(Part 1 of The Camerawalls’ experience in National Bilibid Prison. A written account by Ian Sarabia)
I don’t remember how or why I woke up. I just remember being in the car with my bandmates. The Camerawalls. Headed straight and driving to possibly the most dangerous place in the Philippines. Maximum Security. Bilibid Prison. Third world.
As we approached the gate, the acid I had taken early that morning began to take an awkward turn. The hazy depths of recollection and introspective melancholy escape me now but we were all unified in the thought that we should leave all our valuable belongings in my car. Its the only way to enter a gig full of criminals, I thought. And why not, if only faking, stroll confidently in their midst.
As we walked down its moat a sense of wonder filled my senses. It really did seem like I was walking into Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. Hoping on hope I wasn’t going to end up like Veruca Salt. Lest I be judged. And not for lack of judging. For who I thought would be imprisoned in a land ruled by generations of corruption?
The guards at the gate seemed like Ogres. Enslaving their own kind. We were patted down and violated to perform awkward pleasantries towards them. We knew they had the guns. And they were happy to oblige. For in here they were the lords.
“In the kingdom of the blind. The one-eyed man is king”
We then were ushered up across the prison court and up a hut. In my mind knowing that at any given Sunday this could all go south. It wasn’t a prison for me at that point. It was the open sea. I was ready.
At least I thought I was until I ran out of vodka. D’oh! I thought. The heat and nervousness made me drink the last of my reserves. I was going to have to man up for this gig I thought. Two thousand Five Hundred Fifty Four convicted felons… I better not make any sudden moves.
As sober as I was I got bored and proceeded to speak to a slight man (thinner than Clem or Pao). blah blah blah. Can’t disclose double homicide what he attempted robbery did. And I was set and way too sober to play.
There we were around so many killers. And I felt ….. less than auspicious….. Then. We played. I felt like I was back in High School playing ball in the heat of a lazy day sun. I felt good. We rocked. A very special guest named Michael Salvador jammed. He was the original drummer of Orange And Lemons. He rocked. It made me wonder if all he did in prison was play drums. I asked him what it was like. I learned that so much rehabilitation works here. This was a society functioning and helping people in a third world live in peace and harmony. It was amazing. The cat I mentioned earlier. Mr. Double homicide found out that he was really good at painting. Actually most of them did. Their art strewn across the corridors and all along the walls. Their idle hands directed towards a more peaceful and stimulating outlet. These people were not bad. They were mostly just passionate people who got caught in an awkward phase. But it did not define them. I guess in prison they found themselves. Sometimes you gotta get lost to find your way home. See the forest for the trees. And all that humbug.
I spoke to them some more and realized that the prison wasn’t too far from the society we live in. I realized that we’re all in jail. Some of us just live in Bilibid.