Photographers' Blog

Challenging gender roles in the Philippines

Manila, Philippines

By Bobby Ranoco

The Philippines economy has surged with 7%+ growth for five straight quarters but for some, jobs remain hard to come by. The answer for some people has been to look for work in an area traditionally filled by someone of the opposite gender.

I contacted the state-run Technical Educational Skills and Development Authority (TESDA) which offers training courses for ‘unisex jobs’. I met three women undertaking training courses in the traditionally male jobs of automotive repair, welding and electrician.

One of them, Vina Jane Aranas, a 17-year-old high school graduate said she dreams of finishing college. She took a nine month fixing cars vocational course which she hopes will allow her to work and support her herself through college. “I am not ashamed of what I am doing, even if people think that automotives is a job for men. Life is hard nowadays and it is difficult to get a job… I believe this is a way for me to finish college, and I dream of having my own car repair shop,” Aranas said. I started taking pictures of her fixing a car engine, lying on the floor to align car wheels. I told her that I was impressed and that she was way better than me because while I have my own car, I don’t even know how to change flat tires. We both had a good laugh.

After taking pictures of Aranas, I went to a welding course where I met Sol Edon, a 32-year-old mother of three. Edon was taking a four month welding course, which she looks at as a ticket to a high-paying job overseas. Despite the Philippines’ strong growth momentum, unemployment in the country remains stuck at around 7 percent, the highest in Southeast Asia and underemployment hovers around 20 percent. Millions of Filipinos continue to leave the country every year to work abroad, even if it means many months or years away from their families.

I also met men working as hairdressers and make-up artists. I went to a cosmetology school run by a well-known local hairdresser Ricky Reyes. There I met Edwin Manalo, 39, who is married with two children. Edwin lost his job as a salesman of sports sunglasses two years ago and looked for an alternative job which landed him in the hair-styling business. Manalo said he was not ashamed of his new job. “I don’t mind whatever people say about me, as long as I’m happy and my family too are happy about my job, that’s what matters,” said Manalo.

The Wilsons: Climbing out of unemployment and homelessness

Dallas, Texas contract photographer Jessica Rinaldi spent three intensive, intimate and emotional days in the lives of Annette and Frederick Wilson and their family. The Wilsons have been homeless since they moved to Texas from Minnesota after losing both their jobs and then their home.

They ended up with their children and extended family in a homeless shelter but through assistance from the National Urban League they have now found some employment and income, and finally an apartment to live in.

Jessica’s audio slideshow, narrated by the Wilsons themselves:

Annette had been a bus driver in Minneapolis and Frederick was a forklift operator, but he had already been out of work for almost year before Annette lost her job. When Annette, who is a pastor in a Pentecostal church, lost her job and could no longer make the payments on her home she prayed to God for guidance and she says that God told her to move to Texas. They arrived in Texas with only $150 and drove straight to a homeless shelter. There they learned about a local job fair where they got in contact with the National Urban League who helped them move out of the shelter and into a motel room.