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.
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:
Text by Angie Duarte (with many thanks :)
Innocence, captured in doe eyes and in the delicate upturn of an almost smile; she finds protection in community.
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.
Children of the Coal
Irish, 6, and Rodel, 3: born and raised of coal and dreams.