New set of photos for The International Herald Tribune.
New set of photos for The International Herald Tribune.
Our book, about Philippine trade gates and their keepers and the problem of corruption and rampant smuggling, is finally out! It will be available in major bookstores starting next week.
Inside the Lion’s Den is a photographic reportage by Jes Aznar, accompanied by essays written by Iris Gonzales, on fragments of daily life inside the country’s trade gates, port areas and the men and women who work here.
It is a documentary journey of a photographer and a writer inside a bureaucracy often unknown to and deplored by the outside world – the Bureau of Customs, its collection districts around the country, far-flung sub-ports and the men and women who comprise it.
It is a story of many stories of survival, self-preservation, and dreams coming true.
The collection of images captured the different aspects of life in both the Bureau of Customs and in the many ports around the country.
The essays provide information on the history of the bureau and the collection districts that are defined by their geographical positions and the economies in their respective areas. The articles also tackle the problem of rampant smuggling and the culture of corruption inside.
It is a journalistic endeavor driven by a desire to chronicle something important in a society struggling to exist meaningfully and define itself, and the need to share it.
The book is edited by Sonny Yabao with text editing by Michael Marasigan. It is published by Europa.
With unprecedented access granted by its very own Commissioner and if only from a pure photo-documentary standpoint, the images break positive new ground in the direction of public interest and what can hopefully be more honestly transparent and real views of a public agency’s actual role in the country’s life and function. – Ben Razon, from the Foreword to the Photographs.
Every once in a while, and whenever the occasion calls for it, the debate on whether to let the remains of former president Ferdinand Marcos should be given a hero’s burial or not arises. The Marcos family has long been asking for this. They say that he should, as he once was a soldier that served during world war II, and that he served his country well for more than 20 years before his ouster by a popular uprising in 1986.
This assignment for the New York Times took us far up north to his hometown in Ilocos Norte. I was there when I did another assignment for the Times last year and like before, the name of Marcos brings back memories of my childhood years when everything seems to be in order at the surface and then the sudden escalation of chaos the next. Like a volcano erupting after years of silence.
During my grade school years, beauty and order was an absolute rule. Every part of the public school that I went to was virtually spotless while the faint sound of the Maharlika was playing over and over in the background. Public walls were painted spotless white and in the middle of the road you will find an officer with his proud sash and shiny boots minding the flow of traffic like clockwork. In class, we were told how bright our future was, and that it would stay that way only if we will be obedient to the great ruler. In virtue of the true, the good and the beautiful, there was somehow a sense that everything was in order while growing up during the Marcos years. A far cry to what we have seen when we arrived in his mausoleum in his home town 21 years later, as described by a colleague Carlos Conde. Everything was ill-maintained and dilapidated and the photographs that hang on the walls and the memorabilia are in a state of disrepair. The ceiling leaked. The floor looked like it had not been cleaned for weeks, with candy wrappers strewn about.
Later on, during my early years as well, I have started to see and appreciate things not just from its surface. There was this scene in our town that had been inscribed in my mind forever. Soldiers and tanks passing by the road on front of our house while my young brother, who at that age didn’t have any idea of what was going on, held a poster with a big black “Boycott” sign. My first reaction was, why would anyone want to boycott a democratic process like the election? I did not notice it at first but after seeing this scene, I realized that I was beginning to question things. Its like everything that they taught us in school didn’t fit in the present situation at that time. One of those early question is that why were there sick and impoverished people living behind those spotless white painted walls found everywhere our country.
Inside the mausoleum, there lies the late dictator. A woman visitor in her 40s describes the former president as still young looking, just like how he was when he was still in power. At peace inside his vacuum sealed and refrigerated coffin. In between sprays of air freshener by the guard on duty, a set of new visitors comes in as another come out the exit door, mostly families on a holiday trip.
I accompanied veteran journalist Seth Mydans on this assignment for the Times and he did a great piece on whether he should be buried as a hero or stay displayed inside a glass for people to see and remember a symbol of a country’s bitter past.
Click the link below or here for the story.
After 25 years of waiting and litigation, compensation was served. But most victims under the martial rule of Ferdinand Marcos demands justice, not just the $1,000 check, after suffering grave human rights violations for years.
For most of the residents of San Juan in Metro Manila, it was just another ordinary day of the first month of 2011. But for some 2,000 families inside the Pinaglabanan shrine compound in this city, it was a day of reckoning. Their houses will be finally demolished, after months of being up on their toes trying to protect their premises from the local government who is building a new “White House” inspired city hall. The new building is reportedly worth more than P500 million, while it was also reported that the residents was only paid a hundred dollars to vacate their premises. Two former presidents signed and awarded the land to these families but their claim fell on deaf ears as the new local mayor do not recognize anything except his will to “serve the residents” of the said city.
Some time around May last year (2010), a friend emailed me and was asking for a series of images to be featured in a new Asian magazine. It was at that time as well that I just finished a series on Imelda Marcos for the New York Times, which the magazine decided to publish on their maiden issue. Finally, after months of editing and production, here it is, the first issue of Punctum Magazine.