Resilience -The Isla Pulo Community, Navotas, Metro Manila, Philippines

Even the name seems more than a touch surreal: Literally, Island Island. The sights, perhaps more so:  abject poverty, mounds of carbonized wood, soot-blackened faces, smiles peering from beneath.

One thousand inhabitants located on an isle on the shores of Manila Bay, Philippines.
The air that pervades is thick with sea spray, refuse, particles of coal dust. Yet it is thicker, still with the people’s indefatigable spirit.

Charred hands; in dire contrast with eyes, bright with hope.  Still.
No excuses; no complaints; no self-pity here. Just work. Hard work.
Perhaps it IS because they are: Island Island.

Isolated, Insulated.

Protected from the madness-tainted city.

No roads lead to Isla Pulo. It is a veritable water world, accessible only by banca or on foot at low tide, via a long and precarious bamboo bridge.

The people live off the sea and the land; the main sources of income: Fishing and the production of charcoal, sold to neighboring communities.

An incredible sense of community runs through the island. One family, working towards aspirations seemingly a tad beyond their reach; yet ones they have somehow managed to grasp.

By working together as one, the people of Isla Pulo have built three classrooms, in which their children are educated.  In preparation for a future beyond fishing and coal. Remarkably, their children – born of coal and raised on perseverance – have gone on to high school, even college, in Metro Manila.  Many of them return to the island to pay it forward; teaching those who follow after them.

Community efforts have also resulted in the acquisition of a small generator, which – for a few hours each night – provides light, powers several communal televisions, and allows for the charging of cellular phones.
Otherwise: There is no electricity, no gas, running water, or sewage system on the island.

The people of Isla Pulo have with great gratitude allowed photographer Justin James Wright into their community: Through his photographs, he has given them a voice to speak into a world that might otherwise pay no heed. His unobtrusive lens chronicles daily life on the island, allowing us a glimpse into the soul of people, undefined by circumstance.

These pictures are not to put the people of Isla Pulo on display, or to patronize them.
Neither are they meant to evoke pity.

These pictures are:
  RESILIENCE

Text by Angie Duarte (with many thanks :)

On Foot One of two ways to the island, via a long precarious bamboo bridge accessible when tides are low. Not for the faint heart. Resilience - The Isla Pulo Community, Philippines

On Foot

One of two ways to the island, via a long precarious bamboo bridge accessible when tides are low. Not for the faint heart.

Resilience - The Isla Pulo Community, Philippines

 
Romelyn   Windows to her soul, her eyes speak volumes and tell tales of lives lived beyond her nine years.

Romelyn  

Windows to her soul, her eyes speak volumes and tell tales of lives lived beyond her nine years.

 

Mary Joy

Innocence, captured in doe eyes and in the delicate upturn of an almost smile; she finds protection in community.

 
Sisters Reinalisa, eight, and Angel, three, capture the enduring bond of sisterhood.

Sisters

Reinalisa, eight, and Angel, three, capture the enduring bond of sisterhood.

 
Rhea May Left to her own devices, Rhea May swings to her 4-year-old heart’s content.

Rhea May

Left to her own devices, Rhea May swings to her 4-year-old heart’s content.

 
Tinder box What lies within is of endless intrigue to curious siblings Renlyn, eight, and Sael, five.

Tinder box

What lies within is of endless intrigue to curious siblings Renlyn, eight, and Sael, five.

 
Ronalyn At one year-old, the hammock is Ronalyn’s oyster

Ronalyn

At one year-old, the hammock is Ronalyn’s oyster

 
Isla Pulo The surreal, inhabited by the strong; an enclave of resilience.

Isla Pulo

The surreal, inhabited by the strong; an enclave of resilience.

 
Daily grind The coal pile, his life; the shovel, his extension.  He unites with the task at hand.

Daily grind

The coal pile, his life; the shovel, his extension.  He unites with the task at hand.

 
Shallow Waters Homeward bound with his catch from netting in the shallows; deep in thought, it would seem, the fisherman returns with his family’s provision.

Shallow Waters

Homeward bound with his catch from netting in the shallows; deep in thought, it would seem, the fisherman returns with his family’s provision.

 
 The boat builder Mang Alog enacts the art of crafting a banca to a captive audience of one; tobacco-chewing Mang Aleo.

 The boat builder

Mang Alog enacts the art of crafting a banca to a captive audience of one; tobacco-chewing Mang Aleo.

 
Lambat As community is woven together by hands and hearts, so are the nets of Isla Pulo.  The intricacies of life, intertwined as one.

Lambat

As community is woven together by hands and hearts, so are the nets of Isla Pulo.  The intricacies of life, intertwined as one.

 
Family Affair Mercy her granddaughter, even the loyal family pooch are all in on the bagging of coal.

Family Affair

Mercy her granddaughter, even the loyal family pooch are all in on the bagging of coal.

 
Loreta The break of day sees her cooking for 6 or 7 (her recollections shift, depending on the day) grandchildren, left in her care.  The folds and creases of her skin, a map of 79 years of fortitude.

Loreta

The break of day sees her cooking for 6 or 7 (her recollections shift, depending on the day) grandchildren, left in her care.  The folds and creases of her skin, a map of 79 years of fortitude.

 
JR Hair, kissed by the sun, as are fish laid out to dry; this is 4-year-old JR’s playtime-meets-worktime.

JR

Hair, kissed by the sun, as are fish laid out to dry; this is 4-year-old JR’s playtime-meets-worktime.

 
Orly’s water delivery A day in 33-year-old Orlando’s life:  Off to collect potable water for the community, he pushes-off with a banca-full of empty plastic dispensers.

Orly’s water delivery

A day in 33-year-old Orlando’s life:  Off to collect potable water for the community, he pushes-off with a banca-full of empty plastic dispensers.

 
Labandera Jennifer, 22, winsomely washes clothes. Her hands, in the suds; her head, in the clouds. 

Labandera

Jennifer, 22, winsomely washes clothes. Her hands, in the suds; her head, in the clouds. 

 

Nit Picking

Mother Annabelle is one to fuss with detail, as she scours through daughter Romelyn’s hair in search of unwelcome guests; sibling Rainnable is next in line.  

 
120_Justin James Wright Philippine Photography_Black and White Philippines Prints_Photos_Images-2.JPG

Children of the Coal

Irish, 6, and Rodel, 3:  born and raised of coal and dreams.

 
Mag-Ina  Jenna sits, in the safety of mother Jennifer’s arms.  At the doorway of their simple abode, Jennifer appears lost in thought; 22 years of her life brought to the forefront in this solitary moment.

Mag-Ina 

Jenna sits, in the safety of mother Jennifer’s arms.  At the doorway of their simple abode, Jennifer appears lost in thought; 22 years of her life brought to the forefront in this solitary moment.

 
Respite In the cool of a makeshift gazebo, Mercy and her grandchildren find moment’s relief from work and blistering heat.

Respite

In the cool of a makeshift gazebo, Mercy and her grandchildren find moment’s relief from work and blistering heat.

 
All hands on deck On board their ship – an old refrigerator washed ashore – Ramil Jr., Sael, Macoy, Rodel sail on the seas of imagination; mateys in work and play.

All hands on deck

On board their ship – an old refrigerator washed ashore – Ramil Jr., Sael, Macoy, Rodel sail on the seas of imagination; mateys in work and play.

 
Recreation. - An occasional game of pitsa (Filipino billiards with discs), well-deserved reward at the end of a day’s work.

Recreation. - An occasional game of pitsa (Filipino billiards with discs), well-deserved reward at the end of a day’s work.

 
Meeting of the minds Marc and Danielle May, both six, put their pencils and minds to good use, as they work on the day’s school assignments.

Meeting of the minds

Marc and Danielle May, both six, put their pencils and minds to good use, as they work on the day’s school assignments.

 
Basagang Palayok (hit the pot), a traditional party game

Basagang Palayok (hit the pot), a traditional party game

 

Justin James Wright Fine Art Photography - Philippines

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email: jjwrightfineart@gmail.com 

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