One Picture, Three Stories: A Funeral, Cesar Climaco and Zamboanga


I saw this wonderful blog post by illustrator Jane Heinrichs last year in which she shared one photo that meant something to her, and told three stories about it. The photo she shared was the one on the right, click on the badge to read it.

If you follow me on Facebook you might have noticed that I'm something of a shutterbug. I love taking photos ... and I love looking at them too. There is so much story in a photo.

I so enjoyed Jane's idea that I'm going to take up her challenge to do a One Picture, Three Stories link up. If you're a blogger and want to have a go, let Jane know.

Here's my first picture.

Story #1. I was 24 years old when I took this picture. I know I was 24 because it was taken during the funeral of assassinated mayor Cesar Climaco in 1985.  You can just see the faint typewritten caption 'Zamboanga 1985' bottom right.

I was a young journalist working for a political magazine opposed to the regime of Ferdinand Marcos, who had been president since I was aged three. I had just purchased a heavy 300mm lens from my friend Jaime Unson.

The streets of Zamboanga were packed with tens of thousands of people for the funeral. Traffic was at a standstill and I could see nothing. So I climbed to the top of a stalled bus. My new 300mm lens could see a long way and I spotted this tableau of townspeople with an expressionless soldier.

It would have been a perfect way to illustrate the militarisation that Climaco had fought against. But as I snapped the photograph, the little girl smiled. Which kind of ruined my story.

Story #2. When journalists wrote about the murdered mayor Cesar Climaco, they always attached the word 'colourful' to his name.

He swore he wouldn't cut his hair until Marcos fell from power. So he marched around with mad, flowing grey locks. He put up a scoreboard in front of City Hall keeping a tally of violent crimes, and had a tempestuous relationship with the military and police who he accused of these crimes. And yet he travelled everywhere on small motorbike and was sniffy about bodyguards.

In 1984, he was shot in the  nape by an assassin while supervising operations at a fire. Nobody's ever been convicted of his murder. Before he died, Climaco said that if he was ever assassinated the military would be sure to blame a particular Muslim group. Climaco's wife accused the military of masterminding the killing. The military, as Climaco predicted, blamed the Muslim group.

Story #3. Zamboanga. It's a city in the Muslim south of the Philippines. There's a terrible racist song that came out of the American occupation in the 1900s - 'There are monkeys with no tails in Zamboanga ...' How I hated it.

I have not been back since I took this photograph.

I remember a hotel by a beautiful sea, with an outdoor restaurant. Huge crabs and giant prawns, in garlic, ginger and coconut sauce. Men in boats rowing up to your hotel table to sell gorgeous woven mats.  I still have quilts  made from fabrics that I bought at the fantastic market nearby. Their language is Chabacano - which sounds a lot like Spanish.

I wonder what Zamboanga is like now. I would like to go back.

You might also want to read these posts on my other blog:

The Invention of the Teenager

Social Media: Eight Things We Can Learn from Old Style Journalism


  1. I love it! Thanks so much for joining Candy! Hopefully it will start a trend!

    1. I hope so! Hoping to do this every week when I can!

  2. Hi Candy! My name is Angel and I am from Zamboanga City. I'm also currently reading Tall Story (the reason I visited your site). Zamboanga is still beautiful with all its seafood, historic sites and the Chavacano speaking people. Though recently, the city has been unfortunate to have experienced so much devastation (3-week siege, killings here and there).

    But we remain hopeful. Cheers!

    1. I was so upset when I saw the news of that three week siege. I hope you didn't get caught up in it, I followed it through the Facebook feeds of my photojournalist friends. Poor Zamboanga. But I'm sure it must still be beautiful. At the time I thought it was the most magical Philippine city I'd ever visited. And I shall return!

  3. Hey Candy, found my way here via Notes from the Slushpile; really like the idea of 'One Picture Three Stories' and yours is fascinating! What a life you've led so far; bet you've taken tons of interesting photos -- hope you're going to enthral us with loads more.

    I've decided to go with a 'home' photo too for my attempt. And thanks for the link to Jane's blog.

    1. Ooh do leave a link here when you've done it so that we can see!

    2. Done :D

      And here's the link:

  4. Love the one-picture-three-stories project Candy, and will definitely look for a photo I can possibly use for this. I was 8 in 1985 but have heard my folks talking about Mayor Climaco's assassination back then. I'd say my interest in political news started around the time. Quite nostalgic to see great shots pre-digital and pre-Instagram time. Have a good rainy day!

    1. Hi Candy, I did it! Here it is:

      Have a lovely weekend :)

  5. When one conceives the issue at hand, i have to agree with your endings. You intelligibly show cognition about this topic and i have much to learn after reading your post.Lot's of greetings and i will come back for any further updates.

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