Photographers of Luneta: Alive and clicking

By: Neil Mercado - June 02, 2023

Aside from the monument of the country's national hero Jose Rizal, another permanent presence in Luneta Park are photographers striving to capture and preserve memories of the visitors of the urban park.

Some of them have been at the park since the 1960s.

TENTS lineup a covered court in San Andres district, Manila, where fire victims seek temporary shelter. His house all but razed, 73-year-old Romeo Ibañez stays in one of the shacks with everything that he managed to save – some photographs and a treasured camera.

Romeo, a photographer in Luneta, currently stays in an evacuation site for fire victims in Manila after his home was reduced to rubble. PHOTO: Arnel Tacson /

Romeo is a photographer in Luneta Park, a patch of green in the midst of the city jungle. Aside from the monument of the Philippines’ national hero Jose Rizal, photographers have become a permanent presence in the famous urban garden.

“Sa totoo lang, noong araw ay sampung piso ang aming singil sa kostumer – anim na kopya, black and white,” recalls Romeo, a shutterbag since the 1960s.

A day’s work for the orange- or green-vest-wearing photographers of Luneta means strolling and constantly beaming despite the scorching heat of the sun or heavy downpour to convince park goers to avail of their service – to capture their memories.\

The job, apparently, is never a walk in the park because negotiations and rejections are part of the trade.

PHOTO: Arnel Tacson /

“Syempre, kung masaya sila, mas lalong masaya ang pakiramdam namin, kasi nakita namin ‘yung resulta na aming ginawa na mabuti sa kanila,” Romeo says.

Photographers of Luneta have also been challenged by time amid advanced technology in photography that has become more accessible to the common man. For one, the emergence and burgeoning progress of smartphones through the years and which demand has been consistently on the rise.

Photographers in Luneta feel the impact of fast-growing technology, saying some visitors of Luneta Park now prefer to use their own smartphones or cameras to take their photos. PHOTO BY: Arnel Tacson /

“Mas marami noon kasi hindi na kami nang aalok noon, kusa na silang lumalapit, kinakalabit lang kami ‘Kuya, kuya, picturan mo kami’,” Romeo says.

“Ngayon, kasi kung hindi ka mangaalok wala kang customer, sa dami ng nang-aalok, kung hindi ka mangaalok, talo ka, uuwi ka ng luhaan, minsan isang araw, zero ka,” he adds.

Romeo admits that at his age, walking around Luneta is starting to take a toll on his body.

The population of photographers in Luneta, after all, is aging.

PHOTO: Arnel Tacson /

“Hanggang may lakas ako, na kaya ko pa para mag perform sa duty ko bilang isang photographer, gagawin ko,” Romeo says.

Juanita Reyes has been a photographer in Luneta for more than four decades.

Juanita’s late husband was also a photographer in Luneta. Juanita says the job helped her send her children to school. PHOTO: Arnel Tacson /

“Dito na po ang hanapbuhay ko sa Luneta hanggang naparaal ko po sa mga anak ko po,” Juanita says.

“Tsaka mahirap din mag-shooting po araw-araw, habang umuulan nag-shu-shooting ako habang nagpapayong dahil para makapag-aral ang mga anak ko,” she adds.

For some of the photographers of Luneta, their job is also about maintaining a family tradition.

Juanita’s son, Rolando, is also a photographer in Luneta for nearly a decade.

Some say pictures may fade, but for the photographers of Luneta, as long as the historical park exists, they are here to stay.

PHOTO: Arnel Tacson /

For them, Luneta isn’t simply a portion or a witness to the country’s colorful story.

For them, it is a huge piece of the life they lived as it saw their highs and lows, the smiles they have collected, the memories they have preserved.

Story by: Neil Mercado

Video Team Lead: Ram Nabong
Producer: Naj Barrios

Videographer: Arnel Tacson

Video Editor: Cathy Miranda

UX: Sephy Garibay