Monday, March 31, 2008


So after being computerless for weeks, I finally get to edit through some of my photos.
I felt almost "discombobulated," without one. odd, i know... i once was anti-digital--weren't we all-- but I guess after a days' or weeks' work of photographs, I don't feel like I have fully absorbed the photos I took. Editing through photos is like reflection time for me. I guess that is why it takes me forever to get people their photos. Besides the editing process, everytime I look at a photo I relive the moment. I've always been nostalgic in nature...

Funerals are probably one of the hardest things to shoot. it was particularly hard to shoot the funeral of Adelaida Legaspi, the only sister of one of the Nanays I'm documenting. What made this funeral especially hard was the actual burial. Nanay's family had no money to give her sister a proper burial, so they had to settle for a free space in North Cemetery. This free space was at the back of the cemetary, surrounded by garbage and sewage, resting at the very bottom of other caskets--which all rested under homes in which people reside in. (If you are not familiar with North Cemetaryits not only home for the dead, but also for 10,000 living.)
It was hard seeing Nanay and her family bury her sister. What really upset the family was that because the casket couldn't fit in the "free space" they had to take off the top of the casket--exposing her--and then push her in. That was really hard to see, but must have been especially for Nanay and her family. They couldn't afford to give her the burial they wanted to give her... that stung. and that hurt.

This project I am working on and the people I have met because of it, is one of the contributing factors as to why I'm staying and not going to India. Yup, after a LONG internal debate and after resisting what I knew my heart was already saying, I finally started to cancel the plane tickets. Yup, they were already bought, and the dates were set, but one part was missing, my complete heart. it was definately torn, and i don't want to get into the details of the weighing scales, but let's just say, I'm used to putting a lot of stuff on my plate and overworking myself. I always seem to jump to the next chapter without ever completely finishing the current one. And this chapter definately needs to be written out. I just hope the main character finds what she's looking for.

While decisions are being made, challenges are put before me. Like, for example, my 16-35mm lense locking up and my camera just breaking!!! well at least not turning on at all. i was quite devestated when i found out, went a little crazy, but i'm now at the acceptance stage...haha... just figuring out to fix this dilemma. it shall be solved =)

Overall, how am I doing? I'm alright. My bro is in town and will be leaving tomorrow. His presence reminded me too much of home--which isn't a bad thing at all--just got the homesick blues... but it's all good, as I do look forward to the rest of this adventure.

Saturday, March 15, 2008


I've been meaning to blog, but I must say, having my laptop breakdown has discouraged me from sitting down and updating. And with the possibility of delaying my trip to India due to no access to the Indian Embassy here in Manila, has gotten me pretty aggravated. But nonetheless, these obstacles are allowing me to see how much I actually do want to go out there. At first I was having doubts because I don't know much about that country, I don't know the language, and I don't know what to expect... but it's another adventure I want to take.

So, I got less than a month until I leave for India. Hopefully. With time so limited, I find myself trying to do everything I can before leaving. And that includes finishing the current documentary I am working on.

For eight days Aisha and I were in Sulu, an island in Mindanao, that is occupied by U.S. military forces and is known for the presence of rebel groups like Abu Sayaff and the MNLF. Sulu, doesn't have a very good reputation in the media. For example, Abu Sayaff is known for their kidnappings of tourists, beheadings, and ransoms. Also, the day before departing on an 8-hour boat ride to Sulu from Zamboanga, there was a bombing at a kareoke bar, where six were critically injured. And just a month prior, there was the Ipil Massacre. LA Times writer, Paul Watson, wrote:

"Within minutes, Cpl. Ibnun Wahid, 35, was dead, along with seven other villagers, including two children, age 4 and 9, two teenagers and two women, one of them pregnant."

So one could imagine, the type of atmosphere and political climate we were approaching. Once in Jolo, there was a strong military presence almost on every corner. I could hear loud and fast jet planes flying overhead everyday. We met and interviewed residents of Sulu, who have been directly affected by the ongoing conflict and U.S. occupation of the island. Arguments go back and forth as to why the U.S. military is there...residents say its because of the abundant natural resources of Sulu and Mindanao. Some say that Mindanao is the next "Middle East" where the U.S. is and will soon be using the land and its people for its oil. Other explanations as to why the U.S. is present is because of "medical missions," to help the people of Sulu.... whatever the case, one could feel the intensity simply by walking down the street or even looking out the window. Sulu definately has a different feel to it.

But regardless, it was an amazing experience and I had the opportunity to meet and talk to some amazing women leaders. March 8 was International Women's Day, and I'm really glad we got to be in Maimbung, Sulu --- actually where the Ipil Massacre took place a month ago. Working with these Bangsomoro women inspired me and encouraged me. I took hundreds of photos, but here is only a few...just a sneak peak:

Meeting the people I have met while documenting, hearing their stories, and learning so much from them-- enriches my soul and allows me to grow. So, I find this kind of "work," not work, but rather something i truly enjoy and look forward to. I may complain of how the world is, but it doesn't mean I'm depressed or I want to give up on it. Quite the opposite. Witnessing the ugliness of the world and what it could do to people and their dreams can be quite depressing to see, but witnessing their will to overcome such obstacles is quite inspiring.

It's not just work...I'm living, absorbing, observing, and experiencing...although, I must admit, I forget to breathe at times... But regardless, let me live.