Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The One with the Infinite Boat Rides



Back from the big blue. I wish I could bottle up the way the sea makes me feel. I wish I could carry it with me. Is that ridiculous?

I spent the last few days mainly in the water--in boats and in remote islands around Bicol. I made this journey so I could get to know the little fishing community where the kids used to swim from one island to another just to get to school. The story is a story of hope. And I am so excited to be a part of it.



The Yellow Boat Project was started when Jay found out about a bunch of kids in Zamboanga swimming just to get to school. One thing led to another and they found out that the problem wasn't unique to the Zamboanga community. Some kids from Masbate apparently had to swim from one island to another just to get to school. Can you imagine that?


And so beautiful yellow boats were made for the beautiful children. 


I didn't go to do field work or anything--I went really just to learn what I could. 


On the first night, I watched Maala-Ala Mo Kaya (a local TV show) with some of the people from the community--and the episode was actually about Risa (girl second from the left) and her brother Richard (the boy in top center). They were among the kids who had to swim to school, but he had to stop school so that she could go. We watched in the only place in the island where there was a generator.


I slept that night in the attic (?) of that hut. I had a good view of the ocean from where we stayed.


The next day, I woke up at 4 in the morning to go with Richard and Raymart for fishing. The sea and the sky was still super dark when we left--no trace of sun at all. It's so different, boating in the open sea in the darkness. I really just had to trust that these boys knew the sea well, and that my camera would be okay.


Everything's slow and lazy in the hazy morning light, and the ocean was serene. It was such a tender experience, going with them. Both are younger than me, but they've been doing this since they were kids. I watched the sun rise from the middle of the ocean and my sorrows started to seem so small.


This was the catch they ended up with--it wasn't enough to even break even for the gas. It's worth 50 pesos. That made me sad. I was told that commercial fishing vessels were affecting their catch.  


We visited the neighboring islands, too. The kid in the last photograph was pretending to be like me. Made me think about this line I read in my Nat Geo portrait book--it said that the photographs you take are going to be partly self-portraits. Makes sense, because what and how you photograph says a lot about who you are, I think. It makes me imagine the kind of photograph I want to be.


We watched the Pacquiao match as well with the people from the island. It was really cool just seeing everyone worked up about it. No matter what happens, the Philippines really is united when Pacquiao fights. They went all the way from the other part of the island to go up the cliff with cable, and a generator :) 



While they were watching, I saw some kids playing with the coal from the pot where we cooked our food. If they had known me for a longer time, and if I had access to running water, I would have joined in, too. I love children who didn't grow up in the city. When I take their photos they are more curious than they are assertive.



I joined the fishermen again for the night's catch. We left at dusk and initially, our contact didn't want me to ride the boat cause he was scared the boat would tip over. But I'm a little bit hard headed so in the middle of the ocean, I transfered boats. With my cameras. I was terrified, actually--not so much for me, but for my equipment. But it was worth it.




I noticed their culture of smoking as well. I never really had an archetype for fishermen before, but now I'll be remembering them with cigarettes.



It was really strange, because every time they'd catch a unique fish that they can't sell, they'd give it to me, like a pet so I can hold and feel it before they throw it back to ocean.



I appreciate fishing so much more now. I tried helping and pulling the net out of the water, and it was so heavy, and the net hurt my hands. It's so difficult, but what made it amazing was just seeing how close the fishermen were. It was really all just laughter and jokes. Their language has a bit of Bisaya in it, and I tried to remember the words I know in Bisaya.



So I started calling this guy buang (which means crazy), cause he really was. But in a good way. He bit the damn fish cause it bit him. But what I loved about Burdigol (that's his nickname, I don't know how it spawned from Joseph) was the little detail I saw as he dove into the ocean. He made the sign of the cross and then jumped.

Also, I asked, 'Saan tayo nanggaling?' (Where did we come from?) as I was so disoriented in the pitch black. Then he pointed to the only light I could see, and he said, 'Doon tayo sa ilaw nanggaling. Doon tayo ipinanganak.' (We came from the light. We were born there.) And at that time I thought it was so incredibly full of wisdom. I really like that idea of being born in the light. It gave me goosebumps when he said it.



This was their night's catch. It amounts to less than 700 pesos. The fishermen are among the poorest of the poor. But they're so happy. They must have some secret knowledge.



Pets and I slept on the cliff that night. The sky was just so beautiful and it went really well with the sound of the waves, and it seemed a pity to spend the night indoors. And the morning was equally beautiful.



We took the train going home (we flew in from Manila to get there). We exhausted most forms of transport to make the trip possible, and though it was taxing, I'm really enjoying this way of travel. When I'm far from home and the places start blurring into each other, when I have to adjust to people, cause I'm not really a guest, when sleeping anywhere becomes worth it, when I think outside of myself,  when I stop caring about owning things, and when the children come close to me because of my camera, that's when I feel most alive. I've got time to be alive.

46 comments:

  1. I am so JEALOUS of you. You're pretty. You're smart. You travel and experience the world for a living. You cherish the simplest things. You've done SO MUCH at such a young age. You are now my role model.

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    1. I'm really flattered, you are too kind :) I have much left to learn, and so much growing left to do, though! Wishing you a light-filled weekend, whoever you are :) xx Hannah

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    2. Oh and can I just say that I love your sense of style :) the way a person dresses tells a lot about them and I can tell from the way you dress that you're such a happy and bubbly person! Maybe you can share your style with us one day? ;)

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    3. Hahaha! Funny cause at the moment I'm actually trying to get rid of things and clothes :)

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    4. Which makes you even more inspirational :) You should really think about writing a book on your life experience, or at least a post on how your life and outlook has changed :)

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  2. More than the photos (which by the way is astonishing) is the story behind it. I'm in awe! ^__________________^

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    1. Thank you. I have to agree--their story really fills my heart with hope :)

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  3. great article, great photos! definitely one of my favorites from your blog. man, i wish i could just pick up my bag and camera and do all the travelling that you do. keep up the great work girl!

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  4. Super awesome photos! I also had the same experience in Caramoan where I also met a community whose children also had to swim to the other islands to go to school, and I slept in their tree house and went fishing with them at dawn too!
    God bless you Hannah, continue inspiring people ;)

    xoxo, gixx c

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    1. Hi Gixx, what is the name of this community you went to?

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    2. Tell me about it more, Gixx! You have photos? :)

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  5. I love pretty girls with beautiful hearts. kindred spirits.

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    1. I always hope for a strong and beautiful heart. :) Have a good day, stranger :)

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  6. Hanna, you are a gem
    Your heart sparkled most in the midst of the people's poverty,
    your bravery crossing the ocean and being with the fisher-folks,
    your security and comfort sleeping just beneath the open skies,
    your natural beauty blending with nature ,
    your compassionate hands which changed them,
    your pen that described them well,
    your camera that captured them all
    and this blog that exploded a bomb into our consciousness.
    you are indeed a genuine gem!

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    1. This is very flattering, Doc. Thank you so much. I am truly blessed to have been given the opportunity to experience the story of these people--and of course it would not have been possible without your generosity, and Jay's :)

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  7. We should do something about their smoking. Most of them have lung infection and smoking aggravates it.
    It should be our next advocacy.
    Smoke-Free-Isla Mababoy.

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    1. I hope Dr. Ofelia Sy will visit Mababoy soon.

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    2. Their islands also have another problem--waste disposal. I think that is what 'bothered' me the most. It's so remote kasi, so some of the trash goes to the water :(

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    3. I asked them about it Hannah, apparently it's not theirs. The tides bring it to their islands. That's why everyone should be involved.

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  8. another great story. thanks for sharing

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  9. Wow Hannah. Excellent story telling. There's so much soul as if i was part of your trip. I hope the sunlight and the sea cast all your sorrows away.

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    1. The sea washed away my sorrows while I was there, yes.

      'for whatever we lose (like a you or a me) / it's always ourselves we find in the sea.'

      Thank you stranger--I hope something is washing away your sorrows, too.

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  10. wow. your photographs lily tell stories...

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  11. You did it again! With your camera and with your words, you shared interesting stories of admirable people.

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  12. hi,

    been following your blog for quite sometime now (i thing it started way back the UAAP Cheerdance Compet). I'm also a photographer (at least i consider my self as one) and a traveler. Just like to ask, on tips on protecting your gears during travels, like how do you pack your stuffs? what bags do you recommend that carries both your personal things and photo gears as well.

    Thanks a lot,
    Ruth

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    1. Hahaha I am horrible at protecting my things. I just use whatever bag I'm using, nothing special or padded. When I'm riding a boat I waterproof my stuff with plastic bags lang or I bring garbage bags :) I hang my cam around me lang most of the time cause I don't want to go through the hassle of bringing it out when I see something :)

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  13. Amazing photos and such talent in capturing them and having an eye to post the ones that tell a story on its own. I see a coffee table photo book (or better) in your future ;-) Great job and keep up the remarkable work!

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  14. As always, I love your photos. And yes, they tell 'something' about you :)

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  15. Hi Hanna,

    I've been reading and staring in awe at you blog for a long time now.. (I found it through Edric Chen's blog, got to know him two years ago) and well... I think your such a great, inspiring and free spirited person.. love everything about you.. especially your joy for life and your eagerness for adventure... I also share your same interest.. I passionately love photography ( don't want to spam really just want to show you some of my pics www.perhapstomorrow.tumblr.com) and I dream to travel every road of the world everyday....

    anyways.. keep on with what your doing.. because your doing it amazingly.
    if you happen to be around Coron, Palawan let me know, I'd love to meet you and share some adventure with you!

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    1. Hi Gillian :)

      Were these photos taken with film? They look amazing! :) Very effortless. We share the same dream--I'd like to see the world's roads as well, and I dream of it everyday :)

      Hey guess what--I have a flight booked for Coron somewhere in July :) I have no plans yet, but I booked because it was a piso fare! You can email me if you want, I'll be there for five days. :)

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  16. I am in love with this set! Such a beautiful story, and wonderful photos, as usual! :)

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  17. that black and white smoking lola pic was badass! it's like she's a head of gangster or something and you don't want to mess with her. lol

    i hope you can invite some your readers to one of your travels, i would volunteer for that. kahit assistant lang :-)

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    1. Looks badass--but her eyes are like that because she's actually blind. But still badass, nonetheless, yep. :) Hahaha maybe someday when I'm less shy! :)

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  18. Your photos are so beautiful. I can't pinpoint a favorite post because they're all so... I don't know what they call it but I just feel "lighter" every time I look at your photos. And I love the way you tell the story of each photo. I just get so enthralled by your words.

    How I wish I could just go out, leave everything behind, and see the world the way you do. You are so blessed. And so are all of us for finding your blog.

    And lastly, thank you.

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    1. Hey there stranger :)

      Wow, that's really such a complement--I really do hope that my photos share light in some ways. Why don't you go do it? :) It's worth a shot, and I promise you won't regret it. ;)

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  19. absolutely awesome blog + photography. found you through a mutual friend x


    following xx

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  20. There's something in your photos that always manage to make me cry. It is pure adventure, with a good heart, stripped of all the luxuries of travelling for the benefits of learning. I hope there are more photographers like you--those who not only see and capture, but also live to tell the story.
    I am a fan.

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  21. I enjoyed reading this one!! Two thumbs up :)

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  22. how to be................ like You? lol

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