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Lawrence Sumulong September 8, 2014

Posted by Geoffrey Hiller in Philippines.
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Inmates and their family gather for portraits inside Leyte Provincial Jail. Palo, Philippines 2014

Lawrence Sumulong (b.1987, United States) is a Filipino American photographer based in New York City and Manila. He received his B.A. from Grinnell College and studied contemporary American poetry under scholar and writer, Ralph Savarese. Among others, his work has been shown by The New Yorker: Photo Booth, Le Monde’s M Magazine, the Jorge B. Vargas Museum, the Milk Gallery, Chobi Mela VI, and his postcard series for the publication, Abe’s Penny, is in the permanent collection of the MoMA Library. His documentary work explores the idea of alterity within the Filipino culture and diaspora.

About the Photograph:

“I took this photo on an assignment which required me to verify whether families of inmates were continuing to live inside Leyte Provincial Jail in Palo, Philippines. I was collaborating with the journalist, Aya Lowe, who had originally broke the news that inmates and their families were seeking shelter in the jail after the devastation of Typhoon Yolanda. Leading up to my trip, there was word that access was restricted and the families had long since relocated. Since my fixer had went to school with many of the wardens, I was able to gain entrance and spend a few hours inside.”

“To my surprise, all of the families had continued to commingle alongside the inmates and wardens. Allegedly, I was the first Filipino American to ever set foot within the compound. With a water purifying system, electricity, rations, a sick ward, and security, the jail arguably provided more amenities than what one could find outside of the walls of the jail in the post-Yolanda landscape. Even more surprisingly, a woman who was related to one of the inmates even ran a vegetable stand in the middle of the prison, which gave the appearance of a local store that one might find in a small neighborhood or barangay.”

“During the family portrait sessions, the presence of family members made it difficult to ascertain and comprehend the crimes that the inmates had been accused of. I was told that petty crimes such as robbery and drug trafficking were the main culprits. However, upon looking at the makeshift release forms that I had asked each family and inmate to sign, murder and rape were the most prevalent. With the loss of court records due to the typhoon, the judicial process has been completely crippled and the future of all of the inmates and the livelihoods of their families lies lost in limbo.”

Jake Verzosa January 20, 2010

Posted by Geoffrey Hiller in Philippines.
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Child boxer, Davao, Philippines 2008

Jake Verzosa (b.1979, Philippines) is a freelance photographer based in Manila. His editorial clients include: Marie Claire, Men’s Health, and Cosmopolitan.  Jake was recently  commissioned by ASEAN, to document inspiring stories in Southeast Asia for the book “Young Southeast Asia”.  He has exhibited at the Photoquai Biennial in Paris, France.

About the Photograph:

“I worked on the child boxers story during the rise of Filipino ring idol Manny Pacquiao to boxing greatness. This image shows one of the young hopefuls getting ready for a tournament fight at a run-down boxing gym in Mindanao. The sport has spurred renewed interest among the youth in the Philippines because of Pacquiao’s success story. The kids see this as a chance to escape the shackles of poverty by training hard despite the lack of food, funding and training facilities. Only when they have gone through a grueling climb to the top can the privileged few get sponsorships and opportunities to follow their hero’s path.”

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Ryan Anson October 2, 2009

Posted by Geoffrey Hiller in Philippines.
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Wedding Preparations. Davao City, Philippines 2004

Ryan Anson (b. 1978, Kenya) is a freelance photojournalist based in San Francisco, CA.  Anson grew up in Kenya, and since 1998, has worked in 20 African, Asian, and Central American countries. A recipient of several journalism grants and fellowships, including from the International Reporting Project (2005) and the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting (2007 and 2008), Anson has published stories in a variety of magazines and newspapers such as The Washington Post, The New York Times, Newsweek, TIME-Asia, The Saturday Times Magazine (Times of London,) Smithsonian Magazine, and the San Francisco Chronicle.  Anson is currently developing a multimedia project that features his many years of work photographing Southeast Asia’s diverse Muslim minority communities.

About the Photograph:

In late 2001, I received a small seed grant and moved to the southern Philippines to document the various militant groups who have been waging both Marxist and Islamic insurgencies for more than three decades. My work initially concentrated on how the armed conflict routinely displaces local indigenous and Muslim communities.  In 2003, I began to focus more on the Islamic culture of this part of the Philippines, a mainly Catholic country made up of 7000 islands and incredibly diverse regional cultures. I shot this image in early 2004 during a wedding near Davao City where a small Muslim minority group called the Kalagan people live amidst millions of Catholic residents.   I was initially surprised that the bride let me in the changing room to spend time with she and her relatives as they applied the finishing touches to her dress and make-up.  However, like many Filipinos in this region, Joanna and her family welcomed me as a guest and allowed me to photograph them in a very intimate environment.  While there are pockets of conservative Muslim communities in the southern region of Mindanao, most families tend to blend a lot of Filipino customs and expressions of culture in their daily lives and sometimes in their practice of Islam.

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Vicente Jaime Villafranca March 11, 2009

Posted by Geoffrey Hiller in Philippines.
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Former gang member, Manila, Philippines

Vicente Jaime “Veejay” Villafranca (b. 1982 Philippines) was amongst seven Filipinos to be accepted in the first Asian documentary workshop of the Angkor photography festival in Siem Reap, Cambodia. After freelancing in 2006, he worked with Agence France Presse, Reuters, World Picture Network and the United Nations His long-term project about the life of former gang members in one of Manila’s dangerous slums, BASECO compound garnered the 2008 Ian Parry Scholarship grant in London. He is also the recipient of the 2007-2008 Asian Center for Journalism Photojournalism program in partnership with the World Press Photo Foundation. His work has been exhibited in London, Lithuania and Manila. Veejay is now working for Getty Global Assignment in London. His ongoing projects evolve around the Filipino faith, reserved space, and illegal refugees in Southeast Asia apart from his project with the gangs.

About the Photograph:

“This photograph is part of an going project about the lives of former gang members in Baseco compound, one of Manila’s largest slums. Rex, or more popularly know as 2PAC amongst the gang members had a complete turn around when the compound was ravaged by a huge fire in 2004. Most of the senior members left the compound in search of a life apart from the violence, crime, and drugs some opted to stay. For Rex (2PAC), the gang life expired when his twins were born. He now works in a mall as a janitor and he still spends time with former ‘brothers’ but hardly takes part in the activities or what was left of it. The Chinese Mafia Crew (CMC) was heralded the gang to look out for during their heydays but as the time changes, the members are trying to break the vicious cycle.

Marvi Lacar December 5, 2008

Posted by Geoffrey Hiller in Philippines.
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Pampanga, Philippines 2006

Born in 1976, Marvi Lacar is a native of the Philippines and moved to the US at the age of 15. She received a bachelor’s degree in Health Sciences from a liberal arts college in Michigan. Instead of continuing on to medical school, she opted to work in non-profit organizations focusing on migrant and women’s health issues. Her experiences led her to pursue a Master’s in Journalism at the University of Texas in Austin. Marvi has been a nominee for Joop Swart Masterclass and recognized by Communication Arts, PDN and American Photography, Days Japan and Santa Fe Center for Photography Project Competition. Her clients include The New York Times, Time, Newsweek, Reader’s Digest, Paris Match, Fader and Marie Claire. She is continuing her work on a story documenting female genital mutilation and early marriage in Kenya as part of a longer-term project on Women in Poverty. She is also working on a project about depression.

About the Photograph:

Rose Ann Calma, 8, is craddled by her mother, Susan, 46, in Pampanga, Philippines. Roseanne is the youngest of 5. Her mother, Susan, is a fulltime housewife and her father, Herminio is a construction worker who is usually away on out of town jobs during the week. Roseanne was conceived at the former US Airbase motorpool, Clark Airbase Communiations Command (CABCOM) where the family stayed for two years. Roseanne eats a soft diet of oatmeal since she cannot digest solid foods. She cannot walk or talk so she requires constant care and attention from feeding and bathing and is usually in her mother’s arms. Her affliction has not been medically diagnosed because of her family’s lack of financial resources although she is among the children supported by non profit organizations who cater to the needs of individuals who they believe to be affected by the high levels of toxicity inside CABCOM. To this day the US government refuses to clean up the former US bases pointing out a clause in the contract that states that the US government is not required to return the bases to the Philippine government in its original state.

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