Have you ever strolled around a beautiful park or beach or city and thought, Parang wala ako sa Pilipinas (It’s as if I’m not in the Philippines)?
When photographer Aaron Vicencio overheard two Filipino tourists in Boracay repeating this oft-spoken exclamation, he was disturbed at the thought of Filipinos equating beauty only with foreign lands.
“It just hit me, why do we say that? How can the Philippines not have beautiful sights?” Vicencio asks. As a professional photographer, Vicencio has travelled around the Philippines and seen for himself the beautiful scenery the country has to offer. He thought to himself, why not share it with others?
So in early 2010, Vicencio set up MeronSaPilipinas.com, a website dedicated to featuring anything and everything amazing in the Philippines. The site features photographs submitted by different people showing local scenic spots. Most photographs are of beaches, but there are also a smattering of creative urban shots and festivals around the country.
“Meron sa Pilipinas came about after one of my friends and I talked about how to improve the tourism situation of the Philippines,” he says.
For Vicencio, Filipinos generally do no appreciate the abundance of natural resources and the inherent beauty our country has to offer. “We subscribe to the underdog or deprived status and do not appreciate what we have,” he laments.
The concept of Vicencio’s website is simple. Contributors simply share their photographs of different places in the Philippines for others to appreciate. Vicencio hopes that by collecting thousands of amazing pictures, Filipinos will start to look at their motherland in a new light.
He says, “We are spoiled by our natural resources. You will be hard-pressed to find better beaches, a better sunset than Manila Bay’s, a better sunrise than Mount Pulag’s, and everything in between across our 7,107 islands anywhere in the world. We just have to put our country on our back ala bayanihan (cooperative undertaking) and be proud of it.”
A quick glance at the website reveals breathtaking views of beaches, waterfalls, and the ever popular sunset shots from some of the Philippines’ most popular tourist destinations. But what makes the collection interesting and inspiring are the assortment of images that feature everyday things in the urban jungle of Manila: a picture of electric power lines, captured beautifully by photographer Rodney Frigillana in Baguio City, a shot of a cigarette vendor and even a shot of the Philippine Azkals during practice at the University of Makati grounds, both by Vicencio.
These are pictures that present our country in a positive light despite poverty and colonial mentality.
Vicencio hopes that our countrymen will be more aware of the beautiful things about the Philippines and be proud.
Aside from the famous Boracay island and Palawan beaches, Vicencio insists that there are more magnificent places yet unknown to tourists. He counts Suluan Island near the Homonhon and Calicoan islands as “one of the best virgin beaches I’ve been to. I also love the annual rodeo in Masbate held every April, and Malcapuya Island in Palawan.
Beaches, skyscrapers, rodeos, caves, reefs, and mountains—a truly diverse and distinctive panorama. Vicencio believes, “The Philippines is unique because of what we have. We should always be proud to say, ‘Meron sa Pilipinas.’
“Kalimutan na ang pagbigkas ng ‘Parang wala ako sa Pilipinas’ habang lumilibot sa ating bansa. Lagyan ng yabang! (Forget the phrase, ‘It’s as if I’m not in the Philippines’ while going around the country. Let’s put some pride in it!),” his website declares.
“In general, Filipinos always tend to [act like] the grass is greener on the other side. If I can just change that perception in a small group of people, I believe it can go a long way,” Vicencio says.
Print ed: 05/12