Exploring a picturesque island made up of white, talcum-fresh sand, surrounded by pristine, blue waters and hemmed by two breath-taking sand bars is an experience of a lifetime. What makes it more appealing is when you do so using government official time and with the people you intimately work with.

This is exactly what the officers and staff of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology
– Regional Office VIII did on May 19 and 20, 2011 where, with JSSUPT EMMANUEL T.
SICIO taking the lead, everyone cruised to Kalanggaman Island, 45 minutes off the coast of Palompon, Leyte for their Team-Bonding and Gender Awareness Seminar. The drive to Palompon town was a dragging 2.5-hour ordeal considering the mountainous terrain and the breakfastless travel. But this did not stop the group from having fun and enjoying the joy ride. Guys will be guys, and guys at BJMP take care of their skin well. Minutes before the motorized banca cruised to the island, the guys dabbed volumes of sun block lotion all over their faces, arms and legs. Everyone was in high spirits during the sail, and both DSLRs and digicams clicked here and there to document the natural beauty that surrounded the two bancas or simply to capture candid smiles. A few more minutes before disembarking, the island could be seen in all its glory, with sparkling white sand set against the clear blue skies and the scorching sun. My, everyone could not spare another minute to set foot on Kalanggaman Island Paradise.

Soon, the ladies got busy preparing for breakfast while the guys started setting up the canopy where the events will be held. Good that the tourist police were kind enough to accommodate the group in their post which was somehow wider and less cozy. Obviously, everyone wanted to explore the island and start enjoying the crystal clear waters but of course, first things first. The Regional Director, JSSUPT EMMANUEL T. SICIO, a low-profile, unassuming officer, enjoined everyone to loosen up and enjoy the activities but reminded them that each event has an important learning meant to help them develop values or skills to become effective team-workers.

Boris Pascubillo and Nanie Ragay, both of DILG 8 were just too blessed to have been invited to facilitate the team-bonding and gender awareness activities. Nice people, great food, and perfect atmosphere all done on official business –can these facilitators ask for more?
Yes, work and play can be rolled into one.

Nanie simply touched on the basic concepts of gender as a development perspective and how it can benefit the bureau. Separation of cells for women and children, for example, is an indicator of a gender-friendly jail management. Addressing female inmates issues like pregnancy, provision of potable water, construction of separate comfort rooms and provision of health care services also tell how gender-sensitive the bureau is.

Meanwhile, Boris’ turn loosened up the atmosphere because of the fun activities. Although they knew one another so well, Boris’ yarn activity all the more gave them the chance to know one another more as they described themselves using the letters of their names. Adjectives like “yummy”, “delicious”, “desirable” and “friendly” were the major key words of the day.

The first challenge for the teams was the formation of a perfect square using pre-cut bond paper and Gregarious Team was just too fortunate to be the first to form the perfect square followed by Team Hunky and finally, by the Bounty Fresh Team. Soon, the teams got busy preparing their yells and presentations. The highlight of the afternoon was the presentation of yells, the identification of the robbers, the group picture and the unforgettable human pyramid formation. That was an afternoon to reckon with. Everyone set aside their ranks and positions and let out the playful child in them, which made the activities even more meaningful and substantial. Can you imagine a regional director allowing his back to be stepped on just so the team can form the pyramid which was, by the way, only 2 points? The air was filled with raucous laughter as the teams tried to outsmart one another in friendly, neutral terms. “Mas malupit ito!” would always be the retort of the Hunkies who boasted of their team’s perfect group picture. The facilitators’ intention was to undertake the closing ceremony right that evening so that everyone can enjoy the place the next day but when Boris declared a five-minute break, everyone hurried to the sandbar which appeared as the tide lowered later in the afternoon.
Picture dito, picture doon – everyone had a blast enjoying the fresh sea breeze, the cool saline water, the powdery sand and of course, the good company of everyone.

That evening, everyone was just as exhausted so the closing rites had to be set aside. The moon appeared later in the night and blanketed everyone, while the cool, calm waves served as lullaby.

Everyone could not get enough of the island, and as early as 4 am the next day, everyone was up and about taking pictures, walking along the shorelines or simply enjoying the cool morning breeze. After breakfast, the closing ceremony took place. It was perhaps the most defining moment of the entire affair. The teams were made to form the bureau’s mission and vision so that they will be reminded of their raison d’être. The RD sat beside two jars of yellow and green candies, and each one went to pick one, and commit to the RD what he/she can contribute for the betterment of the bureau. Coming to the office early, sharing talents and resources, submitting to authority, being professional and giving one’s best – these were the promises made and we believe, will never be broken. As their green shirt says, “Many Hands make Work Light”.

Two days in an island paradise, millions of wonderful memories to cherish, and a bonding that will last through the years – that is the BJMP experience.

Oops…pass the sun block lotion please!

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