CAVITE City—Unlike most people who eagerly wait for the return of a loved one from prison, Leony, a street vendor, will most likely wish something else.
“When you were with us, all you did was to cause me and our children pain. We always fought whenever you asked for money to support your vices. But now, you no longer drink and instead, send money for the family. The Lord is so kind. It’s an answered prayer! I will include in my novena in Quiapo and Baclaran that you stay longer there.”
Fr. Dominador Medina, 69, tells his parishioners this anecdote, quoting from a letter that Leony may give her husband in prison as soon as her family receives the P3,000 her husband earned behind bars.
Leony, says the Catholic priest, is a real person who shared this sentiment with him when she was told that her erstwhile headache of a husband was actually making money in jail.
After All Souls’ Day, the St. Peter’s Parish in Cavite City is sending Leony and the families of some 20 inmates their shares from the P60,000 that their loved ones earned from making candles.
The parish started the project as part of its apostolate work in September last year. It chose 20 of about 130 inmates of the Cavite City District Jail for the first batch for the project.
Like Leony’s husband, most of the detainees are in prison for selling illegal drugs, Medina says.
“The inmates were happy because they found something to get busy with and at the same time, earn something out of it. When we ran out of materials, they were the ones very eager that we buy already so they could resume making the candles,” he says.
Return of investment
Marian Navarrete, a student of Certificate in Theological Studies, a Saturday program of the Divine Word Seminary in Tagaytay City and Medina’s friend, volunteered to teach candle-making to the inmates.
With a start-up capital of P8,000 for the wax, wicks and the glass where the candle is placed, the return was “200 percent,” says Navarrete. The parish provided the money from donations.
Navarrete recalls that the inmates were at first hesitant because they were worried about not being able to sell the products. Several organizations that taught candle-making to them in the past had a hard time selling the candles, she says.
Medina himself brought the candles to the parish and sold them to churchgoers after Mass. Candles placed in clear, yellow glasses are sold for P55 each, while those in taller, clear glasses sell for P110.
“Our manangs (old women) in the church placed tables outside the church and sold the candles. They also volunteered to go house to house to peddle the candles,” the priest says.
Medina also announced the parish project during Mass to encourage people to buy the products. “While we pray hard for them, we also have to take action to help,” he stresses.
So far, over a thousand glasses of candles have been sold up to the run-up for All Souls’ Day. The earnings are to be divided among the 20 inmates and will be sent to their families as what they were made to agree at the start of the project.
To capture a steady market, Medina says the parish is coordinating with three other parishes in the city.
“They can also use the skill to start a living once released from prison. It’s very hard for an ex-convict to find a job,” he says.
The parish is also starting a tinapa (smoked fish) business, a livelihood project for those released from prison. “I’m afraid that if they could not find a job immediately, they might return to selling drugs or stealing,” Medina says.