Framework

Capturing the world through photography, video and multimedia

Storm clouds roll ashore in the Central Visayan Island of Negros Oriental as a boatman seeks temporary shelter on a platform built over a reef in the Tanon Strait.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Hersley-Ven Casero / For The Times

Traffic clogs Perdices Street in downtown Dumaguete, which has the dubious distinction of being the motorcycle capital of the Philippines. The provincial transportation office estimates that about 20,000 registered motorcycles ply the streets of Dumaguete, which has a population of about 120,000.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Benzi Florendo / For The Times

Children play on an outrigger canoe on the waterfront of Dumaguete City.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times

A worker takes a break at the municipal garbage dump of Dumaguete City.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Hersley-Ven Casero / For The Times

A man scavenges for firewood in the rain-swollen Banica River, where severe flooding caused widespread damage and death during Typhoon Washi last December in Dumaguete City. Deforestation, unsustainable agricultural techniques and urban sprawl are all contributing to the degradation of the streams on Negros Island.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times

Bags of trash line a path around the garbage dump of Dumaguete City. Tons of waste from the dump, which is next to the Banica River, was washed away and into the ocean by floodwaters during Typhoon Washi last year.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Benzi Florendo / For The Times

Fishermen unload a catch after a two-week, 700-mile expedition across open seas to fishing grounds at the watery border between the Philippines and Malaysia. Fishermen risk greater dangers in search of depleting fish stocks farther offshore.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times

A woman pauses for a moment while scavenging for pieces of metal and plastic from the 34 tons of waste deposited at the Dumaguete City garbage dump on a daily basis.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Hersley-Ven Casero / For The Times

A boatman paddles past the wreck of the Ever Transport 3, an inter-island ferry that was swamped by raging floodwaters at the mouth of the Banica River in Dumguete City last year. The boat sank amid 60 mph winds and 10 hours of torrential rainfall.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Hersley-Ven Casero / For The Times

A child stands atop a mountain of decaying trash at the municipal garbage dump of Dumaguete City. Officials estimate that about 34 tons of garbage ends up at the dump every day.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times

A boy helps salvage rusty nails from the hulk of a boat under demolition in Tambobo Bay.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Benzi Florendo / For The Times

A girl plays on the swing at Quezon Park in Dumaguete City.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Hersley-Ven Casero / For The Times

A dockhand helps load fish aboard a truck for transport to the market in Dumaguete City. The fish was part of a sizable catch brought home by a 14-member crew that undertook a two-week, 700-mile expedition aboard a large, motorized outrigger to the watery border between Malaysia and the Philippines.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Hersley-Ven Casero / For The Times

Placid waters reflect fishing boats in the calm between the storms of the rainy season at Tambobo Bay in the Central Philippines.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Hersley-Ven Casero / For The Times

A man shoulders a bag of recyclable bottles and cans scavenged from the piles of smoldering trash at the municipal dump of Dumaguete City.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times

Fish from the hold of a boat in Bayawan.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Benzi Florendo / For The Times

A musician earns change playing a weathered saxophone along the waterfront boulevard of Dumaguete City.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Hersley-Ven Casero / For The Times

A rainbow arches over the bow of the Ever Transport 3, a ferry boat that sank in Dumaguete harbor during Typhoon Washi last year.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Hersley-Ven Casero / For The Times

Children shelter from the rain amid baskets and bins in a shed next to the municipal garbage dump of Dumaguete City. Several dozen people live at the dump site and draw a livelihood from whatever they salvage from the piles of trash deposited there every day.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Hersley-Ven Casero / For The Times

Children play at the mouth of a spring that empties into Tambobo Bay, a sheltering cove on the northeastern edge of the Sulu Sea.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times

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By Luis Sinco, Los Angeles Times

Dark clouds hang in the distance, signaling that the rainy season, known locally as tag-ulan, has settled on these islands in the central Philippines.

Brooding thunderheads set the tone. I tell a small group of assembled students to underexpose. Make the clouds heavy and foreboding. Show them crying on the huge mountain of garbage below.

Some of the kids cringe. They got more than they bargained for with this assignment. The garbage dump is large and ugly — and the stench of decay brings tears and unsettles stomachs. They venture to the edge but stop short of plunging in.

I urge the students to document their environment, which is vastly different from the place I remember from my childhood. So much has changed.  The city dump is bigger than ever, the rivers muddier, the seas nearly depleted of marine life.

In December 2011, Typhoon Washi tore through the central and southern Philippines, claiming more than 1,200 lives. Thirty-six people died in my hometown.

Floodwaters swamped ships, tore houses from their foundations and spewed mountains of garbage into the sea. Six months later, little has been done to ensure the next big storm won’t cause such devastation.

From the corner of my eye, I see Hersley-Ven Casero, a student and friend for six years — and he’s into the photo expedition to the dump. He ventures in a step at a time, slowly sinking ankle-deep into the muck to compose and shoot.

Hersley, 28, knew my dad, who recognized his knack for drawing and painting — and cultivated this talent by funding Hersley’s arts education. After my dad died, Hersley asked me to teach him photography. Over the years, he has become a very fine shooter — and it seems he just can’t learn enough.

He’s paying the favor forward as a teacher and resident artist at Foundation University, a school for underprivileged kids founded by my grandfather 63 years ago in Dumaguete City, Philippines. Since 2008, Hersley has taught beginning photography to hundreds of people, young and old, through classes and workshops at the school and around town.

In 2009, he introduced me to Alma Zosan Alcoran, also a painter and budding photographer. We three collaborated on photo essays for Framework over the last few years (Human dignity on display in the Philippines and Time off to teach a passion).

Alma now is in the Persian Gulf state of Oman, working for a commercial photography outfit that specializes in private events. Many talented young Filipinos seek gainful employment as contract workers overseas, mainly in the Middle East, because of a severe lack of economic opportunity at home.

In fact, the Philippines is one of the world’s largest exporters of labor, with some 12 million Filipinos living and working around the world. I hope Alma returns after fulfilling a 24-month contract so she can share what she learned.

Meantime, I’ve picked up a new student named Benzi Florendo, 21. He has a good eye and shows promise, but he needs to build his confidence. It will take time, I guess.

As I teach these young students, I hope they will choose to stick around — to document the disasters, the human suffering and maybe even a victory here and there. I hope they venture into the fetid dumps and forgotten villages – and show the multitude of problems that challenge an entire people.

It would be a lot easier to walk away, I know. But I hope they don’t.

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