It was a Wednesday afternoon when I was informed that a former detainee of Tacloban City Jail Male Dormitory is one of the visual artists having artworks exhibit at the Activity Center of a mall in the City in relation to the Women’s Month Celebration. I was tasked to meet him there and inquire how the BJMP been helpful, if such be the case, in his artistic and personal development. And meet him I did. He is Almar ‘Jeuer’ Balais. It is only recently that he has regained his freedom after nearly a decade of incarceration in relation to a drug case. But you would not have seen it in his face! He was genuinely happy to present to me his artworks – portraits of two ladies, one of whom I have met at my workplace. He likewise proudly told me that upon regaining his freedom he immediately organized the local visual artists and have since then organized more than a couple of art exhibits.
Our conversation went on. Along the way when I asked him if the BJMP, particularly the management of the City Jail, been helpful to his artistic and/or personal development, he immediately responded, “Of course! The BJMP was very helpful in many ways. The most important of them, which I am truly grateful, is allowing and encouraging me to pursue and continue painting. It really helped me a lot in coping with my otherwise lonesome life in detention. With my nearly a decade in detention, painting made it a lot more tolerable and made me see and realize life in a different perspective.” For a moment, his answer made me speechless. At the back of my mind I can hear my former teacher saying “Some small things can make a great difference. Pay attention!” Indeed they do.
Me and Jeuer talked about a lot of other things but those that he said about the BJMP vis-a-vis his life in detention stuck the most not because it was what I was tasked to gather but because I was overwhelmed how indeed small things can make a great difference. Truly, when life throws you lemon, you gotta make a lemonade. But in most cases, you need someone to point you to that direction and and BJMP has just did it exactly on him while he was under its care.