• Gut-Wrenching Stories of Filipinos Take Centerstage on Popular Facebook Page

    The Facebook page is called "Humans of New York," which has more than 18 million followers.
    by Arnel Ramos .
Gut-Wrenching Stories of Filipinos Take Centerstage on Popular Facebook Page
PHOTO BY @humansofnewyork/Facebook
  • In 2010, Brandon Stanton, a bond trader, was going through a rough patch. He has just lost his job and decided to relocate from Chicago to New York in the United States.

    Armed with his Canon 7D, he started taking photographs of the folks who lived in the city he was then just beginning to discover. He was hoping to sell a few pictures to make ends meet. In the early stages of what would prove to be the journey of a lifetime, Stanton was barely making a dent until he went on Facebook and began attaching caption stories to the photos of the people he took. 

    Humans of New York (HONY) the Facebook page and the stories it told went "viral," as they say in the digital parlance, with almost 18 million followers on Facebook and 7.7 Instagram following to date. The audience Stanton built allowed him to make the book, Humans of New York Stories. And its success enabled him to venture outside of New York, travel to different countries and take photographs of people from different nationalities for HONY.

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    In January of this year, Stanton came to the Philippines where he has a large fan base that has been moved by the heart-wrenching stories he has featured on his page. Stanton posted a shoutout on Facebook looking for a possible interpreter to assist him in Manila, and the results of his stay in Manila have begun appearing on HONY last March. It already reveals a wealth of stories both inspiring and heart-tugging that HONY is known for.

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    One very recent entry tells the story of a man who can't escape the cycle of violence in his life. His father died the day he got out of prison. The son, too, would end up in jail countless times, the last one for murder after he stabbed a man who slapped his mother. He is hopeful the cycle will end now that he has found a reason to live, a surrogate son whom he pampers. The post has merited 1,835 shares and 34,000 likes.

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    Another one talks about a 75-year-old taxi driver who had to care for the six children left by his wayward niece who died of cancer. Talk about supreme sacrifices. The post about the elderly driver amassed 225,000 likes and 10,983 shares.

    One story we found gut-wrenching because it happens every day in many Filipino households is a woman's story of abuse from her stepfather. "I’d heard about these things on television, but I couldn’t believe it was happening to me," she tells HONY. She doesn't tell anyone because of the shame she felt, and she certainly doesn't tell her mother. "Who would she believe: him or me?"

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    The situation forces her to run away from home at 17. It ruins her relationship with her mother who thinks she didn't want the responsbility of helping her mother raise her siblings. "Even today she doesn’t know why I ran away. I haven’t even told my husband about this. But what does it matter anymore? I’m older now. And my stepfather’s dead.”

    No two stories are alike, and yet you get the feeling that these stores are intertwined, part of a bigger narrative. Perhaps that of a mostly uncaring society or a damaged culture or an inept government. 

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    All of them, however, strike a chord because they talk about the human condition at its starkest state. And at a time like this past Lent, a season for introspection, Humans of New York reminds us that it doesn’t hurt to look outside of ourselves and learn to care a little more for others.

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    Here are more HONY stories from Manila: 

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