19 November 2013
A cousin plays around during my father’s wake. My father was diagnosed with liver cancer in 2012. It was a huge blow to the family. My father was not only the head of the family, but seemed to represent everything good and uplifting to us. We feared losing our rock, the one person whose mere presence made everyone feel that he or she was a better version of themselves.
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.