Monday,  October 11, 2004 

Bread and coffee, Chiong Seven staple
By Suzzane B. Salva

     
Manila - - Never take little things for granted. This is the harsh lesson the Chiong Seven learned after they were transferred to the New Bilibid Prisons in Muntinlupa City in May 1999.

     They all laughed while talking of small items that are now valued highly inside the jail.

     For more than two hours last Saturday, between teary moments and rings of laughter, five of the seven convicts discussed with Cebu daily News their lives in prison.

    Francisco Juan "Paco" Larraņaga, Josman Aznar, James Anthony Uy, Ariel Balansag and Alberto Caņo talked in unison when asked for things they had taken for granted when they were still free.

    "Pan og kape (Bread and coffee)," everybody said.Pan og kape (Bread and coffee)," everybody said.

     Larraņaga admitted that when he was at the Cebu City jail, he rarely touched bread.

    "Kay mokaon diay ka og pan? (Why do you eat bread?), Aznar turned to Larraņaga who managed to laugh.

     "When you are on death row, bread is valuable. Tinuod gyud na, magkatawa gyud mi ana tanan (That's true, we laugh about that)," Larraņaga said.

     Before he was not a bread eater. But things changed. "Pag abot dinhi, naan pan bay? Diri ilugan, nihit kaayong pan dinhi (When I reached this place, I would ask for bread. It's very scarce and people fight over them)," he added.

Anthony, now 23, added that hot coffee "is at a premium." He has it everyday.

     "He would drink coffee, and the cup would be empty but streaming," joked Larraņaga.

       Larraņaga, who is turning 27 in December, said he would loved to propose marriage to whoever would be his girl friend.

           
REPRESENTATIVE Rosales (right) talks with Margarita Larraņaga, Paco's mother, during a gathering of anti-death penalty advocates at Remedios Jubilee Mission Center in Malate, Manila. Rosales vowed to help Paco's case. 
 

       "Now is supposed to be the stage of saving up for a ring and to propose to a girlfriend if she can be a wife and mother of children. But we can't do that," he said with a tinge of frustration.

        Aznar, for his part, said he missed dimsum so much.

        He would also love to take a shower, the real one. "Here, you have to use a pail of water," Aznar grinned.

      Larraņaga said Aznar was so fond of "kinilaw" he was willing to fight anyone who would mess with his food.

         On a more serious note, the young men said that is they had learned anything inside the New Bilibid, "those are the values of patience and humility."

        "You have to be patient and learned humility here, otherwise you'll either end up with another case or figure in trouble," Larraņaga said.

        In the middle of the interview, the silent Caņo interrupted, and said, "Mrs. Chiong should not be happy."

        "If we will be executed, Mrs. Chiong will not be happy because we did not do the crime," he said.

         "The souls of her daughter will not be at rest knowing that the real culprit is still out," he added in Cebuano.

       This time, everyone was dead serious.

                NOTE:   THE ABOVE TEXT IS THE FAITHFUL REPRODUCTION OF THE ORIGINAL
                           DOCUMENT REFORMATTED FOR  CLEARER APPRECIATION.            
       
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