Philippine prisoners thrill the web

Inmates' exercise routines prove a YouTube hit.


    The dance routines were aimed at motivating inmates to exercise [AFP]
    Thirty-six year old Crisanto Niere has been awaiting trial for five years in the Cebu provincial detention and rehabilitation centre, accused of selling illegal drugs, he faces a life sentence if convicted.

    For him and many other prisoners, days were habitually filled with boredom and despair.

    But not anymore.

    Al Jazeera Exclusive

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    Since the prison's physical fitness programme was redesigned Crisanto and his fellow inmates have become musical stars.

    Some of the 1500 inmates at Cebu now perform mass choreographed dance moves to the strains of Michael Jackson's Thriller, Queen's Radio Gaga and a number from the hit film Sister Act among others.

    Byron Garcia, a security consultant at the prison, says the thinking behind the move was "by music we can communicate more to the inmates. Penetrate their psyche ... the end goal would be discipline".

    "Three years ago – these inmates were very unruly," he says.

    Accused murderers, drug dealers and rapists number among the Cebu inmates and they perform the dances for a bit of exercise and a bit of fun. And it has changed prison life.

    Garcia devised the dancing, held twice daily in the jail, after he noticed that very few of the 1,600 prisoners were taking part in the push-ups and other exercises the jail was offering for their  exercise.

    He said they began the dancing routines last year after he noticed that very few of the 1,600 prisoners were taking part in the  callisthenics and push-ups that the jail was offering for their  exercise.

    Happy family

    The 'Thriller' video

    Watch the entire Thriller remake video

    Dressing up as a nun wearing make-up would normally be considered risky behaviour inside prison walls but that's exactly what Wengiel Resane does.

    He is the lead in three of the inmates' 12 routines, including their interpretation of Sister Act, the film starring Whoopi Goldberg.

    He barely gets a second glance now when he walks down the hall.

    Vince Rosales, a city engineer, was drafted in by the prison as a choreographer a year ago and although he was initially scared of taking the job he says they are all now one big happy family.

    "My first week here – they threw slippers at me, cursed me," he says. "I cried and asked to be transferred back."

    But he stayed on and says the 3-hour daily work-out has paid off.

    Garcia initially put videos of the routines on the internet to show other jailers alternative ways to instil discipline and allow the inmates to have fun at the same time.

    He never expected them to become hits but a video of the inmates performing Thriller clocked up an amazing 1.9 million views on YouTube.

    Wengiel Resane simply laughs when he is asked if he still gets sad after his new-found fame.

    The programme has also given the inmates hope and a renewed sense of self that means even if they're down they can always get back up again.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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