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At a glance: Philippines

One year on, children affected by Typhoon Haiyan share images of hope

By Gay Samson

As the Phililppines continues to recover from a devastating typhoon that affected more than 14 million people, a photography workshop aims to let children explore their world through the camera lens and to express themselves through photography. 

© UNICEF/NYHQ2014-1958/Arce
Voted Best Photograph, this photo by Jopet Arce was taken in one of the graves in Barangay San Joaquin, Palo, Leyte. “I think the shoes are owned by a child who died during the typhoon,” he says.

Tacloban, Philippines, 6 November 2014 — “Who knew photography could open my eyes to a lot of things, and make me look at life differently?” says Jopet Arce, a fourth-year high school student from Leyte Colleges in Tacloban.

Jopet, 16, is posing for pictures wearing a sash that reads ‘Best Photographer’. After attending a photography workshop in Tacloban City for children affected by Typhoon Haiyan, Jopet was chosen by his peers as the top photographer.

“I was surprised to be chosen,” he says with a smile. “I never really thought I had any talent in photography before this workshop.” 

© UNICEF/NYHQ2014-1963/Agresan
“The sky is light. It has very nice colours and the clouds are beautiful,” says Cedrick Agresan, 11, of this Tacloban City vista.

He says the workshop taught him what goes into making a good photograph, but he learned another lesson, as well, when he realized how many children were suffering just like him and his family.

Jopet is one of 5.9 million children who were affected when the Philippines was hit by the biggest typhoon in history on 8 November 2013. Typhoon Haiyan devastated nine regions in the Central Philippines, claiming thousands of lives and causing extensive destruction and loss of livelihood.

Healing through photography

Twenty children between age 11 and 17 participated in the workshop, all of them chosen from temporary shelters. A year after the typhoon, children are still in the process of recovery, and during the workshop were brimming with excitement and creativity.

© UNICEF/NYHQ2014-1970/Gualberto
“Cable TV is a luxury, not a necessity here. So when people start to have luxury, I think things are starting to improve,” says Kiana Gualberto, 14, of her photograph in Tacloban City.

Workshop instructor Giacomo Pirozzi takes an approach to teaching that encourages children to express their emotions through the lens, paving the way to healing, self-discovery and social participation.

“It’s our tribute to these children.” Mr. Pirozzi says. “They are the ones who are most vulnerable in these situations. We want to have the children come and say what they think and feel.”

See through my eyes

After learning the basics of photography and the use of photography as a tool for storytelling, the workshop participants produced images that speak of their hopes for a better future for the children and families of Tacloban.

© UNICEF/NYHQ2014-1975/Boco
Aljun Boco, 16, photographed efforts to move a ship swept inland, in Tacloban City. “This could help the people to move around, continue with their livelihood and move on with their lives,” he says.

On day three of the workshop, they went on a photo mission to affected areas, temporary settlements and burial sites of those who were lost to the typhoon. The themes that the children chose to photograph demonstrated their strength and their desire to play a part in their communities’ recovery. At the top of their list were poverty, hardship, loss and grief, as well as gratitude, resilience, and survival.

“The images the children have produced are extremely impressive,” says Maulid Warfa, Chief of UNICEF’s Tacloban Field Office, after seeing the images during the graduation ceremony. “I would never have guessed they were taken by children.”

© UNICEF Philippines/2014/Reyna
Children are delighted to see their picture taken by Jopet, the aspiring photographer.

A new passion

As for the winner of the Best Photographer, Jopet has found a new passion aside from dancing, singing and playing guitar.

“Photography is not only about having fun and taking selfies!” he says. “I realized that pictures should tell a story. Maybe this is where my future is.”

The Eye See Project is a partnership between UNICEF and Sony to help children develop the ability to express their feelings through the lens, and broadcast their discovery to the world. Learn more.



UNICEF Photography: Typhoon Haiyan: One year later

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