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Manong Elmer is one of the inmates at the Negros Oriental Detention and Rehabilitation Center, Dumaguete City, Philippines.  He had been residing at the detention facility for twenty three months now, while his case is still being heard in Court. Manong Elmer designed and made the Christmas lantern called Parol that we decorated at the entrance of our office in the Hall of Justice, Dumaguete City, Philippines.

Decorating houses, offices, public buildings and parks, business establishments and even schools- with a variety of adornments to symbolize Christmas, is very Filipino.

For us Filipinos, witnessing everything that’s Christmas – the sight of the glittering decorations, the sound of carols and the scent of sweets and festivities uplifts our spirit and gives us the feeling of hope and happiness.

In one of the Saturdays this December, I had been blessed with the opportunity of celebrating the “Greccio” at the Franciscan home in Bajumpandan, Dumaguete City, together with Sister Karen, Sister Franscesca, Sister Armi, and two other associates Nancy and Sol.  

Looking at the crib and reflecting on the celebration of the greccio, I rejoiced because we had been divinely favoured with an “Emmanuel”, the Incarnate. But beyond the joyful leaping of my heart is a painful challenge that struck me with perplexity.  Is the crib- a symbol of hope, also found behind the cold bars of prison?  

I thought of the prisoners like Manong Elmer. I pictured the crib behind rusty but sturdy bars.

The Parol that Manong Elmer made was designed with a crib at the center.   I sincerely requested Manong Elmer if it is fine with him that I take his pictures.  He was more than willing to say “yes” and proudly happy to show his Parol with the “Belen” (the Nativity).
I asked Manong Elmer if he prays.   Quickly he answered, “Sige, ug kada- gabii”. (“Always, and every night”).

And then I added, “Nong, would you be kind enough to share to me your prayers, if it’s okay with you?”

Manong Elmer nodded with enthusiasm, and this is what he wrote and shared with me:

“Ang akong gi-ampo ug pasalamat sa Gino-o, nga hina-ut Iya kong taga-an ug ikaduhang higayon, nga Iya kong pagawson diri sa prisohan para maka-piling ko ang akong walo ka anak ug usa ka apo”.

[“ What I pray and thank God for: I hope that He will give me a second chance, that He will set me free from this prison cell, so I can be with my eight children and one grandchild”.]
I told Manong Elmer if it’s okay with him that I share his prayers with the SFP community and that his pictures and his prayers may be published.   With faith, hope and excitement gleaming from his face, he said he will be more than happy.    His charity is boundless.

His hope is in the One who makes all things possible. A hope that is not based on merits, neither on theories nor on defenses, “but on the One in whom we put our trust”.

I picture the crib behind bars. The difficulty of those imprisoned. The poverty. The transformation.
I see the Parol with the crib, hanging in our office.  Photographed is the image of the one who designed and made it.   

They all sparkled with Hope.

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 Glenda J. Yee

Published: January, 18, 2016