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It was May 2015 when my Art Studies 141 class (Photography as Art) went on a 3-day photography trip to Ilocos Sur and Ilocos Norte. We visited a number of the provinces’ famous landmarks ranging from museums to food stops. One of the places we went to in Vigan, Ilocos Sur was the former Ilocos Sur Provincial Jail.

Aside from the old prison cells and their gates, the jail looked immaculate in contrast to its past. Near the main exit, the final passageway to the world beyond the prison walls, is a chalkboard. On it is a message written by a previous prisoner upon his release.

What struck me is the line “What I need therefore from the people around is their kind understanding and welcome acceptance of me to rejoin the main stream society…”

This man had paid for his wrongs in his time in jail. Will we, the people of mainstream society, still reject him and make his life an eternal prison even outside the prison walls?

In a sense, we are all wrongdoers. We all deserve a certain degree of punishment. The only difference we have from the people in jail is that we haven’t been caught, accused, or misidentified. Think about that before branding someone as worthy of death because they’re “salot/vermin”.

John 8:1-11 tells of the story of the woman caught in adultery. People were ready to stone her to death. Yet what did Jesus say to the crowd? Jesus said, ““Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her” in verse 7. Everyone left but Jesus and the woman.

The story concludes in verses 10 and 11 with an exchange between Jesus and the woman.

Jesus: “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
Woman: “No one, sir”
Jesus: “Then neither do I condemn you,”Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

Jesus knew of the woman’s sin. But what did he do? He gave her a chance to live a new life away from her sin, a chance to be reformed.

Who are we to deny that right to decide to live a reformed life?

The note ends with a short prayer which says, “and with a solemn prayer to God to grant me His graces — THAT I SHALL NEVER PASS THIS WAY AGAIN.”

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