Stars on Earth

As you enter Puerto Princesa City Jail’s waiting area, you are welcomed by colorful Christmas lanterns made by the inmates. These lanterns are for sale. (Photo by Karina Mae Funesto)

Christmas in the Philippines is a well-celebrated tradition. We, Filipinos, hop from one party to another, faithfully attend Simbang Gabi, and go all out on our Noche Buena. But before all these festivities, we decorate our houses and offices with the trappings of Christmas like twinkling lights, traditional Belen, and most especially, the lantern or parol.

Talking about parol, there’s a place in the city that always displays different kinds of parol along the national highway of Brgy. Tiniguiban. Out of curiosity, this author and my colleague Ai Nhi, visited the place to personally know the people behind the project.

"May Pag-asa at Pagbabago sa Parol ngayong Pasko”, this year’s theme for the parol making project.(Photo by Karina Mae Funesto)
“May Pag-asa at Pagbabago sa Parol ngayong Pasko”, this year’s theme for the parol making project.(Photo by Karina Mae Funesto)

What we have initially learned is that it began as a simple Christmas hobby of parol making became a yearly income generating project of the Puerto Princesa City Jail. The Parol Making Project came in fruition in 2010.

 

With these hands

Parol-making is part of the culture of inmates in the PPCJ. Their lanterns serve as gifts for their families. According to Mr. Marlito Anza, Inmates Welfare & Development Officer, this particular tradition was formalized to serve as livelihood of the inmates. They built a display center just outside the entrance where an array of lanterns of different design decorates the area.

As you enter Puerto Princesa City Jail’s waiting area, you are welcomed by colorful Christmas lanterns made by the inmates. These lanterns are for sale. (Photo by Karina Mea Funesto)
As you enter Puerto Princesa City Jail’s waiting area, you are welcomed by colorful Christmas lanterns made by the inmates. These lanterns are for sale. (Photo by Karina Mea Funesto)

This year, the project is inspired by the theme, “May Pag-asa at Pagbabago sa Parol ngayong Pasko.” Parol-making is a skill taught by inmates to each other. Any willing inmate can take out a loan without interest from the livelihood board. Currently, the project runs on a fund worth P90, 000. The fund is considered a revolving fund since it powers other livelihood projects like the bakery and barbershop inside the PPCJ. Ten percent (10%) is taken by the livelihood board from each sale of lantern; the rest goes to the inmates. The overall 10% earning is used to pay the watcher, fare for the acquisition of materials, large mirror for the barbershop, and other expenses.

 

“It’s not all about business – it gives hope to our inmates,” Mr. Anza said. The project helps the inmates provide for their families outside and also provide for their needs inside inside the jail.

 

This year, the parol-making began at around October. Under careful monitoring of the PPCJ, materials for the lanterns were brought in. The materials include papel charol, buho, metallic foil, metallic garland, pilot bulbs, Christmas lights, and etc. Small lanterns are sold at around P35- P100 each while the large ones are priced at around P400- P5,000.

 

Cha-ching

A lady cut into the interview to ask Mr. Anza how much is the lantern dangling in her hand. It

The locals patronize the project. (Photo by Karina Mae Funesto)
The locals patronize the project. (Photo by Karina Mae Funesto)

was a small lantern adorned with red metallic garland. Curiosity got the best of her when she witnessed people coming in the center and leaving with lanterns in hand. The project seems to be a hit with the locals since the livelihood board also encourages people to order from them. In fact, they have received orders from various business establishments. Presently, they are open for orders from would-be buyers. In the future, Mr. Anza hopes that the project will have more customers and would be able to tap business people to help them buy or sell their products.

 

 

A lantern can either signify hope or faith, but one thing is certain, Christmas isn’t complete without hanging lanterns. If you find yourself in the PPCJ area or stores which sell lanterns made by inmates, take out your wallet and buy one. Start the ripple of giving.

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