(See more pictures at the bottom of this post)
After many phones calls, emails and faxes sent, we were miraculously able to get authorization to visit the prisons in Manilla where they brought out all the men to see our performance and listen to us. It was such a privilege (and a big gulp). If you follow world news, you’ll know a little about how bad the situation in the Philippines is. The current president has a very strong stance against drugs and has basically given the cops a “shoot on sight” ordinance on anyone reported as using or dealing drugs. As a result many people who are involved in any kind of drug use will turn themselves in so that they don’t get killed. The outcome is extremely overfull prisons with terrible conditions. There is literally no space for all the men the prisons contain. They have to sleep on stairwells, standing up or take turns sleeping (you can look up pictures and info online if you are interested). Most of the men have been in for years and not yet received sentences. It broke my heart talking to the prisoners and having so many tell me how hungry they were all the time because there is just not enough food. Things in the Philippines are pretty inexpensive and so we were able to get them some things.
We use Tae Kwon Do to help teach a message of not giving up and fighting to engage our mind. “Don’t give up” is a common expression, but so powerful because giving up and going along is closer to each of us than we would like to admit and can start with the most subtle of thoughts. There may be things we do not have and wish we did. But no matter what situation we are in, whether in a physical prison or walls within our own mind, we have one thing that is so powerful it can change our life and the lives of others. A free will. The power to choose, to change. It is a gift, a weapon and nothing and no-one can take it from us. No matter our outward situation, we can choose the attitude that will determine our inward state. “Huwag Susuko”, is don’t give up in Tagalog and we said it over and over. When we were leaving and saying goodbye, one prisoner came to me and said in hesitant English, “Don’t give up”. He had tears in his eyes.