for theft. It was estimated that she has accumulated millions worth of valuables that her penalty signified the extent of her crime; she was sentenced to life imprisonment. In the penitentiary, she was easily accepted because of her pleasant and convivial projection. She was warm and friendly until she was given a light assignment among female inmates in a handicraft shop. She was very careful not to be popular among the group. She would feign conservatism to the point of being seen as autistic. With such behavioural cover, she can scan her environment without being seen as dubious. She began reviewing her surroundings, the corridor, the pathways, the walls, the fences. Checking the terrain is almost instinctive for her.

One day, she grew weary. The sun was unusually shy and most people must be lethargic. That for her is a sign. Slowly, she wrapped the regulation blanket, brought it in the shop and while she affably interacts with her fellow trainees, she innocuously leaves her corner, smiles at her peers and proceeded with a bundle onwards at the backdoor of the shop. Along the corridor, fronting the fence, she made a couple of glances, threw the blanket askew at the barbed wire fence, climbed quickly and in seconds, she was already outside of the camp. She pretended to walk normally, removed her uniform to display a new set of civilian clothing. She dumped her prison clothes and proceeded to walk characteristically like any resident in the area surrounding the camp. She reached the gate and a few paces before the guard station, she waited for some pedestrians. She would try to blend with them projecting that she was also a part of the group. She had that featured smile which can elicit trust and reliability. In a few seconds, she was already in the mainstream of the free community.

A few hours later, the penitentiary was on full alarm. The newly received prisoner, known to them as Poison Ivy may have been lost inside the prison camp. The custodial personnel were in panic, until they discovered a dry blanket splayed on the fence. The marks of a muddy sneaker and signs of hand grip indicated that it was used for the escape. For the first time in the history of the women’s prison, an inmate bolted through the fence.

A few hours thereafter, a manhunt was flashed. For the tracker team, the problem is that she cannot be located in a specific area. She was born in a remote town of Davao del Norte but she merely spent her first three years in the elementary before she was swaddled to stay at Ilo-ilo. When she graduated in the elementary, she joined her aunt in Manila where she finished secondary education. She is basically multi-lingual and can move around with ease. Over at Davao del Norte where she could find her relatives, it was believed that her estranged father is a top communist rebel already. She will never regress back to rejoin rural life. She can survive in urban areas through her charms knowing that the metropolis is too impersonal to detect her wiles.

In other words, Poison Ivy is still out there, prowling and may be somewhere in the neighbourhood waiting for a chance to be conscripted again. Beware of strangers. That wonderful lady smiling in one humble corner may not be that friendly after all. Civilization has introduced a number of changes. Development has many sides. One of them is serial crime.

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THE Director of Corrections, GAUDENCIO S. PANGILINAN

ANECDOTAL NOTES ON PRISON DIRECTOR GAUDENCIO S. PANGILINAN JR.

This early, newly appointed director of corrections Gaudencio S. Pangilinan Jr., is proving to be a different breed. Not unlike the prison leaders before him—with apologies for contrasting comparisons which is so apparent from the impressions given at an earlier time—who were unfortunately depicted because of mis-orientation or bias, and were seen as haughty and pompous. Although it can be said that they all share the same persuasion, similar world outlook and most probably a shared understanding on their responsibility—since traditionally, prison leaders were chosen from retired law enforcement agencies or the military, there were instances when their respective actions bespeak of some variation, a distinction if you may.

Consider the following instances.

Director Pangilinan , a week after assuming command, toured a satellite prison camp around New Bilibd Prison and was stunned upon seeing a uniform splayed on the barbed wire perimeter fence. He broke the convoy and alighted from his service vehicle. The security personnel ringed the director’s position. Everybody was standing on attention. The Director boomed and asked who the fellow who laundered and dangled the prison guard uniform on the fence. A prisoner was promptly ushered in front of the Director as tension mounted. Asked if he was the one who washed and hanged the clothes on the perimeter fence, the prisoner could only tearfully admit. At which instance, the Director pulled out his wallet and took out some bills, handing it to the prisoner with instructions to buy more hangers for the clothes. Had it been another Director, either the prison personnel is bawled out, or the prisoner is given a disciplinary reminder. Director Pangilinan this early showed the kind of person he is, a very understanding, a very matured leader.

In another occasion, as the Director marches towards the main gate of NBP administration building, several security personnel immediately stood at attention and gave their principal the mandatory salute—snappy, crisp and genial. All lined up and straight like candles. The Director however noticed one of those standing at attention wearing a different attire. The fellow was wearing fatigue military jacket over a white shirt and civilian pants. The Director whispered to the fellow if he was a Cafgu, to which the prison guard slowly bent his head in embarrassment. The Director left the formation and proceeded to walk through. The prison officer went back home and changed his outfit and came back in full uniform. Had it been another Director, the poor prison personnel would have gotten an instant tongue lashing if not out rightly whacked. Director Pangilinan is an ideal leader, considerate and sympathetic. He deserves not only loyalty but allegiance of a fledging organization.

In an organization like the prison service, where there are more intrigues than people, coming incessantly from prison personnel to prisoner, the presence of a new leader is an occasion to express sentiments and prejudice. There will be a multiplication of factions, each haggling for attention and partisanship. The prison service never lacked a period in the past when various sides would rig each other’s neck just to get a space near the ear of the leader. As a consequence, disorder is encouraged amidst order and deception becomes the order of the day. Director Pangilinan never played into the scheme nor had shown any vulnerable part in his armour of management. Had it been another Director, the entire organization would have been spinning wildly for speculation. Director Pangilinan showed the kind of superior training and upbringing he had with such candor and strength of character.

Once Director Pangilinan inspected the area inside the maximum security compound and while on tour, rain fell heavily. Guards and inmates scuttled and dashed to get umbrellas and immediately covered the prison official. Director Pangilinan noticing that most of those in the party were dripping wet, obliged the people to get rid of the umbrella as they would wade through the downpour as part of the inspection undertaking. Had it been another Director, the security detail would have been bawled out for not bringing an umbrella. Worst, I have never even seen any Director doing rounds even during inclement weather unlike the present Director.

I have had that rare opportunity to observe Director Pangilinan up close (only a handful of officers could stand the imposing intellectual presence of the man), capturing every detail of how his mind works. The man is definitely clean. He is damn honest. I never knew that there are such people employed in government. He hates graft and corruption like his battlefield enemies. He is disgusted with incompetence. He could not stand indifference in the public service. I was even thinking that the fellow grew up and was schooled in some monasteries. President Aquino, the appointing officer, could have pulled a master stroke in appointing Director Pangilinan at the helm of the Bureau of Corrections. While there were sceptics on how the military man would conduct himself, he has proven his worth. After only a few months, he succeeded in transforming the agency, cleaning the prison community and establishing one completed project after another as if he has been in the prison service for several decades already.

This is not propaganda. Director Pangilinan even shun, loathed and rejected any expression of bootlicking and subservience. I merely wanted to outline a better man, one whom I consider possessing the attributes of a person who can tame corrections, I, having been under several administrators since 1977. Director Pangilinan like former Director Meliton Goyena, both PMAers and Army man, exudes the confidence of competence,the bravura of a great warrior, an intellect above the ordinary, candid and upright well except for the fact that Goyena assumed command all by himself and without any coterie of advisers as confidential staff.

Director Pangilinan’s entry into the prison service has been greeted with doubts, opposition and protests. Accordingly, he still has a motion to defend himself with and to concentrate on. His appearance in media was met with so much condescension and grovelling. But the man cannot be annoyed and badgered. He has a full understanding of his responsibility and too matured to tackle petty issues. He has a grand plan in the prison service, his superiors at the Department of Justice are enthusiastic to resolve problems in prison with him at the helm and at the way he carries himself, the neutrality and sensibility, his conscientiousness and savvy, assiduousness and care, could only point to the direction that this leader will succeed where others could only offer suspense and trepidation.

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The Root of Heinous Crimes

THE ROOT OF HEINOUS CRIMES
A long time ago, whenever one gets information that a person was stabbed; the whole nation reading through the incident would already be in a state of shock. Now, not anymore. It is just one of the ordinary, common place felony one encounters daily. While it merited front page news before, now it would not even find a good space at the back or middle portion of the tabloid. Crime, as it is expressed and committed at present can be described as monstrous, atrocious, odious, terrible, etc. At most, it is dreadful, shocking and scandalous. It can even be said as wicked and evil. Our vocabulary would have a term for his kind of criminal act; it is called heinous.

Where did this act come from? How did it evolve from a simple felony to an intense unlawful behaviour? It has been said, and this can be verified and validated in the crime index, that behind any revolting offense, an ex convict is not far behind. It is even surmised quite clearly that someone who has tasted incarceration may have ingrained an intense capability to inflict the highest form of cruelty on his target or victim. It can be out rightly assumed that the ex-convict himself is the only one who can manifest such brutality. Worst, it can even be presumed that such behaviour may have evolved from the persecution and suffering he had undergone while serving time; and, this can only be experienced in a prison situation. Prison service in the 60s was an agonizing episode for a prisoner, a period when those who survived learns to cope with distress and suffering and in return, gained that capability to likewise impose cruelty without suffering from pangs of conscience.

It was the decade of the 60s and onward to the 70s when the most gruesome experience undergone through riots had taken place in the penitentiary. Inmates at that time got a firsthand lesson on increasing the threshold of pain, of witnessing and even in participating in grisly and horrific acts against one another. Those who made good in their macabre activities were rewarded with gang positions usually at the top of their organization. Subservient inmates became bullies themselves to survive. Those who merely were charged and imprisoned for simple felonies would graduate into offenders with capability to commit dreadful and frightening acts. As they served and completed their time, their entry into the free society was to be an advent of their initiation. No longer were they survivors in a game of chance, this time they would head syndicates or train the uninitiated into a life of adventure with hideous outlook. They would usher in a new method in getting even, on levelling with those who made them suffer, imposing blatant and shocking means as a form of vengeance. They pursue and commit mayhem wherever they may be. They were the light bearers, the warriors of modern day callousness, whose essence was to spread hell in all corners of their universe. They have experienced it in prison and once released , they can broaden the sphere of impunity in a way where they can flourish.

It is only in managing correctly those persons under custody of law that this phenomenon of heinous crimes can be controlled if not totally eradicated.

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FREEDOM: LOST and FOUND

FREEDOM:  LOST AND FOUND

In Greek mythology, there are two feminine characters that stand out according to their attributes.  There is Aphrodite, a picture whose face could only describe beauty, charisma and flawlessness.  It has also been said that she could bind all the impulses of men together in social communion.  And then, across the mythological field, we have the submissive Hecuba, who stands as one of the supreme examples of the suffering womanhood.  Accordingly, she saw her sons and husband killed, her infant grandson murdered, herself and her daughter enslaved.  Both mythological figures captured the essence of a Filipina in her finest and distressing quality.  Poise under pressure and serenity in the midst of chaos.  The Filipina as the quintessential Asian and the Filipina in her most typical posture.

What better way to describe the struggling Filipina as she ascends in the 21st century than to have a glimpse if only for a while on the life of a judicial client.  She is Maricel.  She is not our typical woman in the ordinary sense though but how she dealt with her life, there is something typical and extraordinary.  Maricel may be spelled and pronounced as miracle but what happened to her is outside of it.  She was government’s ideal lady, intelligent, full of aspiration, assertive and self assured.  Government gave her the breaks and opportunities.  She grabbed it and she was on top.  At a flick of a hand, however, the same government would hound her even in the farthest bowels of the earth.  She must have tempted if not angered the gods.  Human beings myths tell us must never approximate greater powers or else they would be doomed.  Argus was transformed into a peacock for not watching over what the gods wanted him.  The peacock’s tail reminds us of the many eyes which failed him.  There was Cassandra who could foretell the future but who defied the gods, and was consigned to a figure no one would believe any of her statements.

Maricel like those brilliant women in mythology has a lovely face that favors her ambition.  She could see poetry in every chance.    She has the intellect that could grasp the finest points in every idea.  The universe is her playing field; and, she lived on the fast lane.  She wanted success in bold letters and she was never contented in mediocrity.  As a matter of fact, she abhors it.  Surely, she may not have noticed it but she has completely made the gods envy of her trails.  And for this she must suffer.  But she would enjoy the initial ride.  As the saying goes, what the gods wish to destroy, they make them madly comfortable first.

While riding on the crest of triumph in her career, she would also witness the dwindling of luck. A sort of warning.  But she would never take heed.   Then, she would be estranged from her husband and her children would move from her towards her parents.  Notwithstanding, she knew that one day, her struggles would repay not only for her but for her loved ones as well.  But first, she must concentrate in conquering the world around her.  From the rustic neighborhood of Nueva Viscaya to the cosmopolitan city of Baguio, she began to carve her profession.

Opportunities would present itself in tempting offers.  She was inundated with prospects and lots of possibilities.  She would hop from a wad of bill to bundles of it. From the lonely nook of the academe as a clinical instructor, she waded through the rough seas of marketing as a medical representative.  To be one requires the highest form of persuasive ability.  No one survives the field unless one is a demigod in selling.  As it has been in the local scene, a detail man must sell a pinch of sugar and through wiles push the product as a life saving medicine.  She was one among these trained brokers and she was one of those who succeeded.  She went further founding an agency for travelers.  It could have been the higher level of being influential, of sending people to far away land, of coordinating with the most complex government institutions, mixing it up with sinister beings hovering in every corner of foreign affairs.  She accumulated so much to the point of luxury and prosperity.   She may have the proper rules but competition and intrigue can pull every virtuous conduct down to the pits.  Her hands were full and the gods got their fill.  She was sent spinning from one blunderbuss move to another.  She was charged and summarily prosecuted.  She kept her silence, contemplated in retreating, went back to her roots in the province and waited.  The courts through her fledging lawyer went for the jugular and found her guilty.  Amidst the charges that were dropped one after another, a case stood out for mishandling.  As a consequence, she was sentenced in absentia, she never knew what hit her but she was aware that she committed a ruse and she knew that she indeed has angered Olympus.  A woman should know where she must belong.  Not above but somewhere below.  But she got there and it was for her a glorious achievement.

Penalized for violations of the law, she was detained.  She could see herself rolling and sneaking from the pedestal of success to the pit of humiliation.  Desperation could lead people to commit themselves to the flames of extreme anxiety.  Some would train their violence against themselves; others would be hostile against others until they perish.  Despair would already have encumbered their thoughts.  Hopelessness and despondency would have wreck havoc to their minds.  Life would be a miserable existence.  But not for Maricel.  She would still express her plaintive smile. Her cool composure would still be the same.   In the filthy bends of jails and the unadorned corners of prison, she would be found appreciating the landscape.  She may not belong in these quarters, like those incarcerated professionals that dot every cell block in mindful activity, but she has to accept her fate as decreed by law and surely as pronounced by gods as curse to those who dare defy them.  Gloom and depression have no place in her heart.  Wretchedness and melancholy are alien to her.  She knew that one day; the power of love would conquer every tinge of unhappiness and desolation.  Her faith keeps her outlook all aglow.  The gods may have confiscated her freedom through the criminal justice system but they failed in defeating her heart.

In prison, she found her life expressly committed to service.  It is an occasion when will is tested, when determination is tried and resolve is sent to an ordeal.  She knew that the grinding routine of headcount, the all too familiar environs, the telling arrogance of supervision, would subsequently reduce a person towards dependency and eventually warped.   She may have skipped the mundane and the mediocre in her previous spell, but in an enclosed and perilous facility, she had no way of ignoring these instances.  She must be one among the undemanding, the so called masses, the unpretentious, the modest and the self effacing.  She was learning slowly what nature and humility means not in the field where she could divine power, but in a place drained and exhausted from pain.

She was to give a decade of her worthy existence not on the fast lane anymore.  Prison, in the perception of those who have gone through, was built to waste and serve time in the most disgraceful manner.  And it is in prison where she must spend her final stage, an interlude for what she would describe as her ultimate term.  She knows that she would one day be discharged from incarceration, she would eventually be granted clemency, and what would remain thereafter would be her concluding encounter with the gods.  Her faith dictates that humans like her are definitely more powerful than curses.  She maintains, despite the flings and arrows, despite the challenges and disputes that love will see her through.

She knew that freedom will be regained eventually and along with it is the realization that good works springs forth from love and in deep contemplation, in whatever beliefs she would adhere,  she would quote from memory a biblical passage, “wherever your treasure is, there will be your heart.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

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