MANILA: David Jambalos has been in jail for most of his adult life.

He has made a choice, however. For the 42-year-old, spending his waking hours among thousands of prisoners was a decision he made many years ago.

He walks in and out of the gates of Quezon City jail in metro Manila every day as one of its most senior officers, with a higher calling in mind.

Captain David Jambalos has been working in jails for more than 20 years. (Photo: Jack Board)

“I am destined to be here. God has a purpose for me,” he says mid-shift in the teaming prison, thousands of yellow-clad inmates filling his view through metal bars.

It is hideously overcrowded inside. There are about 2,700 inmates here but official capacity is only 800.

Men linger in every last crevice of the ageing facility. Their sweating bodies press against smeared steel and lie prone on any surface available. The prisoners take shifts to sleep, but the heat is overwhelming and the noise of the masses makes rest a trying experience.

On the walls are messages like “Be Humble”, “Our Dignity” and “No Fear”. All of those aspirations seem unlikely while detained here, but Captain Jambalos believes that despite the conditions, suffering need not be inevitable.

Inmates attempt to sleep on any surface available inside the jail. (Photo: Jack Board)

Jambalos has served in many roles during his two decades in the system; he first stepped into this jail back in April 1994. For now, he is in charge of logistics, gate security and intelligence. Recently he was the chief custodian, in charge of monitoring the waves of inmates.

Walking through the facility requires a parting of a human wave. Sweat drips from Jambalos’ brow almost immediately as he tours the dimly lit inner sanctum, shadowed by another staff member for security. After decades of experience there is no fear in his steps anymore.

He frequently stops to speak to the men who appear quick to ask questions and point out problems they are having. “If I’m doing my job properly, no one is hurting one another and I’m just giving advice,” he says.