Something is being cooked up for the City Jail, something as sweet as freshly baked bread. The ingredients got stirred when members of Rotary, the international service organization, visited while Typhoon Gener was pouring last Thursday morning.
The Rotarians, all from the Baguio Summer Capital chapter, had escorted to prison visiting Rotarian Stanley Tokigawa of Ala Moana District 5000 in Honolulu and professor David McQuittey of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary based in Fort Worth, Texas.
Tokigawa and McQuittey brought three boxes of rubber sandals they wanted the prisoners to try on. The two arrived here on a stormy weather Wednesday night from Alaminos, Pangasinan where they delivered a container van of medical supplies for the town, courtesy of Tokigawa’s Shiraki Memorial Foundation and the Hawaii Rotary Youth Foundation.
They were received at the City Jail chapel by 65 female inmates and several coordinators of the male cells, all dressed in yellow t-shirts and ready with a program they interspersed with hymns and folksongs. After the turnover and messages, a female inmate aired a collective plea.
Later, over lunch at the Venus Park Hotel with former Rotary District 3790 governor Rolando Villanueva, the service club members began figuring out how to install an oven inside the jail, so the prisoners can bake their own morning bread.
Tokigawa and McQuittey themselves reopened the topic, asking if Villanueva, a businessman, had any idea what it would take to purchase an oven and baking paraphernalia.
A resident of the women’s section of the jail had mentioned the need for the oven in her response during the turnover program, before female wardress, C/Insp. Mary Anne Tresmanio, could deliver her closing remarks.
The suggestion fired the imagination of the Rotarians led by Summer Capital co-founder and charter president Virgilio Bautista, incumbent president Joris Karl Dacawi, and incoming president Edward Dogui-es.
“With them baking their own bread, inmates could afford to have four instead of two pieces of pandesal for breakfast,” club member and investment counselor club past president Eric Picart agreed. With him were past president Albert Atiwag, Rommel Alcid, Paul Fajardo, Perfecto Lopez Darius Ramos, and Manuel Solis Jr.
Wards of the jail used to bake their own bread in the 1970s, after the inmates organized their dramatic guild and presented three one-act plays directed by the late Baguio journalist Frederic Mayo.
The plays, also staged at the University of the Philippines Baguio, helped the City Jail earn the title as the best urban detention center in the country.
Part of the prize was a bread oven that the prisoners used in baking pandesal they sold to health buffs dropping by on their way home from their early morning jogs at Burnham Park.
The prisoners’ appeal for help to be able to bake again hardly reflects a one-way process. Over the years, they have been reaching out to the community at large with their own service and humanitarian projects within their givens.
On Mother’s Day last year, they submitted to Jail Warden Severino Khita P4,000 they raised for two months. The following morning, Khita had the amount coursed through the account of the Philippine Red Cross as the inmates’ contribution to the drive for the earthquake and tsunami victims in Japan.
In June 2009, they pooled P360 for Trinalyn Mangisel, a 21-month old baby who was born with a hole in her heart. Their support and that of Aira and Rhea Estepa, then five-year old twins who broke their piggy bank to have their dad deliver P476.25 in coins to the toddler, inspired other Samaritans of all walks. Trinalyn eventually went under the knife, thanks to Swiss expatriate Peter Ernst who bankrolled the cost of surgery at the Philippine Heart Center.
In March that year, the inmates joined the rest of the world in marking Earth Hour, and since then had gone to as long as three hours in observing the annual energy switch-off that underscores the need to lower carbon footprint as a means of addressing Climate Change.
Since then, they have been observing Earth Day and World Environment Day, events they tried to record in the maiden and only issue so far of their in-house newsletter, The Baguio Insider.