A blog post is well past due and it always amazes me how fast time goes by. Since my trip to the Cordilleras last April/May I feel like things have been non-stop making time soar by even faster. The past few months have mostly been filled with planning and getting things in line for the upcoming year with some intermittent travel, assignment work and workshops. The most exciting event I have been planning for is my first solo exhibit this coming January in Manila. The exhibit is entitled “The Forgotten Ten” which refers to the some 10 to 20 percent of the Philippine population considered to be indigenous.
The past couple of months have been action packed with lots of traveling, learning and thinking of the year ahead. Inevitably, when one starts to think about the challenges and hopes for the future we find ourselves reflecting on the past. It was this time last year that my wife and I finished a successful Kickstarter campaign for the Katutubong Filipino Project (Indigenous Filipino people project). It feels like a lot longer than a year ago that we ventured into this project, but we are thankful for it and for all of the people we have meet because of it. We are still working on the project with two major areas still to visit with our Kickstarter funds.
Last week I had the opportunity to take some images for the Gift of Grace Foundation, a non-profit organization which provides resources to elementary school children living within the Umapad dumpsite of Mandaue City, Cebu. There are four large dump sites around metro Cebu with more than 5000 people living and scavenging for materials just trying to survive in whatever way they can. Many of the children living within these dumpsites are born into a life of extreme poverty and are often given very little opportunity to escape the cycle. Meagan Kelly, founder of the Gift of Grace, started the foundation in hopes to educate children starting at a young age so that they can follow their dreams and eventually provide for their families away from the dumpsites.
Last Saturday I had the opportunity to shoot a project that is helping to change lives in an extraordinary way. MyShelter Foundation has always been at the forefront of creative and groundbreaking technologies and this is their latest venture called a Liter of Light (Isang Litrong Liwanag). The concept is simple. By using plastic bottles and filling them with water you create a prism that captures sunlight and dispersers it into a home. Before I heard about this project I had no idea that not having access to light during daylight hours was such a large scale problem.
I was doing some research recently and decided to see what the small island of Olango had to offer because of its proximity to Cebu. I knew the island had a bird sanctuary that is a popular birding destination, but I wanted to see what else the island might have to explore. While searching through some photos I noticed one image of a women standing next to a giant pile of starfish. The image was striking to me because I had never seen so many dead starfish before. I started to dig a little deeper and was able to find that one barangay in Olango island is known to export seastars, shells, urchins and sand dollars. I decided to go and have a look because I couldn’t believe that starfish in this amount could be harvested and sold. For what? I was thinking.
I have heard numerous times now of a mountain town here in Cebu where the weather is cooler and vegetable farmers carry large baskets of produce on their heads. I have always had a small interest in going to see what this was all about, but a part of me never thought it would be too interesting – vegetables are really not that exciting. Again, I was reminded of this place last week when my brother-in-law went on a day hike in the area and showed me some pictures of the farmers carrying these large baskets. I decided I should go and visit the small town of Mantalongon and explore how vegetables are harvested.
Wherever I travel I often find myself photographing local markets. I find a great amount of life and energy in markets and I think that’s the main reason I’m drawn to them. The high energy mixed with the variety of people/personalities and colors usually makes local markets a must place for me to photograph when in a new location. Aside from being good photographic locations, I love trying new foods, smelling new smells (and not all are pleasant), and enjoy watching the daily life of people all around me. It still amazes me that to many people these markets are their way of life. This is what they do day in and day out, whether it be selling vegetables or gutting fish. It still humbles me.
The Philippines held national and local elections yesterday and for the first time used automated machines to count the votes. I was able to go to a local elementary school close to my house here in Cebu to see what the scene was like. It’s basically what I thought it would be like and very similar to the presidential election six years ago. It felt like a town fiesta in a way with loud music playing, candidates giving away free food, political fliers all over the streets and people generally in good spirits.
Yesterday I got to witness thousands celebrate All Saints Day here in Cebu. People light candles, bring flowers and pray for their loved ones at cemetery’s all over. This was my first time to witness this holiday here and indeed a sight it was to see. There must have been a few thousand people at this small public cemetery I went to. Many people were camped out with their families and there were vendors selling everything from food to glow sticks. This is such a popular place for people to visit on this day that the Mayor even put up campaign signs for next years election.