Taking photographs and documenting the lives of vulnerable persons is a deep passion of mine. In the area of Metro Manila most middle or upper class Filipinos do not perceive poor people as individuals. I aim at telling a story about each person. I want the pictures to reflect dignity and in this way pay homage to their daily struggle. Years of hardship are chiseled into the faces of the older persons. They carry their past openly for all to see. Yet, there is a determination, a pride and a sense of self-respect. It is of utmost importance that the subject of the photography feels comfortable with the situation. I always make an effort to engage with each person, talk about their life, their dreams and their struggles. The child selling flowers, the old women collecting clams, and the young boys collecting garbage each stand out in their own way. By capturing them in their daily tasks I wish to make other, more fortunate people aware of what is going on – sometimes on a daily basis before their own eyes, but which they still do not perceive.
All of the photographs are untitled because I want everyone to realize that the children, men and women are not different from us, they are human beings, they have rights, they need help, they need a home, they need good health and they need education. After all life is about LOVE, RESPECT AND DIGNITY.
-Joshua Formentera - Photographer and social activist-
LIFE AT MANILA BAY PHOTOGRAPHIC EXHIBITION IN BERLIN 3 May - June 15, 2012 AIDS Berlin Hilfe Bülowstr. 6 D-10789 Berlin-Schoneberg
LIFE OF MANILA BAY
Lydia, 48, lives by Manila Bay together with her nine children. She moved from her hometown of Naval In the province of Leyte thirty years ago. Since then, her home has been a wooden shack not much bigger than a king-size bed. The oldest of her sons is already married. The couple share Lydia’s shack together with their four children. One of Lydia’s daughters Jennifer also lives there with four children of her own. They are one of thousands of families edging out an existing in the Manila Bay area.
Manila Bay is a natural harbour, which serves the Port of Manila, in the Philippines. It is considered one of the best natural harbours in Southeast Asia and one of the finest in the world. Strategically located around the capital city of the Philippines, Manila Bay facilitated commerce and trade. Today, it still remains a significant part of Philippine culture although water quality has declined tremendously.
For the tourist, Manila Bay is a must-see destination. The Bay Walk is a long promenade that follows Manila Bay for about 4 kilometres. A walk along the promenade in the evening gives you a perfect view of the famous Manila sunset, painting the sky in glowing red and orange colours. When you look to the sea and to the shore, however, the sight is quite different.
Part of the bay surroundings used to be the landfill area of Manila. Due to regular flooding from heavy rains and tides, dirty water is often leaving stagnant pools in the informal settlements, which have been constructed on top of the old landfill.
In this heavily polluted environment, thousands of people try to wrest a living on the shore, getting by collecting garbage, begging, fishing in the brown waters. Some of them are homeless, sleeping by the bay at night on benches, in corners and below the pier.
Most of the people living at Bay or nearby are scavenging for plastics and metals; fishing and collecting shell fish from the sea, selling food in the neighbourhood, construction labour carrying loads. Many of these informal settlers are malnourished. Some of them supplement their food with fish caught in the bay, ignoring the health hazards. Many are children.
According to the Philippine Resource Network there are 1.5 million street children in the Philippines. Children collect recyclables and sell them to junkyards for a handful of coins. Some beg for money or sell flowers to churchgoers and motorists. Still others jump into public busses to shine passengers’ shoes.
Despite the hardship of their lives, these children sometimes manage to squeeze some fun out of their daily routine of work and begging. Since their options for playing are extremely limited, they often go for a swim in the polluted waters. For the children this provides a few moments of relaxation, not knowing they endanger their health by doing so.
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