Once in a while, a sudden life-changing moment will happen to a person. An event that has ruined everything with just a snap and things suddenly changed out of nowhere.
One sin is equivalent to countless hardships. Being in jail is such a nightmare that no one would ever want. The feeling of fear and sorrow dominates the emotion of being in that situation. To land behind bars was the darkest mark of yesterday that no one would dream of. Who would wish to experience that miserable life behind bars? Would anyone be able to describe how helpless one experiences? Destiny, for some reason, challenges humans’ strength in their hopeless times.
A woman who’s been committed for more than two years at Quezon City Jail, has been a kitchen crew during her incarceration. A mother who strives harder for a better change and fosters positivity in life, a former PDL, Ms. Lulujane.
Food hooks up her interest and leads her to love cooking. It has been her passion ever since she was assigned to the kitchen. Her life behind bars revolves around cooking and serving food throughout her stay in jail.
Way back in 2020, when she was acquitted from jail and started over again. She knew about the FRED program from a friend and felt like a new door opened for her. It appeared that the FRED program gave opportunities to helpless ex-detainees like Ms. Lulujane.
She has witnessed and experienced the activities offered by the FRED program for a new beginning. She commented on how webinars and activities helped her to continue her life despite the experiences that she had been through. She was able to learn about simple yet delicious foods that she hasn’t tried to make before. The activities such as yema making, Spanish Sardines making, and empanada making served as her livelihood to earn income for their everyday living.
However, the stigma of the people had been a challenge for them to start over again. Applying to companies for a job had been her struggle upon thinking if they would accept her or not. Additionally, the expenses spent on the application were also a challenge. So, the livelihood program of FRED led them to put up a small business that will support the needs of their families.
She was not aware of how to make yema spread nor sardines or even empanada until when she joined the FRED program. Focused Reintegration of Ex-detainees is one of the programs of HLAF, that primarily focuses on the reintegration of the PDL by providing activities such as those mentioned earlier that will imply knowledge and experience to help them start over again in putting up a business. In this sense, Ms. Lulujane was able to determine her strengths through those activities.
To be exact, she struggled in making the ode of the empanada among the three activities since it was her first time making it in her forty-nine years of existence. Fortunately, among the three, yema spread has been the easiest followed by making Spanish sardines. She has proven that she excels in cooking as she joined the FRED program.
It turned out that through HLAF activities, she was able to begin a new chapter of her life after being detained. Discrimination and stereotyping are against people like her. Seeing others look at her from head to toe reminded me of her past. What a judgmental world for helpless people! A negative comment from everywhere tries to pull her down.
Ex-detainees who are seeking another chance to be better the second time around is their ultimate goal. HLAF lit up the path for that second chance. This company gave hope to her to conquer the challenges that former PDLs face. In this regard, the learnings from HLAF, the experience, were sentimental for them wherein they used it in the real world. Relying on her experience, she hasn’t encountered any dilemmas while performing activities. It was just a matter of effort and following the procedures correctly to produce good quality products.
Before this, she tried to apply her learnings in cooking, then she sells it in their area Luckily, it worked knowing that she was the first one to sell products like yema spread, Spanish sardines, and empanada. She enjoys it so much even though she earns a small amount. The quality of products is what matters to her. She considers the taste, quality, and appearance to guarantee the customers good products. It’s not the quantity but the quality of food for the customers to enjoy it. She even researched some techniques on how to improve her skills.
Unfortunately, she stopped making empanadas due to Inflation. On the other hand, she was looking for fresh tawilis fish for the Spanish sardines since she cannot find fresh fish at their market. She emphasized that she will pursue the business because she sees potential in it. For her, It doesn’t matter if she earns a small amount because quality is the best of it. She wants to see her customers fully and happy with her products.
Also, she already made a sticker logo for the Spanish sardines for a good presentation. Thus, she’s exerting effort for the growth of her business. Seemingly, she is passionate about doing so. All of this won’t be possible without HLAF. They taught ex-detainees like Ms. Lulujane to come up with her livelihood. Moreover, they also taught the PDLs to be strategic in their ways. Along with this, Ms. Lulujane was very grateful for being a beneficiary of the FRED program.
She became inspired to continue change within herself and be a better individual. She also stays away from people with bad intentions and never commits any violation as part of the change. The support from HLAF influenced her to strive for positive change and encourage other ex-detainees to become better citizens. Her gratitude for all the support and contributions of HLAF to her life is overflowing and priceless. Indeed, she will continue to participate in other activities that HLAF will offer.
Her story conveys an array of hope and not giving up. Things fall into places according to plan. It features that positivity must prevail despite the obstacles that hinder one’s goal. An Inspiring story that does not tells the experience itself but the lesson learned from it. A piece of evidence that a second chance is worthy to give. It may take a long to be accepted in society. But, a sense of perseverance, dedication, and determination will sooner make it.