PG Romeo Chavez was not an ordinary prison guard. He reported to the New Bilibid Prison custodial force office by day, almost permanent in his shift from 8am to 4pm, but his bigger take was after his tour of duty. He was, after changing his officer uniform into casual dress, a vendor from 4:30pm up to 9pm at the marketplace of Binan, Laguna, a 15 minute ride from his office. Even if his merchandise was parked a few steps from the Church, Chavez was never a religious man. As a matter of fact, he never went to Church at all. He was busy with earning a few pesos to support his growing family. For him, faith is only for those who can afford.
Despite his industry however he had difficulties in meeting both ends meet. There were a lot of temptation in the prison service like kowtowing with prisoners and their friends for a few bucks but these never interested him. There were opportunities like selling prison handicrafts but for him this could only reduce his integrity as a security personnel. But he must earn more since his children were about to enter school already.
One day he decided to request a change in his shift so that he could have time selling his merchandise without disturbing the time for his career in government. He would seek for a change of his assigned time, so that his period of work would be 4pm up to 12 midnight. It was a good schedule. The shift if at all applied outside means a period one waste whiling away with friends. And from 6am in the morning up until 3pm, he would be able to expose his goods to a greater number of people in the marketplace. The take and earnings doubled but it had a telling effect on his performance as correctional officer. He would oftentimes feel tired and exhausted.
As a result, he asked his supervisor to station him at the entrance gate so that he would be entertained by the parading patrol and constant movement. That way, he would forget the tension of his commercial endeavour conducted before. For a while, Chavez was having a grand time. He could whisk his troubled body from hawking in the marketplace to a sedate security assignment as in guarding the facility gate. As a guard on post, he had the luxury of sitting on the bench unlike in any other assignment where he must have to move from one point to another. It would be his favourite assignment. He would always give his supervisor a token of his merchandise as a way to thank him for the break.
Those were times when riots were prevalent in the maximum wing of the penitentiary. Fortunately for him though, his subdued assignment was also the safest. And while those personnel at the gates were secured from prison disturbance, there were times when sudden inspection by officials would create tension for them. But of course, those were far and in between violent sprees in the camp.
During one rainy night however when he was the only one manning the gate, while his supernumerary begged off for a minute to check the presence of his reliever several meters away, he could not help but dose off for a few seconds. Seated in a relax manner, rifle in between his legs, the barrel pointing above, Chavez embraced the instrument using it as balance while catching a nap. Since it was raining, the climate was inviting; coupled with silence, there was no other option for Chavez but sleep. Catnapping was his trained response to recharge and it was not difficult for him to hibernate in any position.
That moment was also, as if intended to, a time when the most dreaded and feared prison director dropped by unceremoniously. He wanted to personally check if all his men were standing alert inside the maximum compound. The director was accompanied by the superintendent and his lieutenants. As the group alighted from their convoy a few meters from the gate, the Director’s face contorted to see only one prison guard posted at the gate. Worst, the prison guard was seated in a relaxed manner , with eyes closed and mouth half opened!
The director unbuttoned his holster, felt the grip of his handgun, approached the guard slowly and at the top of his voice, sounding irked, shouted “ATTENTION!” Still the guard never made a movement at all. After a few seconds, he opened his eyes, directed it to the director and made a sign of the cross. He said, “Oooops, so sorry sir, I am just praying.” Then he stood at attention and made a snappy salute.
The director was impressed!