Wednesday, August 08, 2007


I guess I was in a bad mood yesterday. I just had to tell this guy to f*** off in my own way.
Dear Carlos Celdran,
P*** of the G*** I*** in Manila gave me your e-mail adress cause Iv got some questions about Manila. My name is M***, I m a photojournalist from Germany. At this moment im planing a new photoproject in Manila. Please read the following expose:

Exposé of the future project
Living spaces - The bat people of Manila
They are snidely called bat people. Their houses hang under the bridges from Manila. They are baskets which are hung on the concrete bridge and fixed by old ropes from the harbour. Most of the bat people are migrants from the villages of the Philippines. Like hundreds of thousands of others, they try to find a job without losing their dignity in the slums. They hope the bridge is just a temporay step towards the “real life”. However, the only job they can find is to clean lorries. They get paid 20 Pesos. At the moment, there are 900,000 day labourer in Manila who wrestle through life like this every day.

The bat people are depressing symbols of our times. Never was mankind richer and never was misery and hunger bigger than now. The results are well-known: Every day 100,000 people die because of hunger or its consequences. People migrate into the cities and slums are being established. According to UN calculations 3.35 billion people are going to live in cities in 2008. In 2050 it will be 6 billion people – or two thirds of humanity. Half of this number will live in slums.

With my photography I show, for many years now, people dealing with conflicts and existential problems. Through my work I want to enlighten and build a public awareness for people living in poverty and misery. I want to bring back the people and their living conditions into the public perception. For this I only will document what is actually there. I work with the instruments of the classical photo repotage. No staging of the situation should be performed. Next to the photographs I plan to interview the portrayed people. Later on, the interviews will appear as quotes to the photos or in the text belonging to the work.

I see this work as a building stone of a multipiece series about the human living space in our society. This work is connected with a former series, dealing with people trying to get out of the second-class society their own.

My Questions: Do you know this bridge? Are there still living people at this time? My information are from the last year.

Thank you so much for your help,

My reply:
Thank you for emailing. P***! Yes, wonderful lady. Actually, it won't be too hard to find "bat people" in Manila. Just along Quirino Street in Malate near the highway or under the Jones bridge and Quezon bridges in downtown, you will find several. But please don't take it personally if I refuse to take you there. It's not that I have personal reservations about the safety of the area. It's just that for the past few years, it seems that everytime I get a request from a western photojournalist to do a project on Manila, it's always about the slums and squatters and I am sick of it. It's as if the Philippines has nothing else to offer except poverty and social injustice and it's quite insulting to tell you the truth. For personal reasons, I do not wish to take part in another project that will only perpetuate the image of my country as "poor" and "pathetic". The picture of a child with flies in a Philippine slum is an old one and I yearn for the day when one thinks of the Philippines and that would NOT be the first image that would come to mind. For the past years, all the journalists who wished to show the "human" side of Manila and the heart wrenching poverty only succeeded in confirming our country as a "basket case" and a land of "horrors", leading to the loss of respect for our society (especially for those like me, who seek to improve it). I have always been so confused about why is it that the negative side of Manila is what a lot of photographers and journalists are interested in. My request to these people in the past to show a balanced picture of Manila (a good side, as well as a bad one), has always been met with confused stares. It's as if Philippine middle class values, arts, heritage, and beauty in the "normal" sense isn't beautiful to them or worse, it won't sell. To many, the Philippines has become the cliche/easy picking for the grotesque and I will not enjoin this cause. Once again, my apologies if I offended you or seem a little politicized or upset, but poverty and bat people is NOT ALL that we are about.


Nevertheless, I did send him a link to the remedios foundation, the organization that helps provide family planning services to the bat people who live under the C3 bridge in Tondo.

I mean, really, if this project wasn't just for personal work but for a charity, I would have given him a chance and not ragged on him so much. But if this guy isn't going to invest anything in our society other than the photographs he'll take, he is just carpetbagging for his own professional benefit. And I hate that.