PAULINIANS’ GIFT OF LOVE...
“We visit them, bringing them lots of merienda, extra food for the next two days, supplies of coffee, tea, personal items, toiletries, candies, snacks like boxes of juice,” she said, “plus a money envelope for each so that they can buy little necessities. The money comes from the class batch who accompanies us, like this year, we had several different High School classes, from 1954 to 1966.”
Ms. Martinez said that each bag of toiletries contained soap, shampoo, toilet paper, toothpaste, feminine hygiene products. In addition at the 2015 December Christmas visit, Paulinian Kate Gordon (wife of Dick Gordon of the Red Cross) who could not visit the women in prison donated additional funds for each Paulinian inmate.
According to Pilar Almira, Board member of SPMAFI, most of the Paulinians have been sentenced reclusion perpetual (live imprisonment). Ms. Almira is working with a former Secretary of Justice, also a Pulinian, to help them on the legal side. “Some of them are hoping they could be released on parole or pardoned,” said Pilar.
The cases of imprisonment were for illegal recruitment, parisside, theft, estafa, drug trafficking. Ms. Alingod cited that a few cases include a few women whose husband or boyfriend were the drug dealers but they too were also arrested and convicted. There was also one particular case where the husband was the main culprit but was alerted that he was going to be arrested. He fled the country together with his mistress, a friend of the Paulinian, and left her doing 20 years.
There was a particular case where a Paulinian has already served her prison term but has spent 3 more years awaiting her freedom. Citing “the bureaucracy, red tape and neglect” – her release form has yet to be signed.
Paulinian inmates sing Christmas songs and favorite Pilipino ballads for the alumnae.
“First I was surprised that there were Paulinians inside the Correctional,” said Jane Singson Fields, who was visiting from Virginia during her SPCM HS 64 batch Christmas reunion in Manila. It was her first time to join the group to visit the Paulinians in prison. She had heard much about SPMAFI’s prison visits and was able to accept Ms. Martinez’ invitation.
The Christmas visit was festive with food, song, good conversation and arts & crafts. The Paulinian inmates even sang Happy Birthday for Ms. Alingod who celebrated her birthday in December. Jane spoke – in Ilocano, her mother’s dialect from Vigan, Ilocos Sur – which some of the Paulinians appreciated.
“The ladies of the Correctional are so creative!” described Ms. Alingod, “They make such beautiful bags. Excellent is the word!”
They also made flowers made from phone directories, birds, and coin purses as well as Christmas and Greeting cards. Their bakery boasts of Spanish bread, butter bread loaves are good. They have learned to manicure, pedicure and style hair courtesy of another Paulinian batch HS 64.
“Despite their predicament, they always manage to be cheerful and so welcoming...as they have become old friends to us. It is always a bittersweet reunion but they know that we are friends who really care,” said Ms. Alingod, “We leave a part of our hearts each time we have to say goodbye -- Always with the thought that we could have been there too.”
“We are so blessed that we have our freedom. Each time I [leave] the Correctional, my heart is full because I know we have made our ladies happy and well fed, with so much their needs met and most of all, armed with the knowledge that they know we truly care for them,” she said.
“They really need our support & care. Yes, they really need our love, our care & our help!” Jane said, “I felt very happy when I visited them for the first time because I felt their sincere happiness & gratitude in seeing us visiting them. What they need are people showing them care & concern that's why they were very happy & grateful to see us visiting them there & being with us.”
Paulinians Jane Singson Fields, Dinggay La'O, Baby Gumaru-Sarmenta and Red Cross Rep.