It’s the weekend after Monday’s election, and the first order of business is to cool off and wash away politics related stress.
We can always learn from kids, whose idea of cooling off literally means jumping off a boat into the cool water.
… and if only cleaning up the system is as easy as getting a bucket of water, some soap, a brush, and a couple of friends to help do the job, then we should have enough time to have some fun.
It’s the day before the Philippine midterm election for the senate, congress and local government, and it is a very quiet morning unlike most Sunday mornings.
One paper boy, all grown up, but not as tall as the pile of paper.
Two tires, no bike.
A salute to all the mothers out there. Happy Mother’s Day!
Update: I am very happy to share with you all the good news that Streetlight Philippines has accepted Tony and his 2 siblings into their program. They will be given tutorials to allow them to catch up in their schooling this summer and will be given full scholarship when school starts this June. There are conditions to be met for the children to continue to receive this benefit; let us all hope that their eldest brother will comply with all the requisites so that these kids will have a better future ahead of them.
There is always a chance of coming home empty handed, especially with only 1 hour to spare and having no idea on where to go. Thankfully it’s not today.
I got here just at the right time before they dispersed. There were more of them when I drove by, and I asked them to stay for a moment for a photograph.
I found myself chatting with the store owner and another resident about the upcoming elections, and then the topic went to what I do with the photos I take. They told me to check out the open playground where there might be some things that will interest me, of which I wasn’t really keen on doing until I saw a man carrying his dog and walking through the narrow pathway leading to the sea wall.
I am glad that I saw them otherwise I would not have seen this lovely place.
The chain link fence, the clothes hanging out to dry, the kids jumping into the water…. just perfect.
People always ask me about what I do with the photos, and this is the first time I have been asked to write down the address for this website. It feels very nice when people become genuinely curious about what I do, and I can safely say that it is the same feeling they get whenever I become interested in what they are doing, even if it is something very ordinary and mundane.
The tide was unusually high today, and the first thing that came to my mind were the coastal areas surrounding the city. This is Barangay Timex, a place where politicians visit like clockwork – about once every 3 years, during election campaign season.
Safe drinking water is still inadequate, and it is a very common sight to see children walking the streets carrying water jugs.
Water from a shallow well, to be used for washing clothes and also for bathing.
My rubber boots were sitting dry in the back of the car a long way back.
A quick splash to cool off.
Fish: cleaned, salted, and laid out for drying. It is fried until crispy, and goes well with vinegar. It is a staple in any Filipino home.
Mobile phones have become a necessity. It allows people to talk to anyone anywhere on the globe, and is also a tool for ignoring the person nearby.
Learning to swim with a piece of styrofoam. There are no certified swimming instructors here, only life threatening lessons if left unattended.
Lined on the third floor of an old building on a busy street corner are broken windows with people looking down on pedestrians. Looking up, I see gaunt faces and empty stares.
Today, I came up to see what it is like to look down at the street below. Something tells me I shouldn’t be here. That something also tells me I shouldn’t tell my mom, or my wife, but curiosity got the best of me.
It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. In fact, I had a very pleasant conversation with an old timer named Eddie Boy. He talked about old times when he was in his prime, going places and such. Times have changed.
The lease contract is about to expire. Soon this place will be stripped down to make way for a new lessee.
Eddie Boy doesn’t play pool anymore. The checkers table sits where a third pool table was before it found a new owner. The bets are on the table.
He comes here to pass the time. I might have seen him looking out the window at one time, looking down at me. Maybe, just maybe.
Eddie Boy asked me to drop by again some other time. I just might do that.
An afternoon walk along the beach was a breath of fresh air. The sea, the surf, and the sky. Life is simple here, though barely comfortable, but children have their own ways of finding happiness and/or contentment. I miss those days.
I didn’t realize that I was headed down a road barely traveled, until I came to this village in Basey, Samar where the road is as narrow as it can be. It was not in any way undersized, but the residents have taken both sides of the road and laid down their freshly harvested grains for drying under the sun. Only the middle section was clear for traffic, and some sections were only wide enough for a bike to pass through.
This road led to the Sohoton Natural Caves, a local tourist spot in the region, but the more distance I traveled on this road, the more I felt that I am heading towards the middle of nowhere. Then it dawned upon me that I was the only traveler down this road.
This is probably the least friendly place I’ve been to. The usual smiles I elicit from strangers whenever I smile at them seem to be nonexistent. I can feel all eyes staring at me as I walked down the road, umbrella in one hand and camera dangling by my side. Part of this is probably because not many cars pass this way, and I might have been the only person who cared to stop and take photographs. The way to the caves is by boat at the town proper.
Never mind the close up photos, let alone a chat with the locals. I was out of my element. No smiles were coming my way, and it made me feel like I was not welcome. But there is always an exception when it comes to kids.
Back in Basey town proper; a great place to nap overlooking the water.
The local park.
A few daring souls were busy catching, slicing and baking jellyfish on the pier.
This is at Barangay Cabalawan, just across the San Juanico Bridge. A perfect place to cool off.
Devotees from all over the metropolis walked barefoot to Quiapo church on Good Friday, some carrying their crucifixes while others had elaborate floats. I was just an observer.
People walked the empty stretch of the main street while neighborhood kids found a temporary playground.
Towels, towels and more towels, but not a shade from the sun.
Ice cold water, free for everyone. If only it were like this everyday.
Snake oil to cure sickness, in case prayers don’t work.
The Miranda clan and their float.
Crossing to the other side.
Spikey enjoying the free breakfast.
Religious icons or idols?
Santo Niño, the image of the child Jesus.
Devotees throw towels to wipe the face, hands and crucifix of the image of Jesus Christ.
Outside the church.
At the plaza outside the church, prayers are sung.
Grooming, in public.
Many people endure physical sacrifice on Good Friday for reasons known only to them. Some walk barefoot, others flagellate themselves, and still others go all the way and allow their hands and feet to be nailed to the cross as Jesus was. We all have our own crosses to bear.
How far would I go with my personal sacrifices? There is already too much pain and suffering in this world, and adding my own pains and sufferings wouldn’t change anything at all. It is time we stop punishing ourselves and create something proactively positive instead.
Hidden in a neighborhood where one wouldn’t normally go is a lovely place with a great view of Cancabato Bay. Following the embankment and then crossing a footbridge, I found myself walking along the dirt path of Barangay 83-A. At the edge of this small community is a mangrove that opens towards the bay.
This is a very beautiful place if only everyone would know how to appreciate it.
One can live off the land and the sea. The bucket is for the fish that is caught in the shallow waters. They will be having fresh fish for lunch.
This fisherman’s son caught his own fish and is heading off to sell it.
While it is very tempting to sit and dream away, life is not easy. Water has to be carried from the communal faucet to homes.
Ice for halo-halo. It was such a hot day, and there were at least 3 halo-halo stalls that were set up in the area.
The fisherman’s son sold the fish he caught for P85. He has money to buy a cup of the icy delight.
While the kids were lining up to buy their early morning dessert, Tony (right) is busy tending the water cans being filled with water. He earns between P1.00 – P1.50 per container, either by delivering it to the owner or making sure that it gets filled up while the owner finishes other chores.
Tony is an orphan. His father was killed by his uncle, and his mother died of sickness. He has two elder siblings who barely make enough living to feed him and his younger sister. The neighbors sometimes take turns in cooking extra rice for him just so he can pass the day. This is how he survives.
Social workers have already come to take him away but the older siblings didn’t want the family to be separated from each other. At 7 years of age, he should be in school but given the situation, he cannot afford to. He has to work to be able to feed himself.
I find it amazing that Tony can afford to laugh and smile, and he doesn’t seem to be the kind of person who whines and complains.
As soon as he got paid, he immediately ran off to the halo-halo stand to order a cup. Each cup costs P5, but he did not have enough money.
What is 5 pesos? It is spare change to some. What is 5 pesos to me? Today, it meant something more than just spare change. With the small amount of money I spent to give happiness to Tony and the other kids in the neighborhood, I whispered a silent prayer hoping that this act will be paid forward to the next person in need, no matter how insignificant it may be. We all can benefit from a little kindness, and it doesn’t take much to give.
I have at one time stopped taking photos depicting the hardships endured by children because I can very easily imagine what it is like to be in their situation. The thought alone is depressing. It is very easy to take photos depicting poverty – one does not have to look far. To hear their stories, however, is an entirely different matter. There are millions of children whose lives are very similar to Tony’s. The question now is: are we willing to take a step to improve their lives?
There is no doubt that the country roads are much more beautiful and there are far more interesting things to see. The lush greenery, the clear blue skies, the fresh air and the laid back lifestyle. The city, on the other hand, is getting more and more crowded, traffic is getting worse, and people are glued to their phones most of the time.
As chance would have it, I was led to the back roads in the town of Palo. I followed a small group of devotees who went knocking on every door in the neighborhood. A man carried a crucifix while a pair of older women offered a prayer at every doorstep after soliciting donations for the church. The residents would put money in the donation box and kiss the crucifix.
The wooden donation box and its carrier.
If I had not seen the man carrying the crucifix and had I not followed them, I would never have come to this suspension bridge….
…. and I would not have met this fine young man who stopped in his tracks and waited for me to take his photo.
Further down the village road, a group of kids were picking kaimito fruits.
Free fruits for everyone who cared to have some.
The children can’t get enough. They’re free, and somebody is picking for them. Such is country life.
Meanwhile, on the way back, some kids flying kites on an empty lot.
Something tells me that summer has officially started.