Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center has become the scene of one of the most viewed viral videos on the internet of the past few years. Back in 2007 the ‘Thriller’ video turned up on Youtube and featured hundreds of Filipino prisoners performing a choreographed dance to the legendary Michael Jackson song. Before we go an further let’s check out what caused all the fuss:
It was a little difficult to understand the story behind the dance to begin with. What was going on? Were the prisoners forced to do this? If not, how do you persuade a bunch of incarcerated drug dealers and murderers to join a dance class? Well it all seems to have been the work of the progressive prison boss, Byron F. Garcia. Apparently wanting to take the prisoner’s minds of the daily grind, he initiated a programme of dance classes to enable the inmates to stay mentally and physically fit. So it turns out Thriller wasn’t the first mass participation dance performed by the residents of Cebu PDRC.
According to Garcia, dancing is something of a way of life in the Philippines and is the “language of the soul“. Despite this supposed love of dance, the inmates were not particularly receptive to the idea to the begin with and on the first attempt pelted a visiting choreographer with their shoes. Other senior staff members were not so sure either, concerned about the security dangers of hundreds of inmates together in one place in an understaffed facility.
Of course it went ahead nevertheless and early dance routines were choreographed to songs such as Pink Floyd’s Brick in the Wall and the Village People’s YMCA. Of course the Thriller routine is the one which eventually caught everyone’s attention and in the first week after its being uploaded, more than 1 million views had been recorded. Several years later the number of view is in the tens of millions.
So next time your browsing Youtube, don’t just check out the Thriller video, have a look for some of Byron F. Garcia’s other creations.