Metropolitan Manila is comprised of 16 cities and has an overall population of more than 13 million. That number continues to balloon to this day. Its center, the city of Manila, is also marked by a bloated population, making it the world’s densest city in 2016 and 2018.
Picture this: Manila City is inhabited by 42, 857 individuals per square kilometer – and the city itself can only boast of a total land area that measures 42.88 km² . Workers from all over the Philippine Islands choose to occupy Manila most of the year to make ends meet in the capital. Day after day, the only goal is to toil away and find more work. For many, the struggle begins with waking up in whatever cramped quarters a minimum wage could afford. Then comes the harrowing commute punctuated by rickety trains, buses, and jeepneys with passengers packed like sardines. Traffic is horrendous, on foot, up in the air, and inside any vehicle on land. Pair this with the sun’s sweltering heat or torrential rains – either way, both are unforgiving and unrelenting – and people have no choice but to face gridlock at any time of the day. Of course, Filipino workers eventually make their way home, but often, these spaces don’t offer much room to breathe. Here, they are forced to contend with a lowered standard of living, something they lock horns with every day. It’s a mix of dense population and the byproducts that follow: unending waves of non-biodegradable waste that flow through various bodies of water and defile the shores of other cities.
This long-term series of photographs from 2016 to 2019 offers an intimate look into Manila’s suffocating density, as seen through the perspective of a daily commuter. But as we take in the fumes, the unpredictable weather, and Manila’s sheer crowdedness, we also take a step back to draw breath… only to find that Manila is as stifling as ever, even from a distance.
2016-2017, on going long term project.