Photo Essay: An Inauspicious Start to a New Year

Photographs and Text By JO A. SANTOS

MANILA — During the recent Chinese New Year celebrations in Binondo, merchants and vendors could be found everywhere — selling food, trinkets, and symbols of good luck and fortune, such as the “Year of the Metal Rabbit” figurines. Traditionally, the streets and sidewalks overflow with vendors, local residents, and tourists taking part in the festivities. Itinerant vendors, however, are increasingly vulnerable to being swept up by the police for selling in the streets. Coming from the poorest sectors in society, these street vendors cannot afford to rent stores or even the stalls of so-called legitimate establishments.

This photo essay documents a woman vendor being stopped by the police for selling her wares along Ongpin Street. After confiscating some of her rabbit figurines, the police threw these into the front seat of their vehicle. As the police tried to take the rest of her property, the vendor cried and pleaded with them. Eventually, the police relented, didn’t take all her wares, and returned the figurines. Whether it was out of pity for the woman or awareness of the witnesses around them, the police ceased and went on their way, only to approach other vendors and small fry who had the audacity to try and make a living in the streets. (

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