Spotlight: LARAWAN: Portraits Of Filipinos, by Lenny Limjoco

Kevin WY Lee Photo Books, Photography, PROJECTS, Reviews 3 Comments

LARAWAN: Portraits Of Filipinos, by Lenny Limjoco


In my recent Photo Kopi session with Alex Baluyut, I asked him why it was so difficult to grab a hold of Filipino photobooks. “Well, they come out rarely and far in between. You know funding and stuff.” he replied. Well, compliments of my friends Carlo Gabuco and Veejay Villafranca, another rare book ‘LARAWAN: Portraits Of Filipinos, by Lenny Limjoco’ just landed on my desk.

Lenny Limjoco (1954-2012) was a Manila-born photographer and journalist. He migrated to the United States in 1967, but returned to the Philippines to document the country’s troubled times during the Marcos era. Lenny was also Alex’s collaborator on Kasama, their joint portrait of the New People’s Army of the Philippines published in 1987. In 1982, Lenny published Fighting for freedom: the Philippine revolution.

Published by Likha and Kearny Street Workshop Press in 1989, LARAWAN: Portraits Of Filipinos is a collection of beautifully intimate essays and portraits of the people of Philippines during one of their most trying times – from 1976 to 1988, from the Marcos martial law years to the government of Cory Aquino. The title Larawan, comes from the Tagalog word meaning portrait, or picture. Last we checked, there were a handful of copies of varying condition and price available on Amazon.com.

“I fulfilled the promise I made to myself that night in the hut late in 1978. I learned the words to the songs. I belonged.”
– Lenny Limjoco, LARAWAN: Portraits Of Filipinos.
Here is a brief glimpse of LARAWAN: Portraits Of Filipinos, by Lenny Limjoco.
LARAWAN: Portraits Of Filipinos, by Lenny Limjoco

LARAWAN: Portraits Of Filipinos, by Lenny Limjoco

Geraldine's portrait. Baguio City, Northern Luzon. 1986. © Lenny Limjoco

Geraldine’s portrait. Baguio City, Northern Luzon. 1986. © Lenny Limjoco

Susan. España Extension, Metro Manila. 1981. © Lenny Limjoco

Susan. España Extension, Metro Manila. 1981. © Lenny Limjoco

Musalaya. Dadiangas, South Cotabato, Mindanao. 1980. © Lenny Limjoco

Musalaya. Dadiangas, South Cotabato, Mindanao. 1980. © Lenny Limjoco

The years of repression have taken their toll. Great sadness remains. Many of my closest friends are now gone, evidence of the great loss the country has suffered, a loss that continues to grow each day, a loss that can never be measured.
– Lenny Limjoco, LARAWAN: Portraits Of Filipinos.
Alex Boncayao Brigade. Metro Manila. 1998. © Lenny Limjoco

Alex Boncayao Brigade. Metro Manila. 1998. © Lenny Limjoco

Pepoy and Doro. Rizal, Nueva Ecija, Central Luzon. 1976. © Lenny Limjoco

Pepoy and Doro. Rizal, Nueva Ecija, Central Luzon. 1976. © Lenny Limjoco

Bahbah Prison. Bahbah, Augusan del Sur, Mindanao. 1980. © Lenny Limjoco

Bahbah Prison. Bahbah, Augusan del Sur, Mindanao. 1980. © Lenny Limjoco

Something touched me deep inside that night. I discovered I had no clear sense of identity. I lived half my life in the Philippines and the other half in the United States. I felt no sense of belonging for either.
– Lenny Limjoco, LARAWAN: Portraits Of Filipinos.
Kalinga Children. Bugnay, Mountain Provinces, Northern Luzon. 1978. © Lenny Limjoco

Kalinga Children. Bugnay, Mountain Provinces, Northern Luzon. 1978. © Lenny Limjoco

Jose Diokno. Liwasang Bonifacio, Metro Manila. 1981 © Lenny Limjoco

Jose Diokno. Liwasang Bonifacio, Metro Manila. 1981 © Lenny Limjoco

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Comments 3

  1. Lenny worked down the hall from me for many years as a designer and photographer at the San Francisco Study Center until his passing. He’d worked and known those folks at the Study Center for 30 years and would take breaks from his media position with them to travel and create his work. His friend and employer is currently my boss, the fiscal sponsor of the nonprofit I run. I also participate in Kearny St. Workshop and the founders, his friends, are still around. Anyhow, one day he invited me into his office to play darts and talk me up to see what I was about. About 80% of our interactions was his testing me, punking down things I said and insulting me like a good and proper cynic. I fared better when I asked question, but only when he didn’t feel like being curt. I’d later find out the past really took it’s toll on him and wasn’t the best place to let his mind wander. He did get crystalline when he he felt compelled to smother any romantic notion I had about the Philippines. During that dart session he gave me his three photo essay books and then also showed me his Magum Opus. It was black binder with what I could only guess was 180-300 pages of his photography already cropped if I’m not mistaken. I mean most of them were full 8 x 11 photos but there were double page spreads thematically tied together. He said it will never be finished but the work exists. Three years after his death I’m thinking it can at least exist online in digitized form. I assume it’s with his daughter now.

  2. Thank you, IPA, for featuring Lenny Limjoco. Lenny was a great inspiration and it was my honor to have worked with a legend.

    1. What beautiful yet sombre, timeless work from Lenny. Something to hold onto. With coincidence, Mr Baluyut, I just have to also say that your work “Brotherhood” in which I stumbled upon an old copy in the book section of Silahis (in Intramuros) a few years back, Is what really spurred my interest in documentary and photography – and the power of the image itself in telling a story. No need for words for how much that work struck me (as did Lennys), somehow it was stolen from my hotel room in pampanga 6 years ago.. something I still bitterly remember, and a book I still hunt to this day. Thank you for keeping it real, and doing what you do. Don’t ever stop!

      Take care,
      Tom

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