19 November 2013
Religious statues and memorabilia for sale at Kamay ni Hesus (Hands of Jesus) healing church in Quezon, on Luzon island.
My father died at the Polymedic General Hospital in Manila, in the afternoon of 12 April 2013. As a photojournalist, I had covered tragedy and death up close. At some point I had grown numb and disconnected from the stories. This death made me reassess my approach. I set out to look more deeply into the lives of people in similar situations. In various centers for the terminally ill, I approached people asking what hope meant to them. People had similar answers. Hope meant survival, overcoming death. But bereft of choice, people clung to whatever gave them ease – physical ease, spiritual comfort, or the lifting of an emotional burden. So hope took the form of a pill of morphine, brushes with faith healers, or with healers who sliced through human flesh to squeeze out infected blood, in plants and herbs found on holy mountains and said to ease pain and refresh the spirit.