Creative Explorations

Our theme for this Life Stories was creativity. Prior to the trip, a few people asked me if it was okay to join even if they don’t identify as a “creative”. I told them yes, and that I hoped their perspective would change as a result.

I feel that particular belief of not being creative or artistic enough often stems from a childhood experience. Somebody in school or at home decided this kid was not the creative or the talented one - and if we were put in that box, we stopped trying. Our fear inhibits creativity. Fear of being laughed at. Fear of not making it work. But if we truly want to live a creative life, we must commit to the act of play. 

Showing our work

We define creativity as the process of creating something new that has some kind of value. Aside from discussing how to bring our ideas into life, we tackled ways to get enough people to care about it, such that our ideas spread.

We were joined by Eka Gomez and Ivan Torres of Thrive Creative House. They shared their experiences working with different clients, and the challenges they face when it comes to telling stories that are honest and authentic. One of the discussions revolved around vulnerability. When it comes to showing our work, are we in a position vulnerable enough that other people can get a word in? Do we give them the opportunity to feel our work and express their opinion?

If we are not vulnerable, then we are not in a position to change people with our art.

Building empathy

In the weeks prior to our trip, heavy rains flooded the area around the Yangil community. They destroyed crops and left the tribe with limited resources. Thankfully, MAD Travel was able to raise funds to help them fulfill basic needs, repair some of the damages, and acquire seeds to allow the farmers to once again grow their crops.

But progress takes time. When we arrived in Yangil, we could see the remnants of the storm. The nursery was far from what it used to be. Still, you could see the smiles of the people waiting for us. We had the opportunity to contribute to their livelihood by planting our own seedlings. In the span of an hour, our group managed to plant 678 Akleng Gubat seeds! After our shared work, we had the chance to learn more about the stories of some of the members of the tribe.

If you want others to share their story, you have to be brave enough to share yours.

Most of the pairs drifted to different areas. I don’t know exactly what they talked about. Some conversations seemed light. Others were going deeper. One group even went on a hike.

I was with Rihanna and Princess, two girls from the tribe that I had met before. I asked them if they wanted to learn how to take a picture. With a bit of help from me and Eka, the two girls went off capturing different moments. In between shots, I learned that they received scholarships to study in a school away from their home. They are grateful for the opportunity but now try to maximize time with family.

Ian and Jeff of Sony Philippines also taught us more about photography and the different kinds of equipment they brought along. Bringing a camera can be a challenge when it comes to establishing a connection, but it can be a useful tool as long as you know how to use it and when to bring it out.

Sometimes the act of making a connection starts before you take the picture.

A Storyteller’s Journey

It was also a privilege for us to hear Hannah Reyes Morales’ story. I’ve followed her work through the years, but it was the first time for me to encounter Hannah in person.

There is value in bringing a perspective of your own.

For Hannah, photography goes beyond aesthetic, it is more than just the use of light, color, and shape. As we learn the different ways on how to create a photograph, its intended purpose evolves. She believes photography is a powerful medium. It is the beginning of a conversation. When our words fail, we can look at an image taken halfway across the world and still feel something.

Photography has allowed her to truly see, to enter spaces that she normally wouldn’t be able to go to. She uses her camera as a tool to capture the stories of others. She wants to highlight the stories people tell themselves in the midst of adversity. Through her lens, we were able to see the sex workers in Angeles not as gold diggers, but as breadwinners. We witnessed the effects of the War on Drugs happening in our country, not just in numbers, but through the grief of their mothers, children, and brothers. 

When it was time for the participants to ask questions, most of it revolved around the theme of how we can tell better stories. One of the pieces of advice that stuck with me was this:

Learn from what you see. Honor what is in front of you by evolving with it.

In every Life Story, I get to learn a bit more about myself and the world. I hope to honor all the people who worked hard to make this possible by asking better questions, practicing creativity, and letting others in.

This event was made possible by our partnership with MAD Travel and Sony Philippines, in cooperation with our venue partner, Casa San Miguel and our tour partner, the Circle Hostel

Photos by Ivan Torres
Group photos by Risa Barcelona & Ian Pangilinan

1 comment

  • Innovative approach to community development

    Becky Gaddi

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