The Inbox

Batangas inmates learn to make money inside prison walls

Provincial Jail Warden Col. Venus de Castro inspects the inmates products before they are taken out to the stores …

By Mei Magsino, VERA Files

At the recent Prisoners' Week celebration at the Batangas provincial jail, Governor Vilma Santos-Recto bought packs of the fried crispy garlic made by inmates inside the jail.

Knowing the health benefits of garlic, the governor ate them as if she was just eating potato chips. Not contented with her initial purchase, she bought more.

That was the same reaction of other people who have tasted the provincial jail's products displayed in a booth at the recent festival and business exhibit in Lipa City. Their products were sold out before the end of the day.

The next day, the products were featured on a local television network for its superb quality and packaging.

For the last three years, inmates at the Batangas Provincial jail have been supplying  three types of crispy garlic to a big catering company based in Manila.  Glutinous  noodles are also repacked there and sold at the local markets.

"We have two Filipino-Chinese inmates here, who I noticed to be good cooks," Col. Venus De Castro, the provincial jail warden, said.

He talked to them about the possibility of creating products that the inmates could make right inside the provincial jail.

"My fellow inmates here were always bored, because they have nothing to do here," John (not his real name), the businessman, said. "And being in the food business before, I knew the high demand for fried crispy garlic of some of the biggest catering businesses in Manila.  That's when we started making our product."

Crispy fried garlic and repacked glutinous rice noodles from the Batangas Provincial  …John was a former businessman engaged in the food business in Manila and Rizal province when in 2007, he went to Sto. Tomas town in Batangas to fetch his friend Richard (not his real name), a tourist guide, who was then touring a group of Taiwanese tourists.

Both of them didn't know that the Taiwanese tourists were involved in running a drug laboratory in Sto. Tomas and were under the surveillance of authorities.  When the combined forces of the police and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) raided the facility used in the illegal manufacture of methamphetamine hydrochloride, locally known as shabu, John and Richard were among those arrested.

While waiting for the court decision on their case inside the provincial jail, the two have agreed to start the fried crispy garlic venture with the warden's support.

"It is better to manufacture  the crispy garlic here because not only is the labor cheaper, but we're also helping the inmates earn and be proud of themselves," Richard said.

It takes each inmate  about 15-20 minutes to make crispy garlic.  Each inmate is paid for peeling and slicing of the garlic per kilo.

They sell the crispy garlic to their Manila clients at P60 per pack and P400 per kilo. At the local markets, their repacked noodles sell at P70 per kilo.

It's not much, according to De Castro, but with the growing demand in the last three years, the products have helped the inmates make their time worthwhile.

"A big part of the inmate's rehabilitation also involves self- improvement, and pride at what he has accomplished," De Castro said. "We're giving them a way to fight boredom, and at the same time, restore their feeling of self-worth. They're proud of what they do here."

With the full support of the warden and the governor, the project prospered. The money they get from the sales are fully accounted for and reinvested in the  business.

At the correctional facility of the jail, female inmates have formed their own Lady Inmates Cooperative that bakes and sells brownies, macaroons, and yema sweets packaged in attractive boxes that could rival those made outside the jail.

The Brownies are sold for P6 per piece, P40 per box of six, and P75 per box of 12.  Macaroons are sold at P60 per box while the Yema for P5 per piece of P60 per box of 12 pieces.

De Castro still makes it a point to inspect the quality of the products before they are sent out to be sold. The quality of every product can compete with those manufactured outside prison walls.

Written at the bottom of each dessert box and garlic package are the words "Sa Kaunting Halaga, nakatulong ka" (At a very little cost, you have extended a helping hand).

(VERA Files is put out by veteran journalists taking a deeper look at current issues. Vera is Latin for "true.")


Editor’s note:Yahoo Philippines encourages responsible comments that add dimension to the discussion. No bashing or hate speech, please. You can express your opinion without slamming others or making derogatory remarks.

  • Southwest transport terminal construction start still in limbo

    The construction of the country’s first intermodal transport facility is in limbo as both the government and the winning private concessionaire are waiting on each other before finally pushing through with the contract signing. Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya said the ongoing titling of the project site for the R2.5-billion Integrated Transport System (ITS) Southwest Terminal should not delay the concession agreement signing, which has been indefinitely postponed since February …

  • Jesuit school confers honors on Deles, Ferrer, Iqbal

    Despite heavy opposition from the alumni and even parents of students, Xavier University – Ateneo de Cagayan conferred on Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quintos-Deles a degree on Doctor of Humanities, honoris causa Wednesday. The Jesuit-run university also recognized the other major players in the ongoing peace process between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) as it awarded GPH peace panel chair Miriam Coronel-Ferrer and …

  • Mobile market tapped for saleable items worth P21B

    With more than P21 billion worth of saleable items in Philippine households, online classifieds website OLX Philippines is aiming to tap this market by targeting mobile phone users who could be potential sellers and buyers of second hand items. OLX Philippines hopes to provide better support to mobile users with the OLX app since 50 percent of the website’s traffic is generated by mobile users. “We will soon become a mobile first company,” said OLX Philippines co-founder RJ David in a press …

  • Clark to host drag racing

    Drag racing takes an exciting turn as top guns try to push their respective bids in the third leg of the 2015 Philippine Drag Racing Championship Northern Series at the Clark International Speedway.Former US servicemen William “Bill” Hand and John Ryzia of the Angeles City Hot Rod Association (AHRA)-Garage Power hope to steer their respective American V8 muscle cars to repeat wins to secure solo leadership in their respective divisions. ... …

  • The greatest city in the world

    Flag carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL) proudly brought back our flag to the Big Apple when it landed at the JFK Airport last March 15, after an 18-year hiatus. The Manila-Vancouver-New York route 18 years ago was terminated due to an expensive leasing arrangement and the Asian financial crisis. JFK Airport at Queens Borough is 15 miles to midtown Manhattan, connected via the New York subway train system. Consider it normal if you can make it to Manhattan under two hours. …

  • The future of the BPO/KPO industry

    One of the few economic sectors in which the Philippines is a global player is the Business Process Outsourcing/Knowledge Processing Outsourcing (BPO/KPO) industry. According to a recent report of the Everest Group entitled “Global Trends in the Contact Center Market and Opportunities in the Philippines,” our country is the leader in the offshore/nearshore English Contact Center Outsourcing (CCO) market with some 36% share. In the Philippines, the growth has been close to 20% over the last …

  • Ars gratia artis

    The Ateneo Art Gallery, widely recognized today as the first museum of Philippine modern art showcasing works by postwar Filipino artists. Its “pilot,” Ateneo President Fr. Ramon Jose Villarin, SJ, admits that it “runs on the fuel of the generosity and munificence of its donors.”ARTISTS, MODELS, & MEDICIS. Last Monday, 23 March, four recent acquisitions were added to the collection. A Fernando Amorsolo life-size portrait of Liliana de Asis (1952) was a gift of Francisco and Mila de Asis and …

  • Baranda, Dumlao star in Vios Cup

    Defending champion Pauland Dumlao and showbiz personality Phoemela Baranda won their respective heats at the start of the Vios Cup Season 2 held recently at the Clark International Speedway in Pampanga.Dumlao of Team Toyota San Fernando took the second heat of the Sporting Class category while Baranda ruled the first heat of the Promotional Class division to open the second staging of the event organized by Toyota Motor Philippines. ... …


Should Aquino be held accountable over the Mamasapano operations?

Poll Choice Options