A PRISONER WHO MADE GOOD
Goodness is the greatest strength of all.
There was a time in the past when homosexuality was considered a skeleton in the closet. Previous to that period, it was even considered evil and something bizzare. Well, today, not anymore. Homosexuals are almost anywhere and they are even considered an important sector of modern civilization. In the Philippine political scene, a group of homosexuals and lesbians even bound themselves and attempted to pierce through legislative competition by joing the partylist system to represent their kind. (Its just unfortunate that most of their potential members were selected also to lead other partylist aggrupation thereby rendering their ranks bereft of warm bodies) If Valentino and Rock Hudson were to live at this time, they would have been lauded for their arts and could have been blissfully married to another man like Elton John.
In the correctional setting, the homosexual is a different category at least from the eye of their fellow prisoners. They are feared for their intelligence but at times dismissed as nuisance. There were even impressions that the male ward in prison is paradise for homosexuals. That was before when visitors could only take a glimpse inside. Now, they, especially visiting women, could freely mix inside the visiting hall with their loved ones and thereby supplying the necessary sights to behold for the gender-starved prison population. The homosexuals became as a result ordinary denizens and even accepted as one of the boys. One of them does not even deserve to be inside but complexities of fate dictate otherwise like in the case of Arturo, or as he was fondly called Turing.
Turing is a spindly lad in his early 20s when he got involved in an infraction. He lived a dual existence. He acted and looked like any normal young man, but deep inside him, was a longing to belong to the so called third sex. He tried to be manly in the eyes of his family although there were momentary lapses when he would be caught, especially by his neighbors, swinging uncontrollaby his hips displaying the common traits of gayhood. He was the center of his group’s attention in school, always mirthful and light. He was also enjoying the confidence of an athlete for indeed he was one. He almost made it in the Olympics as a Taekwando player representing the academe and could have bagged the gold had it not for an instance when he could not skillfully defeat his challenger in the tournament. As a matter of fact, his coach walked out because he was pulling away his offense. According to Turing, the boy in his division was too cute to take down! That was the end of his athletic career. Worst, that was also a signal for his expulsion from his scholarship.
One fine evening, as he was walking briskly back home, he was met by his neighbors. The youth in the area would find it fitting to mill adjacent their house on a drinking spree to catch the attention of girls, mostly siblings of Turing. He was accosted by the bulkier one, a toughie and was asked to dance for the group. He smiled and tried to brush off the invitation. But the aggressor hanged on as if embarassed by the denial. The hunk embraced Turing to show that he was superior and the boss. The athlete in Turing evaded the attack and tried to flee. He was met by the toughie’s companion, each with broken bottles as weapons. The group encircled him. He appealed to his enebrated friends to just enjoy the evening, but the spirit of liquor could no longer ascertain normalcy. Someone grabbed Turing’s throat from behind and a scuffle began. Anyone trained in Taekwando would swear never to attack their kind or their spar would wind up with broken ribs. After all, they are trained to kick the soul out of any attacker in case of combat. His assailant, the three of them, indeed suffered broken bones. The toughie was the most affected. His vertebrae was dislocated and became paralyzed as a consequence.
Turing was arrested and after a year of court hearings, he was sentenced to serve time for assault. He was given a penalty of imprisonment in the maximum for 8 years. He was a picture of dejection. His family even disowned him after finding out that he was a homosexual. Most of those who attended his court hearings were confirmed gays and some were even cross-dressers. They were all excited to see their comrade, envious as they were, enter paradise, the male prison ward!
After a year in the national penitentiary, Turing was shipped to another penal establishment in southern Philippines, the Davao Penal Colony. The facility was inside a vast prison reservation devoted to banana plantation. It was an ideal colony for offenders with background in farming. And unfortunately though, it was a heart breaking chapter and too lonely a place for the likes of an urbanite like Turing. He tried however as a matter for survival and peace of mind to mix with the boys and hid his real persona. He would volunteer to take manual duties even if it means ruining his smooth palm and staining his fingernails. He would participate in the cleanliness drive of the yard, constantly exposing his skin on the harsh noon sunlight. He became a hunk of a man in a short period, muscled in time, earned rough wrinkles and gained a rugged complexion to boot. Months later, he would be included in a batch that would be escorted to the vast banana plantation as a trainee assigned in drainage maintenance and flood control. It was a back breaking job although physically a rewarding task. He would receive a stipend which he would save from day one. He had nothing to procure anyway and he knew fairly well that he was there to suffer and experience pain for inflicting lethal blows on his neighbood playmates, one of them has been confirmed a paralytic for life already.
He was a dutiful trainee. A favorite of prison guards and the apple in the eyes of the company’s supervisors. He had the initiative and the work ethic. And very respectful too. While most of his team mates would trick their guards for a quick shot of Tanduay (a local liquor), he would merely feign stomach ache and would easily get exemption. These would be his routine day in and day out, weekly, monthly and thereupon yearly. There was a time when prison administration would hold on to their stipends like trust but when a government team discovered this arrangement, an order was issued requiring the office to give every penny to the prisoners. Accordingly, government officers should not keep any fund due the prisoners. It was not an inspired move though but more of a suspicion that government workers may defraud prisoners of their money. Prison administration justified this as a means to control prison misdemeanor—like corrupting officers, buying contraband and the like. Nonetheless, the prison officers yielded to the order. As soon as the fund was distributed, a number of prisoners escaped. The government team went about their mission happily thereafter unaware that their policy backfired, and worst, public safety was compromised. Turing however never joined those who bolted away although he was already one of those trusted with little security supervision.
The kid was surprised at the fact that he was already in possession of almost Php 45,000.00, a big sum already relatively speaking. He approached the prison administration for safekeeping of his fund and was accepted. He continued with his daily routine at the farm and sustained his seriousness as a farm trainee. Years passed until it was time for him to bid prison goodbye. He was recommended to be released on parole, a procedure where he would be discharged to the free community and would continue to report to authorities for supervision until he finally completes the parole period of five years, or he would reach the expiration of his full sentence, whichever comes first.
Realizing that he would have nothing to do in the free community during this parole period, he opted to remain. He submitted a request to prison administration that his temporary release be deferred instead. He would rather continue serving his sentence until he completes the entire stretch of his penalty within the institution. It was granted. Thereafter, he continued his regular training activity in the banana plantation. He would also amass so much savings from the stipend he would regularly receive. There were ocassions when he would fancy a prisoner buddy, not so much for the friendship but for the looks. The feminine heart was still active and always longing for emotional attachment. There were times when he would have given away his discipline had it not for the thought that the same trauma might again return to haunt him. He learned his lesson the hard way. He must be a little abnormal if not a bit circumspect, that is to say manly for a time, if only to survive.
Finally, the day came for him to be emancipated from the penal regime. The administrator handed over to him his release paper and a thick envelop wrapped in notations consisting of wads of bills which he had saved during his incarceration. The boyish young man, still with feminine traits, already a full grown hunk, with a dusky voice, rough skin texture, and all the features of a masculine character, finally took a last look at the penal facility as if leaving his home.
The last that was heard of the man, he was already a part time banana grower in the adjacent town several blocks away from the penal colony and also an owner of one of the biggest beauty and health saloon in central district of a town nearby his farm. Behind the business structure was a shanty he built for himself, shorn of luxury and elegance. It was a simple bedroom the size of a prison cell. Aside from a calender, two prominent pictures are displayed, both his portrait, one was his photo wearing a Taekwando uniform and another, in a prison uniform. The stretch of time he underwent were enough education for him to realize the meaning of life and more, specially the definition of goodness. And he found it not elsewhere but ironically, of all places its within prisons. The goodness of work.
P/Supt IV Venancio J. Tesoro
August 1, 2010