“Thriller!” – How Cebu’s CPDRC Inmates Rocked the World With An Awesome Rehabilitation Activity

YouTube.com, or “Broadcast Yourself,” is a part of the growing Social Web — where families and friends can share their experiences to others worldwide. Thus, when Marissa Aroy, our independent filmmaker-member of the Filipina Women’s Network (FWN), e-mailed our e-group about what 1,500+ prison inmates at the Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center (or CPDRC) were up to, she remarked: “Even incarcerated, my people are awesome!”

Only in the Philippines!

I’m so amused at what a unique public relations strategy this turned out to be, even if it probably started out as an innocent question: “What can we do to reinforce positive behavior in our inmates?” To whoever thought of this rehabilitation activity, keep up the good work!

Marily Mondejar, our FWN president, couldn’t resist adding a comment to the e-mail: “Can you believe this? Doing something positive and fun in prison (in the Philippines)! And I thought prison is not supposed to be fun.”


I researched for more video clips that Byron Garcia had uploaded to YouTube.com. There was “Sister Act” as well. Enjoy the videos while the world’s noted psychologists and social scientists try to figure out if this video clip will instigate a “tipping point” in prison rehabilitation.

What do you think? Can we truly influence incarcerated persons to become better citizens?



My reply to my e-group shows a bit of a backgrounder about precisely why the “Thriller” news gave me lots of hope about the future of the Philippines as “The Land Of Plenty.” I’ve watched the TV commentaries these past few days — and I believe that the YouTube video clip Byron Garcia supplied the world caught them by surprise.

From: Lorna Dietz
Date: Jul 23, 2007 3:12 PM
Subject: Re: [FWNMembers] Fwd: thriller
To: [email protected]

Hi, Marily and FWN members:

Yes, I can believe the Cebu Provincial Jail inmates could do something like this. I am very pleased to see that Myrna de Vera’s former UP Cebu classmate, Byron Garcia, took a video clip of this interesting activity. This is the NEW jail quarters. The old jail had a hostage situation when Gwen Garcia, the jail’s warden (who is also the first woman governor of Cebu and my former classmate in STC Cebu) first became governor. The hostage situation was so dangerous that when it was controlled, she had the prisoners transferred to a jail that had yet to be finished. On the day that then-SFPD Officer Joe Robles and I visited her in January 2005, she was on the phone with Byron, who was trying to control a situation wherein the inmates were mocking the dead body of a fellow inmate (who had just died from either a heart attack or natural causes). The media surely pilloried Byron in the next few days… So, you see, this video shows me that things have calmed down tremendously. Within those months, Gov. Gwen implemented all the appropriate security measures with a lot of people’s support and assistance.

Gwen told me her stories about her first few months in office that I thought existed only in the movies. All the pathos of drama and resilience of a warrior princess were evident in those first six months in office. The respect and notoriety she earned are all true. She makes sure that people respect the office of the governor. I wish you could hear her stories straight from her mouth. Gwen is such a phenomenal woman. I have yet to write my story about my visit with her in 2005 when I observed and interacted with her from 8:00 am in the morning until 12:00 midnight… Someday, I know I can write it. Now, if I could only find my notes.

Thanks, Marissa, for catching this video. You’re making me want to go back to Cebu! And catching up with current news of Cebu’s governor.


P.S. Just so you know, Gov. Gwen hosted the opening reception of the 3rd Global Filipino Networking Convention in Cebu at Cebu’s Capitol Building. The elegance and graciousness of the event made the convention truly memorable.


I did find my notes about my 16-hour interaction with Cebu’s first woman governor that January 10, 2005. I have to clarify some of the words I said.

1. It was a sit-down strike that happened on December 27, 2004 at the old jail. The situation was so dangerous, according to the governor, because she was determined to crack down on the illegal activities and practices that were happening in the old jail. The possibility of a hostage situation was very real because somehow, women and children (visiting families? yes, my notes say that families were allowed to visit and stay with the prisoners) were inside the jail.

2. When the Governor of Cebu took over the warden’s duties three months before January 10, 2005 (that’s sometime in September of 2004), “Operation Greyhound” was implemented. A combined force of army, police, and marines “swooped down on the old facility and confiscated several kilos of shabu and a ton of bladed weapons.”

3. Governor Gwen, during the department head meeting, said, “I hope the old practices will not seep into the new CPDRC.” She meant old practices such as the smuggling of shabu, weapons, and cellphones inside the new jail. Apparently, reform initiatives were not only meant for the prisoners but for the prison guards as well.

4. The governor went through a task list for the CPDRC with her department heads and consultants which reminded me of a very astute CEO training and reminding her team how she wanted the work to be done.

5. What caught my attention was her determination to make things right. And I quote her saying: “I have to come on very strong to get results. If I’m wishy-washy, I’ll be coasting along and I’ll degenerate. I’d rather be true to believe in what needs to be done — and to be relentless. I’ve long ago chosen not to be a ‘traditional politician.’” Unquote.

Traditional politician is idiomatically called “trapo,” which is the word used to mean “a dirty rag.” Rag as in cleaning up.

6. Although the governor had been elected six months before, during this meeting, she and her department heads were still learning how to work with each other. What Governor Gwen told me was: “I’m not your usual politician. I’ve never ran for a position in my life. I’ve defined ‘performance’ as ‘it’s not a matter of looking good but doing good!’”

Governor Gwen shared with me what she told her department heads: “Government is an enterprise. I don’t expect your love. But as your governor, I demand your efficiency and professionalism.”


Click here to go directly to the YouTube.com link.


Click here to go directly to the YouTube.com link.







From Katie Couric, CBS News

From Byron Garcia, an update on CPDRC concepts






3 responses to ““Thriller!” – How Cebu’s CPDRC Inmates Rocked the World With An Awesome Rehabilitation Activity”

  1. Lorna Dietz Avatar

    Some comments came in my regular INBOX. So, I’m sharing some of them with you (edited, of course)…

    Here’s one e-mail from Jenny:


    Arrived 12Midnight from visiting my cousin’s family in Tampa and was ready to go to bed when I was tempted to open my email.

    And then i could not resist watching the video clip of Byron Garcia. Inmates of CPDRC dancing to the tune of Dayang Dayang and Sister Act!!! And how they can dance!The other prisons should learn some tips about rehabilitation from Byron Garcia. I really admire our good Governor Gwen of the many reforms she has done not only to the jailguards of CPDRC but also the employees in the Capitol. I think she is the best Governor we ever have in Cebu.

    Let’s talk again on the phone another time. Morag dili man ta mahutdan og estorya Day!

    Miss you.


  2. […] so Pinoy”. Lorna, my sister thinks “Only in the Philippines” (read her entry “Thriller!” – How Cebu’s CPDRC Inmates Rocked the World With An Awesome Rehabilitation Activit… ). I am not surprised at this Thriller dance routine. Maybe it’s Cebuano thing but I remember […]

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