Portraits Of Cebu

On this page is Daniel’s 2015 photographic exhibition and article. Enjoy!


Portraits Of Cebu City

Meet 12 street vendors from The Philippines 2015.


This is Sherwin Navales (R), his wife Jessica (L), and their son Prince Jeator (C). Sherwin was ​born in Mindanao, southern Philippines, but he ​came to Cebu ​city at 9 years of age​. He is 35 years of age now. Sherwin was working for​ ​construction​ companies​​ ​for 11 years, as a welder. But for the last month he has​ ​​​been selling​​ fried food from his​ ​home-built cart​, on the street​.​ He and his wife Jessica cook the food on-site.​​ ​He sells every day, on one of the busiest roads in Brgy. Carreta, Cebu city. He makes about $50 each day. He and​ ​​Jessica, are raising 3 sons​ -​​ 2 are adopted.​ ​Sherwin’s dream for the future is that his 3 sons will finish their studies. Sherwin’s message to you is: “I hope you all have good health”. ​Their phone number is: +639322535522.



This is Alejandro Bacalco, who was born on 23 April 1968, in Aloguinsan, on the western side on Cebu island, central Philippines. Alejandro’s coconut stall is on M. Cuenco National Road, Mabolo, in central Cebu city. He has been selling coconuts at this spot for 13 years. His coconuts come from the southern Philippines. Alejandro’s sales change so much each day, and it’s hard to estimate an average daily income. Alejandro is 47 years of age, and he has 3 children. Alejandro’s dream is to be happy with his family. When not selling coconuts Alejandro spends his time waiting for more coconuts to arrive. Alejandro’s message to Australians is: “Let’s be friends, thanks. I am Visaya and Cebuano”. Alejandro’s phone number is +639238185972



This is Jocelyn Torregosa (R) and her cousin Mamforte (L). Jocelyn was born in Cebu city and is now 38 years of age. Jocelyn sells her home made cooking on General Maxilom Ave. Ext. in Cebu city. Jocelyn cooks vegetables and ‘ulum’, which is a classic Filipino dish. She has been selling food here every single day for 2 years.  She has 3 children and makes about $9 each day. Jocelyn says: “I hear Australians are good, unlike other countries, and I have a friend living in Australia too. My dream is that I hope my kids will finish their studies”. Jocelyn’s phone number is: +63322317879.



This is Jimuel (R), Anecito Jerez (L) and Jimuel’s young cousin Marian (C). Jimuel was born in Nigros and came to Cebu city 5 years ago to work as a car detail. About 5 months ago he stopped working and moved in with his relatives in Cebu city. Last week he started working for his dita (aunty) at their street stall on A. Soriano Ave. at the entrance to Queen City Cemetery, Cebu city. Jimuel sells flowers, candles and cigarettes to the cemetery visitors. Jimuel doesn’t have any children himself, but his second cousin Anecito Jerez (L) has 7 children and is the cemetery’s caretaker. Their family stall makes about $45 a day. When not working at the stall, Jimuel likes to stay at home and sleep. Jimuel says: “Australia is okay. I had a friend when I was car detailing, who went to Australia as a mechanic”. Jimuel’s phone number is: +639187133761.



This is Roniel Largadas (R) and his wife Ratchel Largada (L). Roniel was born in Surigao, eastern Philippines, and migrated to Cebu city in about 2010. Roniel is selling Banana Que and other home made snacks, on M.J. Cuenco Avenue, Cebu city. Roniel has been cooking and selling this type of food on the streets of Cebu city for over 5 years. Roniel buys his ingredients, such as bananas, pineapples etc. from the Carbon public market, in Cebu city. Roniel works 6 days each week, and drives a taxi every Sunday. Roniel earns about $9 each day on average, and his dream is: “To be a millionaire/rich”. Roniel and Ratchel are expecting their first child soon. Roniel’s message to Australians is: “Please help me”. Roniel’s phone number is: +639225048468.



This is Anthony S. Rizon, born in Cebu city. I took this portrait of Anthony in T. Padilla, Cebu City. For 15 years, Anthony has been selling his classic Philippine sweet, which naturally aides digestion, especially for urban diets. Locally this is called ‘TAHO’. Its root ingredient is soy beans. Through fermentation, the curd is prepared for Anthony, at Basak, Pardo Kauswagan, Cebu city each night, by ‘Rini’ the cook and wholesaler. Anthony walks the streets every day from 7am till 1pm making about $14 each day. Anthony is 42 years of age and has 2 sons and 2 daughters. When not selling taho, Anthony likes to relax and sleep. Anthony dreams of one day becoming the owner of a big company. Anthony’s message to Australians is: “You can help me to sell taho, so I can be an owner of a big company”. Anthony’s phone number is: +639353520058.



This is Lucia P. Abarquez from Cebu city. Lucia was born on Bantayan Island in the central Philippines and migrated to Cebu city for work when she was 20 years of age. Lucia is now 35, with her husband and 5 children. Lucia’s stall is on the corner of Filimon Sotto Drive and Gorordo Avenue, Cebu city. At her stall each day, Lucia sells her own cooked food, served in the classic Filipino style called ‘ulum’ which always includes freshly cooked rice. Lucia has been selling food this way for 2 years. Whenever Lucia is not selling food on the street, she is taking care of her children and her husband. Lusia’s dream is to one day become a successful business women and have her own restaurant. On average, Lucia makes about $75 each day. Lucia’s message to you is: “I am kindly thank you for your time visited here in our country and hopefully if you read this my application I hope you will help me. Thanks all. God bless.” Lucia’s phone number is: +63933558137 or +639212771075.



This is Lorna Pepito, who was born in Tabogon province, and came to nearby Cebu city at 5 years of age with her father, to sell fruit. Lorna has been selling fruit on the streets of Cebu city ever since, and she is 38 years of age now. I caught up with Lorna on Fuente Osmena Circuit, central Cebu city. Lorna currently sells a lot of Lansones, which are a deliciously sweet small tropical fruit. But at other times Lorna sells oranges, apples, or Kalamancy (Limes). Lorna sells fruit in this way from 8am to 7pm every day, except Sunday, when she attends Church. When not working, Lorna is cleaning her house and washing cloths. Lorna has 3 children and earns about $7.50 each day. Lorna’s dream is to see her children finish their studies. Lorna’s message to you is: “Hi friend, I want to go there [Australia].” Lorna’s phone number is: +639326584319.



This is Tessie, born in Cebu city some 63 years ago. Tessie has lived for 8 years in Manila, the Philippine capital city, where she worked as the cook for the Canadian and Australian embassy, among others. She had to finish working in Manila because of hypertension or high blood pressure; so she moved back to her native Cebu city. Tessie has 1 boy and 5 girls, but also 24 grandchildren! Tessie sells “delicacies” which are traditional Philippine home-made snacks. Tessie makes all her delicacies herself, in her kitchen using a small machine. About 3 times a week the Cebu city police move Tessie away from her selling spot on Fuente Osmena Circuit, because she’s technically not allowed to sell food there. But Tessie happily says she just hides nearby, before returning to her spot when the police have gone away. In this way, Tessie has been selling her delicacies for 2 years from Monday to Friday, and makes about $8 each day. On weekends Tessie sells vegetables in Tisa, which is another part of Cebu city. Tessie says: “Sometimes I have to borrow money from my neighbors to buy ingredients for my delicacies. My husband has no job.” Tessie’s phone number is: +639231572440.



This is Merilyn Leylos (R) and her good friend Nobie (L). Merilyn was born in Talamban, Cebu city and is 42 years of age. Merilyn sells special bananas fried in oil (“Banana Que”), confectionery snacks, Pepsi drinks, and cigarettes, at her street-side stall on J.C. Zamora Street, Cebu city. Merilyn has been doing this for 1 year, every day, taking no time off because she is single with 6 children between the ages of 8 and 24 years. Merilyn makes about $18 a day. Merilyn says her dream is: “To finish [my] children at school.” And Merilyn’s message to you is: “I need help for my children.” Merilyn’s phone number is: +639335301337.  



These are brothers Martin Dionson (R) and Richard Dionson (L). Also interviewed was Richard Dionson (out of shot). These brothers were born in Cebu city. They sell fruit at their stall, like bananas, mangoes, apples, oranges, papaya, and ‘rombotan’. Their family has been operating this stall every day for 10 years, here on M. Cuenco National Road, Mabolo, in central Cebu city. Each day is so different, sometimes high income, sometimes not. Richard doesn’t have any children yet, because he’s still single. But Richard’s dream for the future is simple, he wants to progress in life and have good health from God. Richard says: “Money is nothing if you’re not healthy.” Richard also said: “I don’t have any message because I haven’t seen them [Australians] yet,  but if they want me to be their friend, send message to my Facebook: richarddionson_96@yahoo.com” Richard’s phone number is: +639035760676.



This is Gemely Mate (R) and her uncle, Bernadino ‘JunJun’ Diola Jr. (L). Gemely was born in Cebu city, and is 31 years of age with 3 children and a husband. Gemely cooks and sells food on Borgonia Road, in Cebu city, every day. Gemely’s aunty Dading was born in Oslob, about 300km south of Cebu city, and she migrated to Cebu city 31 years ago. Gemely is proud of her aunty Dading, because Dading cooks a traditional style of rice, unique to Cebu city alone. In English it’s called Hanging Rice. Each portion of rice is contained in a hand woven box made from coconut leaves. Every box is woven with long strip of leaf extending out, so that it can be hung, like a pendulum. By hanging them, each portion of rice can be lowered and raised safely, into and out of, boiling water. The hot water cooks the rice inside each box, expanding and stretching each box, creating an handy and aesthetic portion of rice for each meal. Sunday’s are the best day, because that’s when Gemely and her aunty can sell lots of Hanging Rice to the nearby church goers. But on average Gemely and her aunty make about $45 each day. When not cooking Hanging Rice or selling food, Gemely is washing cloths, cleaning her house, and doing other household chores. Gemely’s dreams are now only for her children to finish studying. Gemely’s message to you is: “I hope there will be peace on earth. Let’s love each other. I wish I could go to Australia.”  


I hope you enjoyed 'Portraits Of Cebu'. Below is my article, accompanying the exhibition. DJP

A ​Contemplation ​Of ​U​rbanisation

Article by Daniel John Peterson 2015.


This year I’ve been living in the centre of Cebu city, the second largest city in The Philippines. According to the Philippine Statistics Authority, Cebu city has a population of almost 1 million and an average of 4.4 people living in each household. I’ve come to believe Cebu city is a good example of our most common urban cityscape experience​ in the ​21st century; because, like many other cities, its historical germination comes from colonial interests, and it has since, morphed into an administrative capital for a major developing economy in Asia, the most populated continental region in the world. Personally, I come from a non-urban life in Australia, and now my experiences of Cebu city have gifted me an understanding of​, one of​ humanity’s most ​fundamental experience​s​ – urbanisation – a ​persistent theme of human life on earth.

Earth, where art thou? Just three generations ago, most families had at least one member who was in direct physical contact, daily, with the dirt, plants, water, fire or animals of the earth. By-and-large however, our future generations will increasingly raise their families without anyone having direct contact with the earth. Any earthly encounters will increasingly become a significant life-event. We can call this global trend ‘urbanisation’ and the topic​ itself​ cultivates some fascinating questions about our quality of life. For example: what has motivated our urbanisation?

Thy crop has failed, thee shall now work for thy king. I hope you’ll correct me, but our temptation it seems, is to presume urbanisation is motivated by an intuitive urge to participate in a market economy. Rightly or wrongly, I think a bigger economic community invokes deep within us an increased sense of economic stability, and thus personal security. In response to this urge, we seem to have taken every opportunity to migrate from smaller localised economies, among families; to larger centralised economies, among companies. By migrating in this pattern, we demonstrate ​the primary motive ​of ​’security in numbers’. But is this motivation actually adding to our life’s quality?

To look for thy security, is to be insecure. Here I’m reminded of a king in a nutshell, believing he is the king of infinite space, while all along, not seeing his own vulnerable nakedness. How can one know, if a feeling of improved personal security means one is actually more secure? For most of us, I suspect that such ‘knowing’ does not matter. For most, an improvement in one’s feeling of security is itself enough, for one’s improved personal security. One’s quality of life therefore, can be considered to have improved, by participating in the largest possible economy. Is your life’s quality defined by your security, or something else?

Thy home, is thy castle. I think the castles of Europe demonstrate well how some families began separating themselves and their ideas, from the daily experiences of the earth. Inside abstract spaces like our castles, I think we ​stimulated visceral belief​ systems,​ and enduring value​,​ in a variety of abstract ideals. In these personal spaces, we became no longer ideologically bound by earthly bonds​. Indeed, the physical experience of separation and hierarchy serves to reinforce those ideals. Our contemporary abstractions, are the castles of our mind. And, I believe our urban cityscapes, are similarly divorced from​ more​ earthly contact. Irrespective of our rationalisations for urbanisation, the underlying tension I think, is towards the issue of our innate relationship with the earth. From where have our cities come, if not the earth?

Build thy home of experiences, and never be alone. Back in Cebu city, I find myself alienated from the earth, in an unspoken search for something recognisable; something familiar to that part of me which is earth. The unplanned city parks in Cebu​,​ draw many seeking souls towards their grassy areas, trees, birds, air, and general space sheltered from the city’s urban consumption; I presume, thanks to a few brave but tired town planners. Also brave and tired, are the city’s street vendors. Rugged but approachable, are those who sell ​food on the street, without participating in the city’s (and our mind’s) obligatory structures. Street vendors look like how I feel, exposed and vulnerable, making explicit, an honest contribution to the human story of urbanisation. It’s as if I recognise something in a street vendor, which reminds my soul of the earth. ​Somehow in that recognition, a mute acceptance fills my sails, to push me through another day on the stormy seas of an urban dream. What parts of your city, connect you, to your pre-urbanism?

May thou pre-urban earth, define thee urban cities of thy future. I relate with street vendors because in the​se economic exchanges, we’re both participating in the smallest of economies​ – a direct exchange​ – remind​ing ourselves of a smaller localised economy. We’re trading, and living, in defiance of the larger centralised economy that has somehow lured us both, into the city. We glimpse in eachother’s presents, the feeling of a pure exchange between families; no taxes, no fees, no commissions, no contracts, and no problem. But why should such an honest exchange between strangers, feel like such a radical act of secret protest?

Thy city, is more than the sum if its banks. Modern urbanisation can not exclude our pre-urban origins, if it is to remain a viable human trend. If our urbanisation is going to be accountable to our humanity, we should be thinking more ​symbiotically, about our relationship with our urban developments. The smaller localised economies of our pre-urban families, can and should be incorporated into, if not leading, the way we conceive, plan, and experience urbanised economies. By remaining mindful about our pre-urban economic world, we not only make our urban experience more bearable, but we also cultivate the new idea that our urbanisation could be a positive addition to the earth. What would a typical cityscape look like, if it had sustained people, for as long as our land and seascapes have sustained us?

Honor thy mother, and thy father … and thy street vendor. My experience in Cebu city this year has ​compelled me to think about humanity’s urbanisation. I’m especially grateful to the street vendors of Cebu city, for making my brief experience more meaningful. I’ve tried to capture something of their essence, in the photographic exhibition​ Portraits Of Cebu City which accompanies this article. I hope you’ve enjoyed shareing with me a contemplation of our urbanisation. If by chance, you and I meet in the future, I’m sure at least one of us will be hungry, and chances are increasing, that we’ll meet on the side of a dusty road, shadowed by a concrete building, ​and likely deaf by roaring traffic. Are we ready, for what happens next?


Image from Wikipedia.org

Skyline of central Cebu city. Image: Wikipedia.org