Photo Essay

Jailhouse Rock

Prisoners March

These are the YouTube launched performing careers of these 1500 plus, Dancing Inmates at the Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center (CPDRC) Cebu City, Philippines.

I had the rare unexpected opportunity of witnessing and eventually meeting key members in this facility. All I had at the moment was a simple point and shoot camera, but that was enough to immortalize the moment, and here I share it with you.

Entertaining choreographies, engaging songs, a mass of patterns and movements, dance performance composed of Killers, Rapists, ex-military personnel, practically the meanest of the meanest from the city. Not anymore, now they are seriously mean dancers...

Mr. Byron Garcia, Cebu provincial consultant on security, posted a video of a practice session on YouTube on July 18, 2007. In the morning of July 20, "Thriller" had already gained 266,000 views. A few hours later, it went up to 400,000. As of June 13, 2008 it has 15,885,502 views. Heres the original video:

They now have lots of other performances, radio gaga, sister act, etc...

The popularity for their dances is just the tip of the iceberg really, the real story is on the reforms they went through to get to that stage where they would rather dance together than stick with gangs and stake dominance in the facility.

Looking from above you lose track to the fact that each person in this jail has their own story to tell. It becomes easy to typecast them as one because of their sheer numbers, but if you look at these images long enough, you get to see individuals, friends, brothers, fathers, sons, who deserve to be treated humanely and justly.

Not discounting the tremendous reforms inside the facility and into the lives of these inmates, they remain to be or have been offenders to society, and sometimes sorry just isn't enough... So here behind these gates they will live out their sentences, here behind bars they will be paying their debt to society, for the sins they had once committed.

13 responses

  • Litz Go

    Litz Go gave props (9 Oct 2008):

    wow, bernie. you are at the right time to capture this moment! good job!

  • Angelo Narciso

    Angelo Narciso gave props (20 Oct 2008):

    amazing stuff!

  • aya rosen

    aya rosen said (24 Oct 2008):

    That's really great! the photos are beautiful.

  • sonia pascual

    sonia pascual gave props (28 Oct 2008):



    Burak BAYINDIRLI said (2 Nov 2008):

    I think you did a really great job ! Maybe you shouldnt have permission to get closer, if you had, that would be amazing.


    Burak BAYINDIRLI gave props (2 Nov 2008):

    voted !

  • Bernie Ledesma

    Bernie Ledesma said (2 Nov 2008):

    Thank you everyone, @Burak If i was carrying my DSLR and not a tiny little point and shoot, I think I would have forced my way down into the performance along with all convicted criminals...or maybe not, or maybe maybe...

  • Tom Mertens

    Tom Mertens gave props (3 Nov 2008):

    Great story!!!

  • Janie North

    Janie North gave props (14 Nov 2008):

    I stumbled across the video on YouTube a few months ago and was blown away by the dancing. Thank you for giving me the story and photos to go with it! Awesome!

  • Michel González Brun

    Michel González Brun gave props (22 Jan 2009):


  • Alistair Keddie

    Alistair Keddie (Deleted) said (10 Aug 2009):

    great work

  • Epin Hervin

    Epin Hervin gave props (2 Jan 2011):

    You deserve Pulitzer

  • Rami­r Delgado

    Rami­r Delgado gave props (22 Nov 2011):

    I saw this video in 2009, in honor to the King, thanks for bringing a positive story. Don't forget to check in my profile pictures, I took outside of the courthouse during the Dr. Conrad Murray trial.

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