This photo essay won MovePH's #SharePH 2017 summer contest. This originally appeared on X, Rappler's self-publishing platform.
MANILA, Philippines – I get empowered by knowing the stories behind each and every smile of Filipinos.
Here are sample photos I took from across the country and the stories behind them, depicting life in general.
For example, I get happy seeing my uncle smile after a long day at work in Pangasinan. His family is his source of happiness that's why he totally gives all what he can for them.
Seeing their hard work pushes me to seize the day, encouraging me to persevere despite the hustle and bustle of life.
Red snapper or maya-maya in the Philippines is a species of fish which is commonly found in deep reefs or wrecks. It is quite expensive in the market but definitely excellent in taste.
This fish can be cooked in many ways. For example, fried maya-maya is best partnered with tomatoes and mangoes dipped in alamang while sinigang na maya-maya is best for the fish's head part. It is a must-try for those who haven't tasted it.
Travel will not be complete without conversing with locals.
Meet Lolo Erning, 68, who's going to get some grass for his cow's lunch.
I was supposed to go with him, but he said it was dangerous because of the snakes. So I did some shoots first and waited for him at a safe spot instead.
On our way home, I asked him what the secret of surviving a day at the province is. He answered, "Dapat marunong ka lang sumabay sa agos ng buhay. Kung anong meron sa paligid mo gamitin mo dahil mapag-iiwanan ka kung hahayaan mo lang matapos ang araw nang wala kang nagagawa."
(You should know how to ride the wave of life. Whatever you have around you, use it because you'll just be left behind if you allow the day to pass without you doing anything.)
He also remembered how hard he struggled for his field each time the rainy season comes. We ended our conversation watching his cow eating its crunchy lunch.
Zambales is truly majestic with the abundance of flora and fauna found everywhere.
But what makes our life more majestic is the people – Filipinos who continue appreciating and enriching what the Philippines already has.
In these photos is a local of Zambales who was having coffee under a small nipa hut. He was accompanied by his dog who took an afternoon nap.
"Puwede po bang magpa-picture?" he only nodded and smiled. It is always good to see locals greeting tourists warmly.
When the sun rose, a fisherman prepared his fishing net for the day's bountiful catch. His net was made of nylon woven in a grid-like structure.
People of Zambales prefer to sleep by the shore because their cottages are for rent. They would sacrifice comfortable sleep to earn money and accommodate more tourists.
Here's another image to watch out for when in Zambales: kids playing in the sand, their youthfulness radiating through their smiles.
Bringing colors to life was never easy. We have to separate primaries from secondaries and create a palette that catches the attention of every viewer.
Clear waters of Biak na Bato National Park and their massive limestone formations.
After experiencing the exhilarating and twisted trails of Sitio Madlum for almost an hour, I was fortunate enough to be rewarded by the calm waters of Balaong River. Along the river lies different rocks and mineral formations which caused it to be declared a protected area.
When I visited the place, I watched a local of Madlum dive upside down.
The tower of Manila City Hall focused on the center of Baluarte de San Andres in Intramuros. It is reminiscent of past wars.
Dusk. Waiting for the sun to rise can truly be a beautiful and hopeful experience.
Life, they say, has different phases – either smooth or rough – yet it is the soul's serenity that still shines through. But even the smooth parts of life has its own rough edges, while the tougher parts do offer unexpected surprises.
By Ezekiel James Galanto Originally published under Rappler X