March 27, 2023

While trade fairs start to boom as the Panagbenga Festival 2023 season kicks off, another kind of trade fair is happening at the Baguio City Jail male dorm featuring the arts and crafts of persons deprived of liberty (PDLs).
 Bureau of Jail and Management Penology Male Dorm Jail Warden Supt. April Rose Ayangwa said the PDLs’ livelihood products trade fair is open to the public every Thursday and Friday from 1 to 4 p.m.
Launched on Jan. 31, the trade fair is part of the livelihood and development program of the city jail to encourage PDLs to showcase their skills and talents through creative products.

The products on display are woven rattan like baskets and pasiking, bayong made of recycled plastics, tambo (reed) crafts, beaded bags and bead products, art crafts like thread art and sketching, carpentry products, welded products like plant stands and table stands.
Products that take time to make, such as carpentry and welding, need to be pre-ordered.  
“In the past two years, our livelihood products at the BJMP laid low but we were slowly going back to normal. We again launched the program to promote our products which would greatly help our PDLs,” Ayangwa said.

She said through the livelihood program, the PDLs are given projects as a creative outlet to put their energies into while gaining income from it.
The activity also boosts their self-esteem and helps them acquire and sharpen their skills that may prepare them if they are out of the facility.
“Danny”, one of the PDLs who creates tambo crafts, said he was not a carpenter but he self-learned how to create the tambo crafts inside the facility.
His creations include big wall clocks in the shape of a kalasag (shield) which are his bestsellers, ranging from P2,000 to P3,000 depending on the size. His works also include the name plates and frames made of tambo and plywood.

But out of his creations, what stood out was the mini replica of a three-story wooden house, which looked like a big vacation house somewhere made of pine woods. It was complete with details from the veranda, terrace, arches of the beams and stairs, with beautiful designs out of burned tambo. 
The miniature vacation house could also be lighted. And a whole lot more, as Danny brought out a key from his pocket and slowly removed a part of the frontage to reveal a keyhole. When he unlocked it, a drawer was revealed, big enough for documents. Then he proceeded to disassemble the first floor to reveal another drawer, and another one at the third floor of the mini house. It’s a mini-house that keeps on giving.  

Danny said he was inspired by the drawing of one of the PDLs and tried to make it into a reality from his imagination.
He said the project is one of the most difficult creations he did, which took four months to make. He pegged it at P20,000, and refused when someone asked for it to be reduced to P15,000.
He made two house replicas and sold the smaller one at P12,000 to his sibling who is from abroad.  
“We are thankful to the BJMP for allowing us to make a living out of our crafts. This is helpful also to our families that we could gain an income out of this. We would really love it if people would buy our quality products,” said Danny, who has three teenage children.

Ayangwa said the PDLs were not allowed to handle money inside the facility, that is why they are using the coupon system in lieu of money. This is in line with the BJMP’s 2020 memorandum, imposing coupon as legal tender inside jails.
Further, she said the city jail male dorm came up with passbooks for the PDLs, where their income and all their money would go.
She said whatever income the PDL gets, 90 percent goes to them while 10 percent would go to the livelihood development programs of the city jail such as conduct of skills training for PDLs.  
The coupon system and passbook would also prevent the illegal activities inside using money such as betting games.

The system is currently conducted on a two-week dry run prior to its full implementation after evaluation.
Ayangwa acknowledged the income of PDLs are just enough for their families outside to get by, that is why she said they are doing what they can to partner with outside buyers especially institutional buyers.
Visitors of the trade fair are asked to bring their vaccination cards, and eco bags too, in case they will end up buying.
The city jail male dorm houses 402 PDLs, of which 15 are senior citizens. – Ofelia C. Empian