Saturday, June 27, 2009

The Power of Culture: Michael Jackson Tribute in Cebu Detention and Rehabilitation Center

Many of you will undoubtedly recall the re-enactment of Michael Jackson's "Thriller" video seen on YouTube, carried out by inmates at the Cebu Detention and Rehabilitation Center (Philippines).

The inmates from this center recently carried out a Michael Jackson tribute performance, being broadcast again on YouTube, see below.

I really know nothing about the criminal justice system in the Philippines or this specific institution. However, given the overcrowding and ethnic diversity in U.S. prisons, the rigid notions of violent masculinity that prevail, and the especially punitive ways the American criminal justice system operates, I cannot see something of this magnitude ever being carried out in a U.S. prison.

From a story in

For the past two years, the inmates have been dancing Jackson's "Thriller" inside the walls almost every month to curious audience who visited the prison up the hills in Metro Cebu's Opra city, or recently, watched it through Youtube on the Internet.

The four-minute video clip generated 23 million views after it was posted in 2007.

Now, as the legendary music talent passed away on Friday before his scheduled farewell concert in London on July 13, the prison birds across the Pacific decided to perform four Jackson songs in a row to pay their final tribute.

Clad in the orange uniform, all of Cebu provincial jail's 1,581 inmates, sentenced to one to ten years over murder, rape and drug crimes, on Saturday rocked the prison playground with Jackson's tunes, a bizarre scene that drew around 500 visitors and an army of local and international journalists.


...dancing brought so much happiness to these inmates, and their popularity could be considered as positive from the angle that it restored the inmates' self-esteem.

"Dancing is good for them," said Segundo Ganedo, assistant provincial warden at the jail, gazing at the dancing crowd. "After all, they are very disciplined and pose no dangers."

Simply amazing, not only the performance, but also the rehabilitative nature of the activity.

Some commentary on the degree to which the inmates practiced for this video:

(Photo courtesy of

Side note, my personal favorite MJ video, with sister Janet:

Academics Business Directory - BTS Local


  1. That's crazy! I was in Cebu back in '99. Beautiful place. But I didn't notice any MJ mania to speak of.

    They should've done "Smooth Criminal" instead though... ;)

  2. Michael Jackson and Cebu will be forever linked due to the famous performance by the Cebu Inmates....

  3. He may had been one of the greatest artists in the world, but his behavior about the necessity of him to became white and all the surgeries in his face made people think that he was not happy with his life, he was not happy the way "God" made him, that for me is not worthy of admiration.