Moms behind bars #28StoriesofGiving
Epi Fabonan III (The Philippine Star) - July 27, 2014 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - If there is something we can all be grateful for aside from life itself, it is our mothers. Who we are right now is a result of her loving and careful nurturing, given without charge or recompense.

“You count the hours you could have spent with your mother. It’s a lifetime in itself,” Mitch Albom writes in his book, For One More Day.

We owe so much to our mothers that, in turn, we strive to become the best version of ourselves.

The newly built female dormitory of the San Juan City Jail holds some 41 “residents,” as the jail personnel call them.

They are there for various reasons, ranging from petty theft to drug possession, their temporary stay determined by how fast the courts can decide on their case or by their ability to post bail.

Obviously, these women are too poor to buy back the one thing they treasure most – their liberty.

Most women detained in this prison are mothers. Deprived of a chance to raise and see their children grow up, they gaze toward the narrow, grilled windows of their cells into freedom and absolution, yearning to be mothers to their children once again.

Some mothers are lucky to get regular weekly visits, some fewer and farther between. Most of them, however, don’t get visited by their families at all.

Luckily, the pink walls of their detention facility seem to suggest how good their physical state is: they are clean and healthy. Here, they actually enjoy most of the comforts of home, having been provided with sufficient food, sanitation, entertainment, recreation and self-improvement activities.

When we arrived, we were met by warm greetings that came in childlike unison. The inmates were eager to show us how reformed and deserving of freedom they have become. While barred from giving interviews, their eyes, voices and faces could not hide their untold stories.

“I’m just a poor girl, nobody loves me / she’s just a poor girl from a poor family / please spare her life from this monstrosity,” one resident sang, her voice shaking as she led her group’s poignant rendition of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody.

The residents gave their best performance yet; after all, the person watching them is no ordinary visitor. He’s known to everyone as the King of Talk.

Boy Abunda arrived clad in a simple shirt and blue jeans, a rosary and scapular hanging around his neck, eagerly shaking hands with jail personnel and residents. Away from the klieg lights, the real King of Talk was down-to-earth and straightforward, far from his sophisticated air on TV.

He cozied himself in the company of the residents, their so-called crimes playing second fiddle to the fact that they are mothers, taken away from their sons and daughters by their sins and in need of communion and upliftment in their time of deprivation.

“We are here because we want you to know that despite being deprived of liberty, there are people like us sincerely thinking of you,” Abunda said in Filipino.

The San Juan City Jail is just one of several places he has visited with his foundation, Make Your Nanay Proud (MYNP). Since it was founded in 2012, MYNP has reached out to mothers in various communities nationwide, conducting inspirational talks and engagements to promote issues such as maternal health, well-being and livelihood.

MYNP has also tied up with the private sector to provide livelihood opportunities for mothers in communities it has visited. It also seeks to honor motherhood through different promotional events and social media campaigns.

Abunda’s well-known inspiration for establishing MYNP is his Nanay Lesing. Born to an impoverished life in Borongan, Eastern Samar and seeing his mother struggle to give them a better life, he did what he could to make her proud.

His success is an inspiration to many, and Abunda believes that if every person did everything out of love and respect for their mothers, the world would be a better place.

‘Be the best of who you are’

The women of San Juan City Jail received gift packs from MYNP.

Beyond their gratitude and elation for material things, however, Abunda knows that the most important thing he could give to the mothers is his time.

“Maya Angelou once said that forgiveness is the most important lesson she wants to leave humankind. It struck me because it’s usually easy for us to forgive but not to forget,” he said.

“While you are in this place, I want you to take this opportunity to dream again and start over. Be the best of who you are in everything you do. I don’t know when and where we will meet again, but definitely, when that time comes, you will all be the better persons you are now determined to become,” Abunda shared with his audience.

MYNP wants to continue reaching out to mothers and helping them be the best at what they do.

To learn more about MYNP, visit its website at For inquiries or donations, contact managing director Bemz Benedito via or at (0917) 998-4584.

Editor’s Note: The Philippine STAR’s #28StoriesOfGiving is a campaign that turns the spotlight on 28 inspiring stories of people and organizations who devote their lives to helping themselves or others. Everyone is encouraged to post or tweet a message of support with the hashtag #28StoriesOfGiving. For every post, P5 will be added to The STAR’s existing “give back” anniversary fund. For comments and suggestions to #28storiesofgiving, email , follow @philippinestar on Twitter or visit The Philippine STAR’s page on Facebook.


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