Last November 25, a motley and furious crowd, mostly composed of young people, gathered across various sites in the country to protest against the hush-hush burial of late president Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani. Many people ask, “What place does a thief have in the burial place of our most honored heroes?”
Marcos served as dictator of the Philippines for more than two decades. Over the course of that period, the media was silenced, curfews were the norm, and opposing parties were either exiled, jailed, or killed. Meanwhile, his rule was tagged one of the greatest loots in history, amassing an estimated $10 billion. Neither him nor the despot’s relatives and cronies were punished for the crime. The long-term effects of Martial Law trickle down until this very moment.
I was part of the first mass of protesters the day Marcos was buried. I didn’t bring my camera. Instead, I observed the rallyists. I observed a huge diversity of people from different social classes and generations and all walks of life who were actively protesting against the stealthy burial.
The next day, I saw the photographs published on newspapers and social media. They were your usual dramatic and glamorous pictures you see during rallies—a misrepresentation of the actual experience of being in the protests, I believe.
As a participant of the initial protest, all I could think of was how those photographs didn’t actually show how it felt to be there. The dramatic photos gave a certain expectation to an audience that had never attended a rally.
I made it a point to bring to light the realities of the Marcos burial protest through my project, with the sole intention of shutting out the fictive drama intended to make people feel enlightened.
I noticed there were documentations during the protests that exaggerated a moment or scene through the use of dramatic lighting and composition, like the photos that would make you feel ecstatic or relieved. I guess in my taste or experience, those photos are a bit off beat as I’d rather have people see a more realistic point of view through photos.
I want to show that the protests still have apparent flaws even though the passion of fighting for the same cause is still evident and overwhelming.
By flaws, I meant the basic habits of different people, which I wasn’t able to photograph that much. I only got a couple of photographs with people smoking in the protests and those who putting their comfort first. I also didn’t want to photograph that directly because that wasn’t my intention. It’s rather something inevitable and simple like how I saw the musical performances and politicians giving speeches at the rally as an example of irony.
Despite the conflict between representation and the ideals of the protesters, the mere presence of each individual there showed a collective understanding of what is right and what is wrong. Considering the circumstances, these protests seem to be just a start of something that would one day determine the future of our country.
Marco Ugoy is a self-taught photographer based in Manila, Philippines. He studied Communication Arts at the De La Salle University but decided to leave his studies to pursue a career in photography. For the past 3 years, Marco has worked as a freelance commercial photographer and writer. He has released some self-published work, had several group exhibitions, and is currently working on different project-based collaborations. He is mainly working to build an image and gain financial stability so he could pursue photography abroad wherein academic studies of context-based work and visual literacy through photographs are more advanced compared to the Philippines’.