It is quiet in the confession booth, except perhaps for the whispers of sinners seeking salvation from strangers in white robes. Men and women, thieves, vagabonds, adulterers, lonely mistresses — sinners they all are — will kneel and confess their acts before they do it all again, in another time, another day.
There is a soldier, slumped on his back, perhaps dead or dying, perhaps wounded or too weak to stand. His gun-wielding comrades are by his side. They are in the middle of a battle, or the war has just begun. All are fighting for their lives.
In a place named Tacloban, after the world came to an end when
Super Typhoon Haiyan struck, a man stands in the middle of the chaos. He has almost nothing, no shirt, no bags, no home; just a black rosary he wears around his neck.
This is faith, held deeply by nearly every man, woman and child in this predominantly Catholic country of 100 million people. There is sometimes no rationality or reason but faith, nevertheless, serves its epistemic function here in this country where more than 25 million Filipinos are mired in deep poverty. It is an end to contradictions or at the center of ironies.
Faith is expressed in many ways and the differences are stark and telling. The ways are varied, as they are endless.
And the different ways by which Filipinos hold on to their faith are vividly captured in a collection of images by five Filipino photojournalists: Jose Enrique Soriano, Veejay Villafranca, Jake Verzosa, Carlo Gabuco, and Jes Aznar.
The result is Pananampalataya --the Filipino word for faith -- an exhibition, which is part of the inaugural PhotoBangkok Festival, an ongoing international photography festival in Bangkok, Thailand.
Pananampalataya is presented by AsianEye Gallery, an online gallery that aims to raise the profile of veteran and emerging Asian photographers and to encourage collectors from all over the world to discover and appreciate their vision and works.
“Any simple attempt at describing the belief systems native to a Filipino is likely to be inadequate. The Filipino photographer is unique when juxtaposed with the rest of his Asian and Western counterparts. The artist comes from an archipelago composed of 7,107 islands in Southeast Asia, and is greatly influenced by the country’s history of popular struggles. One unparalleled historical factor which explains the distinctiveness of the Philippines in Asia, is its prolonged history under direct colonial domination. Colonialism in the Philippines began in the sixteenth century, as in Latin America – 300 years earlier than most Asian countries. The worldview of Filipinos reflects a strong Hispanic and Christianized influence, with the Catholic Church contributing to this. The Filipino is the fruit of this integration. And what is integral in this integration is the faith (pananampalataya) of its people - a faith in a force (tadhana) that determines the destiny of its people,” according to the exhibition notes.
Pia Artadi, the Filipina behind AsianEye, says she wanted to show the world the unique talent of Filipino photographers.
“I wanted to portray how strong the work of Filipino photographers are and unique all over the world,” Artadi says.
On the subject of faith, Artadi says its universality remains profound and that she wanted to share Filipinos’ practice of faith to a wider audience that in the process, they may find a common ground.
She says the gallery is proud to be part of the inaugural Photo Bangkok Festival.
Piyatat Hemmatat, director of PhotoBangkok 2015 said the festival, which would go on for two months, aims to elevate the development of the creative community through the next generations.
“As we believe that our country is full of passionate creative artists with promising photographic capability and potential, it is inevitably now that all concerned parties come together to work hand in hand in creating an integrated platform that leads the works of Thailand’s photographers to an international stage,” he said.