By Nathan Allen
My Manila street photography sessions were difficult for two reasons. 1. I'm a foreigner, and I stick out like a sore thumb. 2. The majority of Filipinos seem to love the camera! It makes them light up and start posing right away...kind of ruins the whole candid aspect of it. Ha.
Well that can be good, too...and of course I have plenty of those shots. However, I want this post to be different. My goal was to create a snapshot "time capsule"...a window into the daily life of historic Manila, in 2017.
To accomplish this, I decided to take my tiny Sony RX100III on a photo walk. I went during the week, to experience less tourists and more locals. After lunch, I boarded a packed MRT train in Mandaluyong, and started the long journey to Divisoria.
The Bustling Outdoor Market of Divisoria.
The crowds in the market were thick, even during the week. This place is famous for the best deals – on almost everything. There are pickpockets in Divisoria, so I was careful to avoid them. Knock on wood, I've never had a bad experience in 4 years exploring the Philippines.
I also popped into a few camera stores while here. Hidalgo Street is also famous for great deals on camera equipment. In fact, this is where my little RX100 came from! I think my baby was happy to be back for some Manila street photography.
The shot below is a good example of what I'm talking about. This street food vendor didn't notice me until after I took the photo. Then he let out a big smile and posed for a picture. Super nice guy.
I studied the afternoon light, and tried to use the sun / shade drama to my advantage.
I am a landscape photographer at heart, so I actually prefer the wider lens of the Sony RX100III. It's 24mm, and I guess this makes me somewhat of a unique street shooter. Even 28mm is too wide for most "street 'togs".
Quiapo Church - Now Almost 600 Years Old.
This iconic church is one of Manila's oldest landmarks. As you can see, there are many vendors selling candles to the devotees who attend services there. Originally made of bamboo and nipa, the church dates all the way back to 1586!
Again, I enjoyed how the afternoon light perfectly illuminated the church, while leaving the crowds blanketed in shadows.
Escolta Street, One of Manila's Oldest.
After Quiapo, I started making my way to Escolta Street, another historic part of the city. There were no sidewalks in this section, so I actually had to walk with the street traffic to pass by. Of course, anybody who knows Manila is used to doing this now and then.
I love to walk. I have explored countless regions of Manila on foot, and at all hours of the day and night. People are quite surprised to see me in areas that are believed to be unsafe, but as mentioned before, I have never had a problem. A friendly smile and bit of Tagalog (the local language) goes a long way.
If you're more interested in photography than travel, you might want to follow me here (or both):
This is a "Jeepney", an old military vehicle repurposed for transporting the public. I spotted this one while crossing the Jones Bridge. The Japanese bombed this structure back in WWII. One of the busiest bridges in the country, it was repaired in 1945 with the help of the U.S.
Manila Street Photography - Historic Intramuros
The old Spanish fort of Intramuros is just across the Jones Bridge. By now it was very late in the afternoon, and the sun was just about to dip below the fort walls. Below, I was lucky to capture 2 horse drawn carriages, called "kalesas", beautifully lit by the sun.
Pictured here is an ancestral house. I love the cobblestone used to paved these streets. It's one of my favorite part of Intramuros, and even though I don't have any pictures from this trip, check out beautiful San Agustin church nearby! It's by far my favorite in all the Philippines.
This is a less touristy street on the outskirts of Intramuros, and I was lucky to catch this moment. The late afternoon sun created a lot of dramatic shadows on the streets. This my favorite picture from this Manila street photography series.
I also toured Fort Santiago while here (again, no pictures), and by the time the light had all but faded completely, I was starving. There was an eatery nearby, and had a great time sharing a table with some locals.
Fiesta at Sundown
Afterward, I was lucky to stumble upon a fiesta there in Intramuros! People were kind to invite me to join their groups celebrating the event.
We had a lot of fun (perhaps a bit too much)...late into the night, I even got on the microphone and sang Frank Sinatra's "My Way" right there on the crowded streets! I don't know if I did OK, or if the locals were just 3 sheets to the wind, but they clapped and cheered as I reached the chorus and belted out the ending.
I'll never forget those guys, Diego, Juneer, Wendel, Jun, Ian...I don't know if they'll ever see this, but thanks for taking good care of me. I told you I'll return to Intramuros...and I promise you, someday I will.
For those who are curious, all shots were taken with my Sony RX100III pocket camera. That link above is for Amazon, but in the Philippines or Singapore you can find it
HERE. Sony is not a partner of mine. However, if you use the links above, it will help me continue providing stories like this.
In closing, I hope you enjoyed my Manila street photography series. You can also check out my Singapore street photography - it's a change of pace.
- Nathan Allen
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