Cebu City inmates produce designer-like handbags for a living

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Inmates from the Cebu City Jail have been making these woven "Bayongcella" bags from scratch.

Cebu (CNN Philippines, October 9) — Several inmates from the Cebu City Jail have been producing designer-like handbags inside the detention facility — and they are selling like hotcakes.

These "Bayongcella" bags are woven by hand from a sturdy packaging straps often used in holding cargoes and cartons. The designs are also hand-painted by the inmates themselves.

Clients can even ask for a customized design on the bags, which are shaped like a bayong, the modern backpack, and the typical shoulder bag in different sizes.

The new livelihood program inside the city jail stemmed from the idea of Jail Officer 1 Abigail Joy Tarona, who is in charge of skills development of inmates. She asked some of them to join and 10 went on to making the bags as a source of livelihood while behind bars.

Each inmate who is part of the livelihood program produces at least three bags per day. The Cebu City Jail is administered by the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP).

Tarona said that they started showcasing the bags and many of the other staff from the jail purchased them. Later, they were able to sell the bags at BJMP Bazaar held at the Ayala Center Cebu.

"Sometimes when I deliver the bags to the mall, I have 15 bags but only five reach the store since most of them are already being bought by acquaintances," Tarona said in Cebuano.

She added that they also have police officials from Camp Crame as clients. Still, most orders come from word of mouth and through messaging the City Jail's Facebook page.

The price of each bag ranges from ₱450 to ₱1,550. The rate is higher for bags with customized designs.

The inmates get 70 percent of the sales while 30 percent is used for production materials. The inmates also get more if they churn out more bags.

Tarona said most inmates do not collect their share until Christmas so they will have something to look forward to during the holiday season.

For a 51-year-old inmate (name withheld), the bag-making activity helps a lot in easing boredom while in detention. "Rather than doing shenanigans, this activity really helpd," said the inmate in the vernacular.