Mar 28, 2018

At the beginning of the year (quite literally) Humans of New York founder, Brandon Stanton, announced that he would be visiting the Manila later in the month, much to the excitement of many, but also to the dismay of others; many netizens began debating whether the overpopulated and polluted capital would be the best representative of the country as a whole.


nolisoli fixture humans of new york hony manila brandon stanton
Humans of New York’s Facebook post earlier this year.

For those of you who aren’t one of the 18 million who follow Stanton’s work on Facebook, he is the person behind the popular photo series Humans of New York (HONY), a storytelling project turned photo blog (turned book) that features portraits of New Yorkers accompanied by insightful, sometimes funny, sometimes tragic stories.

Since its humble beginnings in 2010, HONY has amassed a pretty large Filipino fan base. Apart from holding a talk at the University of the Philippines, Stanton’s spent his week-long trip to Manila doing what he does best: exploring the city and interacting with its inhabitants.

Armed with a camera and an interpreter, Stanton traveled around the Metro collecting stories from a variety of people. His photos have finally been posted on his website and various social media platforms, and they are nothing short of touching. In an interview, Stanton expresses his surprise over how similar the stories of Filipinos are to those of others from around the world.


“My stepfather would come to my side of the room when everyone else was asleep. I’d heard about these things on television, but I couldn’t believe it was happening to me. I told nobody. I was ashamed. I didn’t want anyone spreading rumors. I couldn’t even tell my mom because who would she believe: him or me? So I just left the house when I turned seventeen. I started sleeping at the houses of my friends. It was so lonely. I never stayed in the same place for long. And my mother grew so angry with me. It ruined our relationship. I had been helping her raise my siblings, so she thought I was abandoning my responsibilities. Even today she doesn’t know why I ran away. I haven’t even told my husband about this. But what does it matter anymore? I’m older now. And my stepfather’s dead.” (Manila, Philippines)

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“She asked me to pick her up early from school because she was vomiting. That’s when she told me that her period was late. We went to the store and bought a pregnancy test, but the first one came out blurry. A few hours later we tried again and it came out clear. I told her I wanted to break up. I’m ashamed of it now, but I was only eighteen. I felt like I was way too young. I just wanted to escape. She started crying and told me that I’m a bad person. She said: ‘You did this to me.’ So I started crying too, and I told her I was sorry, and I told her we’d figure it out. Our son is two years old now. It’s happy but it’s hard. If I didn’t have a kid right now, I’d probably be working in an office. I’d be sitting at a desk and typing on a computer. Instead I’m working as a messenger. I’m outside all the time. I’m always worried about buying milk for my kid. We’re all living with my parents now. We’re doing well as a couple. Whenever we’re stressed, we talk about it together. She understands because she gave up a lot too. She wanted to be a cook before she met me.” (Manila, Philippines)

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It just goes to show that no matter what country, culture, or background you’re from, the human experience, in its simplest, is shared.

What do you think of Brandon’s photos of Manila? To view more of his photos, check out the Humans of New York website or Facebook page.

Main image from Humans of New York.

Read more:
This food historian wants you to explore your nearby wet market
Local heritage sites are being restored by this unlikely group of youngsters
This student’s eight-hour walk to Fairview reveals our road problems

TAGS: Brandon Stanton fixture HONY Humans of New York nolisoli photography