“Thriller” . . . “Together in Electric Dreams” . . . “Macarena” . . . “Gangnam Style.” All of these songs have one thing in common . . . the CPDRC Dancing Inmates. The Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center is a maximum security prison facility in Cebu. The main purpose of the facility is the rehabilitation of lawbreakers and to prepare them for life outside of its walls once their terms have ended. The facility has a number of exercises as part of the general rehabilitation program of the prison.
The dancing program was envisioned by Byron F. Garcia, who was then the official security adviser of the Cebu Provincial government and appointed as the head of the prison. During this time, he introduced a program where prisoners would exercise for an hour every day. He drew his inspiration from the “The Shawshank Redemption.” The program initially had the prisoners dancing in unison to the beat of the drum before they start to dance to the beat of pop music. To ensure the manly inmates are not offended when they are asked to dance, Garcia used some camp music for the exercise.
The first video uploaded by Garcia was the “Algorithm March,” but it only had a few views. On July 17, 2007, he uploaded the exercise of the inmates who danced to the tune of one of the biggest hits of the late Michael Jackson, “Thriller.” By December 19 of that year, the video ranked fifth on the Most Popular Viral Videos of Time magazine. Due to this, the dancing inmates of the CPDRC became a household name and their performances were made open for public viewing. While other videos were uploaded on YouTube, the original “Thriller” video is the most popular as it garnered over 57 million views.
In an interview published on the New York Times, the inmates themselves have said there was an improvement in their conditions in the facility after the new program started. While the facility is quite crowded, they said dancing gave them something to do and they are proud of being a part of the program. The dancing inmates of the CPDRC also performed a special dance presentation to commemorate the visit of Pope Francis to the Philippines in 2015. There was a proposal for the performers to join the Sinulog celebration but it was shelved mainly due to security concerns. Despite this, the inmates still performed their Sinulog presentations in the facility.
The public performances were suspended for a short period of time following an investigation of the accounting of donations from generous patrons of the program. But, public viewing of the performances resumed due to insistent public demand. The popularity of the dance program spread as other facilities around the country adopted a similar program for their inmates.t.
Have you witnessed the dancing inmates of the CPDRC already? If not, check out the video below.
Lola Pureza's Peanut Browas, a taste of old Cebu.
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