National Geographic : 2017 Oct
132 national geographic • october 2017 able to organize effectively, raise their voices, and demand better living conditions. What matters here, she adds, as anywhere else, is “location, location, location ... The city is where jobs are ... Those who have been moved by the government to distant relocation sites have found that they cannot survive there.” Many of the available jobs today are in the in- formal sector, which includes Manila’s thriving drug cartels. For other employment opportuni- ties, completing high school or college is crucial. Regardless of education level, the residents of Barangay 128 have no shortage of two precious commodities: hope and resilience. The most important thing that flows from these pictures, suggests Janiszewski, is that “de- spite the odds, people here can enjoy life, and they often have a smile on their faces. I’ve always admired that.” j Children laugh and play games. Men take sies- tas. Roosters strut down the hallway. In one of the world’s most densely populated cities, life’s rich pageant plays out on every floor. That’s what Polish photographer Mariusz Janiszewski found last year when he visited a government housing project in Barangay 128, a section of Manila’s Tondo district. Built in the 1990s near Smokey Mountain—an internation- ally infamous dump that once housed more than two million tons of trash—it’s still home to many of the site’s former workers. Janiszewski says he’d shot in the Philippines before but always in a “typical documentary” style. This time he had something else in mind. “I wanted to show how daily life looks in an overpopulated place like Manila,” he says, “and how it’s lived in semi-open spaces and stairwells.” To do that, he “chose not to take pictures from a variety of perspectives” but to “stay in one place and wait for the surprising and unpredictable.” Each floor “looked like an identically designed stage,” he says, but soon revealed a distinct mi- lieu: women cooking, men gambling, children playing cards. Janiszewski returned each week- end to document these living tableaux, capturing scenes of family, friends, and neighbors bonding. Mary Racelis, a social anthropologist at Ateneo de Manila University, says that sense of commu- nity is key in a place like Tondo. Many residents are informal settlers, once called squatters. Long considered second-class citizens, they’ve often been denied jobs, housing, and basic services. “Over the years these people have formed networks that have enabled them to survive and find new opportunities,” she says. With the help of NGOs and leftist political groups, they’ve been By Jeremy Berlin Photographs by Mariusz Janiszewski 0mi 400 0km 400 NGM MAPS PHILIPPINES CHINA TAIWAN VIETNAM BRUNEI MALAYSIA INDONESIA Manila PACIFIC OCEAN South China Sea ASIA | PROOF | A PHOTOGRAPHER’S JOURNAL The paint is peeling. The floors are grimy. The basketball nets are frayed. And no one seems to mind. Boys smoke cigarettes and relax on a bicycle that’s been converted into a rickshaw. Bernardita Churchill, a Filipino historian, says it’s rare to see children this young smoking in the Philippines.