This morning I left my homestay at 6.30am to meet up with Catherine (Copenhagen, Denmark) to document her working on the build-a-home scheme in Tacloban City, just around the corner from the Volunteer for Visayans office. I stayed with her and the family she’s working with for an hour, to grab a few shots of her helping the family rebuilding their home following the typhoon. She’s struggled a little as non of the family speak English, so has had to rely on watching and learning and trying to help out where possible! In the afternoon I accompanied the French Canadians again for a visit to the Commission Of Human Rights to the Philippines, where they gave us a presentation around the human rights within the Philippines, and specifically here in Tacloban. Afterwards our Jeepneys took us to the San Juanico Bridge, which was built as a gift from President Marcos to his wife Imelda (read the full story here – very interesting!). After a well needed siesta a group of us headed downtown to the Pop Up bar (a previously touring bar in a van but now in a permanent position) as a few of the volunteers had finished their placements and were heading onto the next legs of their journeys. It was full of the NGOs that are based here, they played great music (including the Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack which I’ve been listening to loads while I’ve been here) and a few San Miguels costing about 70p each, pretty cheap for a city centre bar! It’s the weekend tomorrow so we’re heading to Massin City in the south of the island for a two day break, we have a hotel booked so really looking forward to a couple of days rest and recuperation!
It’s Thursday and today I accompanied the French Canadian group to a teaching programme out in the sticks – we travelled for about 45 minutes in a Jeepney (gathering an amazing collection of these – will post a seperate album of these alone!) and spent the morning teaching the children English and French. They are so amazed to see us we’re like celebrities, and they provided us with a second breakfast of noodles and liver, with Sprite to drink, difficult to procure and expensive treat where we were located! I’ve been able to get some great shots of Tacloban and it’s people from the Jeepney windows, there’s so much life on every corner, there’s always something happening and it’s a photographer’s dream to be here, I could do with about a year and that’s just in Tacloban! In the afternoon we were taken for a presentation at the Tacloban City Police Department, and given a tour around both the remand and permanent prisons. We were taken straight into the main area so were surrounded by serious criminals, but many of us felt as though we were looking down at the prisoners and wanted to leave as soon as possible. Some of the prisoners are kept there while they await trial, the conditions were not the best and some of the inmates would walk free if found innocent, but could end up staying there for up to three years before being seen before a judge. In the evening I drank a couple of beers with Stefan, Manon, Daniel and Lucie (the French Canadian group leaders) before heading for another superb dinner by Nanay Lea, this time we ate stir fried beef, fried fish and vegetables in coconut milk, before heading to bed at 9pm. I’ve been rising at 6am every day so early nights are a must! It was also the first time I’ve needed to use a sheet as it’s been a little cooler overnight and was very welcome indeed!
I’ve been shadowing the French Canadians for the last few days, they are a group of 15 and so have numerous projects to work on and it’s meant I’ve had a variety of locations to shoot at. Today they started their assignments and I headed with Daniel and his group to a new nutrition project up in the hills, a huge amount of people were displaced by the typhoon and it’s subsequent storm surge, so they lost their homes and possessions and headed to higher ground to avoid such an occurrence again. VfV provide nutrition programmes to such communities, and today’s was aimed at malnourished four and five year olds. We stopped at the store and picked up some pork, vegetables and spaghetti, they were given a budget of 600 pesos (about £10) and this needed to feed 35 children, but in reality there were many more who went without. Most of the children would only eat that one meal that day, so the people there are massively reliant on the charity providing food for their children. It was definitely the most humbling experience of my life, seeing how happy the people there were even though they lived in ramshackle houses and had next to nothing to eat. Afterwards we headed back to the office where Kirby (from Delaware, USA) was leading a cookery class to promote vegetarian cooking for the volunteers at their homestays as the Filipinas don’t understand the concept of not eating meat! Then the whole volunteering team had a Waray-Waray language lesson (waray literally translates as ‘nothing’) followed by the French Canadians carrying out their daily English class for the local children. We’ve had another amazing meal cooked by Nanay Lea, including whole chicken livers which were surprisingly delicious!
This morning I spent my time catching up with the editing of my pictures, I’m shooting at least 500 a day so far so trying to stay on top of them all is very time consuming indeed! The images I take will be used to promote the work the charity does here, and I’ve also said all of the other volunteers here can use them as a record of their work, so it’s difficult to delete any! In the afternoon we drove into the wilderness where VfV run a nutrition and teaching project, and the children there put on a show for us consisting of traditional dance and also a few more modern moves, including a dance to Mariah Carey’s ‘All I Want For Christmas’. The Philippines go crazy for Christmas, one of the traditions I’ve heard is that after they head to bed after the day’s event, they wake again around midnight, give the children a gift and then eat spaghetti!! There’s still loads of decorations up, with the festivities starting in early September (I thought the British went crazy for it starting in November!). The New Year celebrations also last for all of January, so it seems like it’s celebration time constantly here! The French Canadians led some English workshops at the centre later in the evening, with around 30 children descending on the place, so I couldn’t stick around and catch up with my internet needs, instead I had my first proper beer with Stefan on the basketball court outside as the sun set, it definitely helped with my first full night’s sleep in a week… Stefan sponsors a child here for $300 a year – it pays for her to go to school, her school equipment, and a medical and health check once a year, something I’m definitely considering when I return to the UK. We also visited the site of the American General Douglas MacArthur’s landing when they came to liberate the Philippines from the Japanese in March 1945, and the day he landed is a national holiday here.
Arrived in Tacloban on the 3rd January 2015 after a 24 hour journey, I flew from Manchester to head to the Philippines to work as a volunteer media intern, with the brief of producing photographs and a film to be used by the charity Volunteer For The Visayans to promote the work they do around the relief effort following Typhoon Haiyan (known locally as Yolanda). We’ve had an orientation around the city, it’s absolutely devastated still one year on from the typhoon, and with little funding coming from central government they are relying on donations and volunteers coming into the area to try and improve the situation.
I’m staying with a lovely family, you have to call the elders Nanay and Tatay (mother and father) and they’ve been so welcoming and generous, even though they have next to nothing. They have a dog called Dice so that’s helping with missing my own dog, and they took me to the local mall for dinner on my first evening, before heading to bed for a good rest!
The next morning Winston and JR from the charity gave me my induction session, and a tour around the city. Everyone uses the Jeepneys to travel around, a journey costs about 20p and will take you anywhere in the city. I’ve also met up with a group of French Canadian Police trainees who are here to volunteer too, so I’m heading out with them tomorrow for their tour to photograph and film their experience, hoping for a sunnier day!
Kriss giving his keynote speech at the WeightWatchers Leader Conference 2014 in Telford.
A short film I was Director of Photography on last year, it’s just finished it’s festival run so here it is for all to enjoy!
A promotional shot for The Wood Beneath The World. Artwork by Jonathan Finch at Passport.
Here’s a link to my images being used on ITV to promote The Wood Beneath The World at Leeds Town Hall. For more information and to book tickets head here.