Typhoon Frank / by John Javellana

Alcohol can have such a galvanizing effect on one’s musing. Here I am sloshed on this potent truth serum. It’s been a couple of weeks since I covered typhoon Frank’s bedlam in Manila and I just got this really interesting inquiry from a person through Flickr. She asked me in verbatim “Are they ok with you taking their picture when they’re in pain like that? They don’t get mad at you? I was just curious how you were able to get such an intimate shot.” It was the first time I really got asked like that and it made me realize a lot of thing with regards to what I do.

I believe that us as humans are curiously inquisitive by nature. We always thirst for information and cognition of this world that we live in. And photojournalists have a daunting task to quench that thirst for multifarious individuals around this world. I became one because I wanted to satisfy my yearning to see and experience this life that i live in firsthand. I never imagined that I would be the eyes for a profusion of populace.

This is the reason why my calling as a photojournalist has always been devoted to the accounts of the subjects I get to catch sight of and not at all for personal glorification. Nevermind the by-lines, credits or whatever, what’s important is that people get to see a glimpse of what’s happening to the world they live in. At least I know within me that is how I do it day to day. I believe that these situations and events need to be seen by people and there has to be individuals who are willing to go out and get those images and stories. Whether it’s through Facebook, Flickr or the front page of the Herald Tribune; it does not really matter. These realities are worth sharing.

This was my first time to really cover a disaster. I know for my more experienced colleagues at work, this was just another one. But for me, it was such a learning experience where I got exposed to different actualities of life and the emotions that can be generated by such an event. Shooting the floods and how people coped with it was the start. The heavy part came when Sulpicio’s MV Princess of the Stars, a passenger ship, capsized off the coast of Cebu during the storm’s wrath. It was haunting really, as I took this photo of Alaysa Caranoo holding a photo of her brother who was on board the ship. She didn’t have any idea what happened and all she knew was that she and her family was just waiting for the ship to arrive.

We were assigned to cover as relatives of the passengers on board the ship who flocked
Sulpico’s terminal to wait for further information regarding their loved ones. There was so much anguish and distress. The place was filled with melancholic dejection. The first few days had hope filling the atmosphere but as days passed, hope turned into despair as time leisurely ticked by painfully for those hopes to fade away.

It was hard. Hard to stick up a camera to somebody grieving a relative’s loss. Hard looking at the wall set up with all the photographs of the passengers missing. All with smiles and candidness on their faces.. Taken at precious moments when they never thought that something this tragic would ever transpire. But us photojournalist have the responsibility to show this to the world. Their grief, their torments.. Their moments of hope. This experience made me realize that that path I chose is not just all about taking photographs. We have the ability to show a lot of people what our own eyes saw and reflect the feelings we had and experienced through the photographs that we took.

My heart, my sympathy and respect go out to all those who went through the inconceivable pain of loss of this tragedy.