‘Selfie’ of the Nation: The image of the country according to netizens

Netizens turn their mobile cameras around to take photos of faces – not their own – but of people who represent the state of various sectors

MANILA, Philippines – In a visit to Kermes Elementary School in Taguig City in June, TV and online personality Bianca Gonzalez (@iamsuperbianca) took a photo of kids, huddled together, playfully posing in their raincoats. 

The children have a reason to be happy. Among the 16 cities in Metro Manila, their city now ranks third in the National Achievement Test, from 13th place in 2010.

“It goes to show that if you do put money into the public education system, you have a bigger chance of getting these kids a good job or even start their own business, and ultimately better chance to get themselves out of poverty,” Gonzalez told Rappler, noting how the city government prioritizes education in its budget.

The Department of Education (DepEd) recently admitted that it may not be able to fulfill its promise to address the classroom backlog until 2014. But it is poised to get the largest portion of next year’s budget at P336.9 billion, which President Benigno Aquino III is likely to highlight in his State of the Nation Address (SONA) Monday, July 22.

Gozalez submitted the photo in response to MovepH’s #SelfieOfTheNation, a call-out to capture the situation of Filipinos through netizens’ lenses.

‘Selfie’ posts

People love to take photos of themselves and upload them on various social networking sites as “selfie” posts. The #SelfieOfTheNation drive encouraged netizens to turn their mobile cameras around and help capture the “selfie” of the nation as Aquino paints a picture of the country from his own governance point of view.

READ: #SONA2013: Key issues Aquino will tackle

Prim Paypon (@PrimPaypon), founder of the community initiative “The Dream Project PH,” submitted a photo of two out-of-school kids he met in an outreach program in Tondo, Manila. Like many other photos submitted via Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, the image portrays beaming kids from an urban poor community.

“The kids reminded me how happiness can be so simple. A simple toy gift meant a world to them,” Paypon said.

Dr Nicole Curato, a sociologist from the University of the Philippines, sees photos like this as an attempt to look at the bright side of life, but stressed that is not often seen in reality.

“It’s one of those classic pictures which tend to celebrate joy despite poverty, but what’s interesting is what’s not shown in the photo – injustices, suffering, and inequality that children experience every day,” Curato said.

Curato explained that it could be a residue of the long history of inequality in the country, a way of negotiating injustice.

Government responsibilty

Other netizens submitted photos that are seemingly ordinary but which evoke public cynicism and inefficacy, like the one submitted by Mark Demayo (@DemayoMark). It shows two people mindlessly crossing a major highway, a dangerous road for pedestrians but also a venue of protests during SONA.

“This photo worked for me because it felt like a commentary on jaywalking. The bus on the foreground looks like it will run over the two people who clearly are hand in hand as they cross a wide road that is obviously a highway. It both speaks to me about how jaywalking is a choice for those who do it, but is it a choice they have to make because that’s the only way they could cross, making it also a responsibility of the government to address?” photojournalist John Javellana (@javellanajohn) observed. 

See and discuss the photos stitched together to form the Philippine map – the ‘selfie’ of the nation. – Rappler.com

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