A visit at the Minimum Security Compound allowed me to meet Kuya Efren. He is 67 years old and has been in prison for 25 years already. He is the very first male PDL whom I talked to.
As part of our Oplan Dalaw Program, we were asked to go and talk to a PDL. Honestly, I was hesitant at first. When I approached Kuya Efren, he immediately stood up and went away. So, I rushed to call him back. We both smiled when realizing the reason of his walking away. Apparently, according him, I just woke him up from his sleep, and his automatic response was to stand up and leave. Thanks to this funny introduction with each other because it made us more at ease in our conversation.
In his 25 years in the prison, his being married with no child made him want a life in the prison forever. He always has the doubt whether he is still welcome in their home or not anymore. His wife’s last visit to him in prison was 7 years ago because she got sick. Kuya Efren told me, “Lalaya na ako. Dati nung nasa maximum ako, gustung-gusto kong lumaya. Ngayong nasa minimum na ako, ayoko nang lumaya dahil hindi ko alam kung tatanggapin pa nila ako… kung mahal ba pa nila ako.”
In the prison, it was his joy to have met Christ. He said that he is real in his conversation with God. He added that he could tell God, even at times that he wish to be dead while in his sleep. But God stubbornly wakes him up the next day. Thus, he wakes up praising God for a new life. I told him that there are things that we don’t even have a hold of. “Only God knows,” he replied.
I asked Kuya Efren, “Anong pwede kong gawin para sayo? Maaari ba kitang tulungan para ma-contact ang iyong asawa?” Then he gave me his wife’s and sister’s-in-law names and their respective phone numbers.
When I left the Minimum Security Compound, I immediately texted the numbers that Kuya Efren gave me… and I did receive a reply— a message from Kuya Efren’s sister-in-law, “maraming salamat po sa awa ng Diyos makakalaya na si Kuya Efren, kuya maluwag ka naming tatanggapin…”
I felt happy while reading her message. I was excited to go back to the Minimum Security Camp and relay this good news to Kuya Efren. And when I met him and told him the good news, I felt his joy. Kuya Efren was so grateful and he said, “Gusto ko na ulit ngayon lumaya at umuwi.”
I am blessed to witness this moment of a hope reborn.