• June 22, 2011

The miracle of being a disowned person’s friend.

American vol­un­teer Katie L. tells of her expe­ri­ence of vis­iting friends in one of Manila’s high secu­rity prisons.

One of the deepest moments that I lived in the Philippines, and in my mis­sion as a whole, was in a max­imum secu­rity prison called Mantalupa. The com­mu­nity in the Philippines visits the jail, and 5 specific men in it, about once a month. We know their nation­al­i­ties, their hob­bies, and some of their sto­ries.

On my second and last visit, I spoke about the nor­malcy I felt at Mantalupa. About how I felt like I was simply vis­iting friends when we vis­ited them. I said that their lives were beau­tiful to me – they live like a little vil­lage. Afterwards, one of the men named Abdul stared at me for a long time. Finally he said, “You know, what you said really touches me. Like in my heart. Like, boom, boom, boom!” (He illus­trated by tap­ping his hand on his chest). I laughed, because I thought he was kid­ding. He became serious. “I’m not joking,” he said, “Re­ally. You know what? You’re alright. You’re okay. I like you. You speak well. I mean that you speak hon­estly and openly. You know what I think? I think you’re going to be some­thing. Because you speak like this. With your heart. You could have a suc­cessful busi­ness or do great things. Because people will see that you mean what you say. Tell everyone. Tell them what you just said about us. Tell them about how normal you find this place – the shops and all.”

I just sat there, floored. I had received one of the most beau­tiful com­pli­ments of my life. In a prison.

I ques­tioned why Abdul would want me to tell other people about Mantalupa. Why describe your cage to people? It is because they want so badly not to be “cul­prits.” Not to be “pris­oners,” but men. They are dis­owned by society, but they belong to the mem­bers of Heart’s Home. And in the strangest, but most beau­tiful way Abdul and I belong to each other. Even though I was actu­ally a little afraid to visit my first time, I did visit and I spoke. And even though I was prob­ably talking about some­thing silly like mangos or my newly acquired French accent, what Abdul heard was: There can be some­thing good inside you. And I am not afraid to belong to you, to be your friend.

It is a little over­whelming some­times to have our Friends explain the beauty of our lives to us.

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