COVER STORY

LOOK: How the children of Sampaloc, Manila dressed up for Halloween

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Manila (CNN Philippines Life) — In the Philippines, Halloween festivities in the city have arguably overtaken local traditions, as children dress up in all manner of costumes, from the ubiquitous aswang to the pop-culture-inspired character. Amid a backdrop of the poor living among the dead and thousands still living in poverty in the country’s capital, some families still find time and resources to mark the occasion.

During the weekend before Halloween, Hannah Reyes Morales was in Sampaloc, Manila, taking photographs of children in their scariest attires. Morales, a documentary and travel photographer whose work has been published in the The New York Times, Al Jazeera America, and The Atlantic, has been frequenting the area for a project when she was asked for a favor. “One of the moms told me they were celebrating Halloween and she made a request for me to come with my camera, so they could have pictures of the kids in costume. So I came over,” she says. “Many of the moms had pooled together resources to buy paint, glitters, and other materials for the kids. There was a mom who put coal that they sold on her child's skin so he could have a costume.”

The group of kids ranged from two to 12 years old, and taking their photos posed a small challenge. “Every other frame there was another child who was trying to do a peace sign in front, or put their painted hands over my lens, or just grab onto my legs,” says Morales. In a trigger-happy country with a predisposition for taking and being in photos, it was difficult to get the children to pose individually. Most of the kids weren’t shy, says Morales, and “they were happy to pose for a portrait.”

“Photographing kids is always a challenge,” says Morales. “Most of them gather around you and try to pose for the camera as a group.” Photo by HANNAH REYES MORALES

The mothers of the children in Sampaloc, Manila, had to save up so their children could come in Halloween costumes. Photo by HANNAH REYES MORALES

A child in a pink ruffle dress and pumpkin-like mask. “For many of the moms in this community, costume is luho,” says Morales. “So being with them in the afternoon and seeing a few of them craft costumes on the fly with the materials available around them was really interesting.” Photo by HANNAH REYES MORALES

Behind a rundown playground, a child poses while dressed in an attire reminiscent of Dracula. Photo by HANNAH REYES MORALES

A bright red jacket with a skull-decorated lining and a blue-and-red mask make for a child’s Halloween costume in Sampaloc, Manila. Photo by HANNAH REYES MORALES

Two young girls dress up in all-black ensembles, with their faces painted over in bloody makeup. “As much as possible. I am trying to photograph more small occasions such as this one,” says Morales. “It gives me insight on how I should be photographing shanty towns and communities.” Photo by HANNAH REYES MORALES

A young boy dressed as Spiderman and another with white paint all over his face prepare to slide in the local playground. Photo by HANNAH REYES MORALES

A child looks as her mother (off frame) takes her photograph in a community in Sampaloc, Manila. Photo by HANNAH REYES MORALES

Children in Halloween makeup pose with makeshift pumpkin buckets. “Many of the people in this community experience adversity everyday, and that adversity is important to photograph,” says Morales. “But I think it's also important to take a look at the human experiences that we share.” Photo by HANNAH REYES MORALES

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