By day, Billy walks the streets, scouring through garbage for umbrellas and what-nots he can repair and hopefully resell. By nightfall, he is still walking, looking for a place that he can call home which, in his case, means the nearest bus station.

Billy is one of the estimated 1.5 million homeless Filipinos.* This figure doesn’t include those who live in squatter communities.

Taking Billy’s photo was probably one of the most difficult shoots I’ve ever done. For starters, I’m not one to do street photography –taking photos of strangers without their knowledge isn’t really my cup of tea. I thought that since our task would entail actually talking to our subjects, it would make things easier. But I was wrong. I felt like such a user, and for days, all I could think of was my conversation with him. I felt guilty for a lot of things — for taking his photo for an exhibit (the word “exploitation” rang so loud), for the way I live my life, for not really paying attention to people like him.

I offered him money after our shoot, but I think I insulted him with my gesture. And that made me feel a lot worse.

Today, I only hope that our exhibit would really make a difference in other people’s lives, and enlighten people on the plight of “invisibles” like Billy. In a way, I’m glad I met him… although if I’m really being honest, I don’t think I’ll do a shoot like this anytime soon.

*The National Statistics Office defines homeless as those “living in parks, along sidewalks, and all those without any form of shelter.”

~ by Sheila on October 21, 2009.

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