Beggars in Boracay

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Boracay is rated one of the worlds best beaches and it’s certainly a favorite of mine. This was my second visit and I really wanted to capture one of the beggar families that show up along the path during the evenings. It’s a familiar scene: a mother with a couple of scruffy looking kids climbing over her. I believe I have seen this family in the past and ask if I can take a few pictures. At first she seems a little confused. She must have been thinking: “why would you want to take pictures of us?”

She soon agreed especially when one of the locals egged her on. The unspoken agreement was that I would give her a donation once I had my pictures. A few people walking by were giving them half eaten bags of potato chips which the mom would snatch away from her kids and eat the remaining chips herself. Some people handed over 20 pesos (about 35 cents).

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I started to shoot. The older child was very curious and at first a bit cautious of me. For a while he refused to be in front of the camera and instead was more interested being behind the camera. It wasn’t until I started shooting his mom and brother that he realized if he stood in front of the camera he’d get his picture taken.

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For the whole 10 minutes or so that I shot, the mother had the same distraught expression on her face. I wondered if it would ever change. Usually a mother’s face lights up during a playful moment with her kids. And so…

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It’s hard to know how much of her sad expression is an act. I did notice that the beggars seemed to be very organized. One family would show up and do a few hours ‘shift’ before being replaced by another in the same spot. The scenario was always the same: a mother and 2 or 3 of her kids.

Before shooting the family I had decided I would give them a larger amount as a donation. I wanted to see how they would react. I gave them 500 pesos which is about $12 USD. That would be enough to feed the family and more for over a week. The kids tried to grab the money as I put it in the mother’s hand. She gave me that same distraught, sad look and simply said, “Thank you, sir”.

A few hours later I walked by and they were still there and held their hand up for more. I am sure they realized it was me but I guess they are programmed to do that. I think I secretly wished they’d pick up and celebrate after hitting the big jackpot but they continued to do what they know how to do.

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