From dancing to boxing inmates. After getting worldwide recognition for its dancing inmates, Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center (CPDRC) might just produce world-class boxers from among its 1,642 detainees.
At least 47 detainees have been training since September last year inside the provincial jail as part of CPDRC's welfare development plan for inmates. It includes a physical fitness programme and activities to prevent homesickness and depression among inmates.
The boxers call themselves "Supermax Boxing Team," a name they said they chose because "it is cool."
They are being coached by Edgar Laping, 35, a native of Carmen town in Cebu province who used to be an amateur boxer until he was arrested in 2007 for illegal possession of firearms.
Laping used to train at the gymnasium of boxing promoter Wakee Salud in Barangay Labangon, Cebu City, a close friend of Filipino boxing icon Manny Pacquiao.
CPDRC gained international fame in 2007 when a video of inmates dancing to Michael Jackson's "Beat It" was posted on the video-sharing website YouTube. Since then, regular public performances are being held inside the provincial jail.
But not everyone wants to join in the dance.
In August last year, Laping asked CPDRC officials if a boxing gym could be built. "We wanted something to do with our time. We thought of doing sports," Laping said.
The request was granted.
Marco Ouano Toral, provincial consultant for CPDRC, donated four pairs of boxing gloves. His friends also donated several boxing equipment-four gloves, four punching bags and nine speed balls, among others.
Toral gave the inmates used tarpaulins, which they fashioned into a boxing ring.
At least 47 inmates showed interests to be trained as boxers.
One of them is Reynaldo Cunigo, 22, a native of Balamban town in Cebu who is detained for drug possession.
"I love watching boxing bouts on TV. I like the sport," he said.
The boxers train from Monday to Saturday for four hours from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m. and from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Every family day on Sundays, the boxers show off their skills in exhibition games.
In January, CPDRC boxers had a special guest-Representative Pacquiao.
The boxing icon witnessed the exhibition game of the Supermax Boxing Team.
Pacquiao later told the Inquirer he would donate boxing equipment to the gymnasium after seeing potential in some of the CPDRC boxers.
Toral said the inmates were grateful for Pacquiao's visit and the promise to help them.
He said CPDRC was willing to serve as a venue for any professional boxing bout. CPDRC Supermax Boxing Team could even play in undercard games, he added.
"The inmates in CPDRC are boxing fans," Toral said.
As a former detainee, Toral said he knew how the inmates felt doing nothing in jail.
Toral was imprisoned for seven years for a case of illegal possession of firearms and drugs.
He was detained at the Mandaue City jail for three and a half years before he was transferred to Cebu City Detention and Rehabilitation Center in Barangay Lahug, Cebu City, where he stayed for another three years.
He was later released after the Court of Appeals dismissed the case against him.
Toral said the feeling of hopelessness used to gnaw his spirit during the times he did nothing in jail and thought only of his family.
"They get irritated, more depressed, and they lose their self-esteem if they don't have any productive activities in jail. Any kind of sports is a way of rehabilitating them," Toral said.
Gov. Hilario Davide III supports the possibility of having boxing matches inside CPDRC.
But he said a concrete security plan should be put in place before letting people in to watch boxing bouts inside the provincial jail.