|Ever since I first saw the viral YouTube video of the Dancing Inmates of Cebu Prison performing Thriller (presently more than 56 million views), it's been on my bucket list. By luck, I was in Cebu City the last Saturday of the month which is when the prison is opened up to the public for the free performance. Unfortunately, figuring out what time it starts is not so easy. Every website stated a different time, so I called the Tourism Office who said 12:30, and recommended arriving two hours early to get in line. (This was incorrect information, so don't write it down)
|The best way to go to the hilltop Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center, a maximum security prison in Cebu, is by motorcycle taxi (habal habal) from either the Capitol or Sudlon. Car taxis claim they can't make the trip because of the gasoline involved going up the hills. My Filipino friend Debrah and I paid 100 pesos each ($2) for the 10-minute up the windy and narrow steep road. When we arrived at the prison, Debrah inquired and found out that the show actually starts at 2:00. Registration begins an hour before.
|Many of the prison wives came with young babies. Debrah found out that they are allowed to spend the night with their husbands in prison. This little girl first visited her daddy when she was 4 days old.
|With a couple of hours to wait, we decided to "kill" time by walking around the neighborhood. Across from the prison is the Cebu City Jail Male Dorm. Dozens of inmates were looking down from their cells, probably searching for visitors.
|In California, this would be a rich neighborhood. We Americans love a nice view. However, in the Philippines the hilltop prison and jails overlook ghetto homes.
|To register for a free visitor's pass you write down your gender and nationality. I'm not sure what's the maximum number of passes for each performance, but on this day it definitely wasn't necessary to line up two hours early.
|Even a group of nuns came to see the show. Last year when Pope Frances visited the Philippines, the Dancing Inmates did a special performance in his honor, even though Cebu wasn't on the Pope's itinerary. This year in January one of his cardinals did attend and expressed his love and encouragement for the Dancing Inmates.
|Other tourists also took selfies in front of the jail and the prison gates.
|Waiting in line to visit their husbands and boyfriends. The family members definitely outnumbered the tourists.
|Of course, I had to get a t-shirt, even though 350 pesos ($7) is much more expensive than most souvenir t-shirts in the Philippines.
|More tourist selfies. Most of the tourists were from Japan and Korea, but some Americans and Europeans too.
|Several of the men had their arms around each other as they walked around the prison yard. Again, I'm guessing, but I assume it's a sign of camaraderie, rather than gay relationships. Or I could be wrong.
|These Danish students are doing an internship on public health in the Philippines for 6 months.
|The woman in the green t-shirt is the prisoner. The others are her visitors.
|The seats in this pop out were reserved for VIPs, but a few of us foreigners sat on the platform to get better photos.
|The Philippines is proud to be the only Christian country in Asia. 86% of Filipinos are Roman Catholics, so they begin with a prayer. All shopping malls offer mass on Sundays too.
|The Philippines National Anthem is played after the prayer.
|The inmates with yellow t-shirts have been selected to be the featured dancers, based on skill and enthusiasm.
|Although this looks like a religious cult, it's just part of the choreography. Birhen Sa Fatima is Cebuana language (also called Bisaya) for Virgin of Fatima.
|As a big fan of the Netflix series, Orange is the New Black, I was especially interested in the female inmates. The ones in white shirts are the best dancers.
|The female inmates joined in on several numbers.
|Biggest hits by the Dancing Inmates include Gangnam Style, Dangerous, Jump, Twerk It Like Miley, Thriller, They Don't Care About Us, and anything by Queen.
|This talented young man flipped numerous times across the concrete.
|They invited the tourists to join in on the last dance.
|Making a fool of myself. But the prisoners don't even notice. They do this every month. I also heard that they know that if they even touch one of the visitors they'll be in big trouble.
|Few people took photos of the female inmates, but being a big fan of Orange is the New Black, I couldn't resist.
|I'm just average height in the U.S. but I feel like a giant in the Philippines.
|Time to leave the prison. Three separate prison guards checked our wrists to be sure we had the hand stamp that they gave us on the way in.
|Even with the crowd there were plenty of habal habal drivers waiting to give us a ride back down the hill.