Life beyond the graves in Manila


(Entrance to Makati Catholic Cemetery – OMD, 25mm)

Along the backstreets of Makati in the heart of Manila lies an old Catholic Cemetery, seemingly abandoned, but on looking inside it has a lot of residents, who are quite alive…..living in the tombs that remain within.  It always amazes me the places that people can turn into quite homely communities….this was yet another one of them, full of smiling faces and vibrant colours.

(Graveyard kids – OMD, 25mm)

During my short trip to Manila I hooked up withKurt Kamka who I have met through our Hong Kong Street Photography group on Facebook (feel free to visit our group and join in if you like shooting street, linked here).  This was the first time we had met in person, so we grabbed lunch together and had a chat about cameras and life and it was good to see that we were both shooting with the Olympus OMD today.  Another interesting observation from shooting together was that I was preferring to shoot in colour and Kurt shoots mostly in black and white.  I also usually shoot this kind of scene in black and white, however, I am finding all the colours of the phillipines impossible to resist, so am still personally hooked on colour for almost all my shooting in Manila at present and also I am loving the VSCO colour film presets that I’m using in Lightroom 4 that allow me ’1 click’ presets to get me to retro film looks from my OMD RAW files with ease.

Some links to Kurt’s work can be found below at his blog and Tumblr sites:

1.  Kurt Kamka Blog

2.  Kurt Kamka Tumbr site

Kurt suggested we visit the old catholic cemetery as it was very close by.  Of course I thought this was a great idea and opportunity to visit a location that I’m quite sure I would never have found on my own – you can’t beat local knowledge when travelling somewhere unfamiliar.

(Kurt Kamka (left) and myself outside the cemetery (Kurts websites are linked above this image)

Inside the cemetery, we were greeted by lots of different people, each and every one of them very happy, and quite surprised to see us.  I’m guessing they probably don’t get many visitors there, and especially not westerners, but like most of the other places I’ve visited in Manila, we were welcomed by friendly faces and open arms, some of the elderely ladies took a liking to us and insisted on having their photographs taken with us, which was fun and very humbling to be hugged by these people, they really are very genuine people and truly great characters.

(Kurt sharing the love with a friendly lady in the cemetery – OMD, 25mm)

(Great character, full of smiles! – OMD, 25mm)

(Smoke break at the crematorium – OMD, 25mm)

The children we met followed us round for an hour or so and they were more than happy to hang out with us, take some pics and practice their English language skills, I think almost everybody I have met in the phillipines speaks pretty much perfect English, from the youngest child to the eldest of folk, so it makes communication very easy.

(Children living in the graveyard – OMD 12/25mm)

Lots of people were resting in the midday sun whilst we were at the cemetery, so we were careful not to wake them whilst we were wandering around shooting our images, they seemed to be quite content in their hammocks which were usually strung up  between two large gravestones.

(Rest in Peace – OMD, 12mm)

The children here have turned certain areas of the graveyard into their playground, a few of the young boys were keen to demonstrate their acrobatic skills springing from tomb to gravestone like some military obstacle course…..I took a few images of this, but was trying to discourage one young boy as he kept looking to me for approval every time he jumped, and I couldn’t help thinking that if he missed his landing spot, he was going to be seriously injured!

(The jumper – OMD, 12mm)

(Graveyard girl – OMD, 45mm)

Some areas of the cemetery had dogs roaming around, some of the residents warned us that the dogs could be aggressive, so we kept a few yards from them in most cases, I think they were most likely just hungry dogs so that would make them grumpy and aggitated for sure.  I noticed some tombs had dogs tied to the stones, I’m not sure if they were supposed to be guarding that particular tomb, as one man told us the stories of the grave robbers who regularly come at night, digging out graves and taking anything and everything that could be used to make money (gold teeth…metals…etc).

(Graveyard dogs – OMD, 25mm)

It certainly was a unique place to visit, with a vibrant and interesting mix of people living within the cemetery.  Again I must say, its always such a humbling experience in these kind of places, always greeted with big smiles, hugs, asking nothing in return.

(Old and young residents of Makati Catholic Cemetery – OMD, 25mm)

I will be shooting again with Kurt Kamka during this short trip to Manila, and will be posting more images from our adventures around the city in the coming day or two, so please check back to see more from this amazing city.  In the meantime, here are the links to Kurts sites again, please take a look as he has been living in Manila almost a year now and has an extensive portfolio of images from the city.

1.  Kurt Kamka Blog

2.  Kurt Kamka Tumbr site

All images here are shot on the Olympus OMD with various prime lenses and all processed with 1-click presets from VSCO film presets, still by far my favourite film simulation filters that work directly as a preset within Lightroom 4.

For other posts I have written recently with images of the new Olympus OMD in Manila and other parts of Asia please see the links below:

LINK TO BLOG POST: OMD goes to Manila (first trip in July 2012)

LINK TO BLOG POST: OMD shooting in Ulingan, Tondo, Manila

LINK TO BLOG POST: OMD goes to Cosplay event in Hong Kong

LINK TO BLOG POST: OMD goes to Cambodia

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Written by Gary Tyson


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