Candid street photography in the Philippines is not so easy...one, because I'm a foreigner, and I stick out like a sore thumb. Two, because so many Filipinos love to be photographed. As soon as they see the camera, their faces light up and they get posed and ready!
Well that's a good thing, 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 crowds in the market were thick, even during the week. This place is famous for the best deals–on almost everything. I have been warned many times about pickpockets in Divisoria, so I was very careful and alert. 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 home.
The shot below is a good example of what I'm talking about...this street food vendor didn't notice me until after the photo was taken. 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".
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. The original church was built of bamboo and nipa, way back in 1586!
Again, I enjoyed how the afternoon light perfectly illuminated the church, while leaving the crowds blanketed in shadows.
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.
This is a "Jeepney", an old military vehicle repurposed for transporting the public. I spotted this one on the walk across Jones Bridge, which was bombed by the Japanese during WWII. One of the busiest bridges in the country, it was repaired in 1945 with the help of the U.S.
This old Spanish fort across the Jones Bridge is a photographer's dream come true. 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.
I believe this is called an ancestral house. I love the cobblestone used to paved the streets here. 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. I think this is my favorite street shot I've taken so far.
I ended up touring Fort Santiago while here (again, no pictures), and by the time the light had all but faded completely, I was starving. I found an eatery and had a great time sharing a table with some locals. Afterward, I stumbled upon a barangay (neighborhood) fiesta, and was invited to join a few 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 street! 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 be back...and I promise you, someday I will.
All shots taken with my Sony Rx100III pocket camera. That link above is for Amazon, but in the Philippines you can find it HERE. FYI, these are my trusted partners, so if you purchase any cameras through these links, you're sure to get the best price and help me continue providing these stories for you.
Hope you enjoyed.
- Nathan Allen
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