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‘Kapatid’ Ecclesiastical Photographers on capturing the beauty of popular piety

Kapatids with the canonically crowned Our Lady of Assumption (from Maasin, Leyte) and the processional icon of Our Mother of Perpetual Help (Baclaran) with Rev. Fr. Mark Vincent Salang

Catholicism is deeply embedded in the history and culture of the Philippines. Every settlement has its own Church, and every Christian community has its religious festival, marking the feast of a saint and honoring a particular title of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

As is expected of Asians, these fiestas perfectly combine colorful processions, solemn liturgies, and vibrant music, many of which have been observed for several generations. Proper catechism is necessary to ensure the continuation of this mesmerizing presentation of faith for many years to come. More than simply preaching from pulpits or launching catechetical campaigns, one of the most effective mediums for preserving popular piety is through photographs.

One group in the Philippines has taken on this noble task of spreading devotion and contributing to the Church’s efforts of new evangelization through a more visual approach: the Kapatid Ecclesiastical Photographers.

Focusing the lens on faith

The group, composed of young Filipinos, has dedicated themselves to traveling across the country to take pictures of revered Catholic statues and mesmerize popular piety in action.

For more than a decade, they have conducted photoshoots for various chapels, parishes, shrines, basilicas, and cathedrals, putting images of Jesus, Mary, and the saints in the spotlight.

One of the group's photographers, Michael Angelo Daquioag, said that they chose to embrace this particular mission to provide the faithful with powerful reminders of the spiritual significance of Catholic traditions.

“Photographs are windows to the past, pathways to other places, and snapshots of memories... Through our photographs, we create a visual record of these sacred images, events, and practices, ensuring they endure time,” said Daquioag.

“We strive to preserve the beauty and reverence of these devotions, sharing them with a broader audience to touch hearts and souls... It gives them a broader understanding of practices that may seem unusual to others but, in reality, are just a different expression of the same faith,” he also said.

Rooted in mission

Glenn Inocencio and Wilfred Jason Naval founded the group, as Daquioag recalled. Inspired by the devotees’ positive response to the religious pictures he shares on Flickr, Inocencio decided to utilize his skills in studio photography in the service of the Church.

In 2011, Inocencio and Naval held their first-ever photoshoot at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Makati City.

As time passed, the two attracted other photographers to join their ministry. Eventually, they adopted the name Kapatid, which means “brother” in Filipino.

Ten active members from different dioceses currently make up this brotherhood, with some managing their online portfolios: Glenn Inocencio, Wilfred Jason Naval, Bernie Lechuga, Warren Michael Manuel, Jhene Maverick Domingo, Victor Mangahas, Michael Angelo Daquioag, Dan Raphael Cruz, Erico dela Cruz, and RL John Cedrick Miranda.

As of 2024, they have visited more than 130 houses of worship across the Philippines—any place where the Christian faith shines through antique images, cherished Church memorabilia, and vivid religious processions.

According to Daquioag, among the most memorable experiences they had were taking photos of over 100 processional images for Holy Week in Bataan and capturing the images of the canonically crowned image of Our Lady of Lourdes in Quezon City.

A devotional movement

Daquioag shares that they treasure their mission as devotees who get the chance to celebrate the Catholic faith by showcasing their photography skills.

"To the naked eye, our photos are just that—photos."But in the eyes of faith, these photos are reminders of God’s presence in our lives,” said Daquioag. "That is why we do our best to capture the sacred images with reverence and dignity, hoping that it may be an instrument through which God penetrates the hearts of the faithful.”

He also stated that photos are not only a tangible memory of religious piety, but also an embodiment of the faithful's efforts in organizing and participating in such celebrations.

“After the emotions subside, after all the decorations have withered, and sometimes even the people who played important parts depart from this world, we are all left with beautiful memories captured in photos,” he said.

Daquioag reflected on how their apostolate of photography serves as a subtle reminder that they must imitate the virtues of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the saints, the principal subjects of their work.

To further emphasize that their photoshoots are centered on devotion above anything else, Kapatid has decided to conduct their church photoshoots free of charge.

“As our standard practice, we provide the church with a copy of all captured photos immediately after each photo session... We agree that ownership of the photos now belongs to the respective church,” explained Daquioag.

He said that the payoff of their hard work cannot be found in money, but in seeing that their pictures “lead more faithful to go to Mass, be active in their devotions, and serve Jesus present in the Eucharist.”

An invitation to serve others

Daquioag emphasized that social communications have become increasingly important in this post-pandemic world. He therefore invites other photographers to serve the Church and deepen their devotion by using their God-given gifts.

“Purify your intentions and ask yourself why you want to serve… Our main purpose is to magnify the Lord and proclaim his message,” he said.

“Be mindful of others and practice ethics in the conduct of your service. Remember that this journey will only be worthwhile if we harmonize with others,” he also said.

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