CEBU, JULY 28, 2007
(STAR-FREEMAN) What started as a routine exercise for inmates at the Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center has now become a dance video viewed worldwide through the YouTube website. <>

The dancing inmates have become instant stars, as their video showing them dancing to Michael Jackson’s 1983 hit song Thriller has reached over 1.7 million hits in YouTube as of yesterday afternoon.

Capitol security consultant Byron Garcia, the man who got the idea of posting the video, said, “I want to show the world that this is how we do rehabilitation here. But what you see in YouTube is just the inmates practicing for their performance on August 1.”

Aside from the Thriller performance, Garcia also uploaded on YouTube the videos of the inmates’ other performances, such as Radio Gaga by Queen, I Will Follow Him from the movie Sister Act and even Jumbo Hotdog by local group Masculados.

The most popular of the dance routines was of course Michael Jackson’s Thriller and Garcia was happy of the unexpected attention.

Garcia is thankful that it has also helped him and other jail personnel gain better control of the inmates. “My focus was rehabilitation but with the dance routines, we have also achieved discipline among inmates. It’s really discipline at work,” he said.

Getting the inmates to join an exercise routine was his idea of introducing reforms at the facility. “The governor told me to introduce reforms towards rehabilitation. Making the inmates dance was my idea of revolutionizing time spent in jail and at the same time disciplining the inmates,” Garcia said.

Garcia said the physical fitness regime has helped improve the behavior of inmates. The dancing is compulsory for all 1,600 inmates at the prison except the elderly and the sick.

Because of the physical activity, inmates now have other things in mind than joining gangs, bolting from jail or fighting with other inmates, he said.

The fitness exercise started as an algorithm march in August 2006. The original concept was to reinvent fitness exercises, Garcia said.

Instead of just routine exercises, Garcia said he decided to put music. To teach inmates how to dance, Garcia requested that Vince Rosales, an employee of Capitol’s engineering office, be detailed to the CPDRC.

Rosales, who manages his own group of dancers, was afraid at first especially during the first time he entered CPDRC.

“I was really scared during my first week there. The inmates would not listen to me. They even threw slippers at me. They complained that they do not like to dance and that they would rather plant,” Rosales said.

Rosales nearly gave up and pleaded for his return to his previous job. But Garcia, who the inmates really fear, was able to convince the inmates that dancing will be good for them.

Almost a year after the activity started, the exercise has turned into a performance of sorts to encourage participation among inmates. “I decide the dance routines of the inmates. I choose the concept and the music and then let the choreographer do his thing,” Garcia said.

Rosales said the inmates are really preparing for the August 1 performance. He said they have prepared props like coffins to make the Thriller presentation more exciting. — Quennie S. Bronce and Garry B. Lao/RAE

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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