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Looking ‘Through the Eyes of a Child’

Street children share their view of the world at Museo Pambata’s new exhibit.

Words by Angela Gabrielle Fabunan | Images by Don Oco

In Lewis Carroll’s “Through the Looking Glass,” we see Alice’s perspective as she goes on an adventure. With her, we can be a child’s playmate and an adult audience at the same time, and I couldn’t help but think of that experience when Museo Pambata allowed me to see “Through the Eyes of a Child.”

It was November 10 when it happened. Entering the museum’s Karapatan Hall, I was greeted by an exhibit of photographs said to be taken by children. Among the first images I saw was a close-up of a leaf similar to the photographs I took when I was young. This held wonders for me because when I started experimenting with photography on a Kodak camera, I began similarly with close looks of leaves and flowers. It was a photo that reminded me of my childhood, yet, as I stood there, looking at the other images, I realized I was also standing as an adult. I thought about how far the digital revolution had taken; I wondered how many of these children will also become artists in the future, and I was enamored by the local scenes they captured.

According to John Austria, one of the founders of the Sino Pinas artist collective partly responsible for the exhibit, the goal of behind it “was to share photography with kids and discover their potential.” And as I looked around, I realized that it did just that.

Launched thanks to the support of non-profit organizations like Infinit-O Group Foundation and Childhope Philippines, “Through the Eyes of a Child” features the photos taken by street kids living in Roxas Boulevard. These children are the ones enrolled at Ate Academy, a free alternative learning program that tackles various disciplines including the arts. Back in September 22, it invited members of Sino Pinas in order to introduce photography to its students and the results of that workshop can be seen on the museum today.

Through the instruction of Sino Pinas’ artists, these children were able to see the beauty of the ephemeral through their lenses. Whether their subject is another child in the light of the afternoon inside a sari-sari store or the juxtaposition of different pairs of feet from a bird’s eye view, they were able to capture through their own unique pair of eyes evocative images to share with the world.
“Working with these kids is beyond amazing,” said Austria. “They were very proactive” And their fondness for the project was something I felt when I met them.

There was a certain look of pleasure in the eyes of the kids themselves as they saw the photographs they had taken. This enthusiasm translated too when they are talking about the pieces themselves. When asked if she was the one who thought of the idea of shooting pairs of feet, a kid named Lorraine enthusiastically said, “Opo.” Then Jovelyn, Lorraine’s friend, took me by the hand to see the portrait that she had taken of Lorraine herself. They clearly were proud of their works and were proud to be there. And, as a viewer, I was also proud of them.

I asked Lorraine and Jovelyn what they learned from the workshop, and they responded succinctly with: “Iba’t ibang bahagi ng photography, kagaya ng anong gagawin pag maliwanag at pag madilim [Different aspects of photography, like what to do when it’s bright and it’s dark.]” And these kids—despite their age—do know how dark life can get.

Living along Roxas Boulevard, the children enrolled at Ate Academy are surrounded by some of the most important buildings in Metro Manila. And, on certain afternoons, they also get a good view of one of the most striking sunsets that one can experience in the Philippines. “Unfortunately,” so the manager of Ate Academy’s website wrote, “this road is also only two blocks away from Manila’s Red Light District. And, once children cross that threshold and begin earning money, it’s difficult for them to return.”

This, however, isn’t the only road they can now take. Because of this exhibit which will run until the 24th of November, spectators can see the world through the eyes of these children and, in return, the children are shown something else: another option in life—one that can perhaps lead to a career behind the lens.

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