Filipino photographer offers talent to Church, poor children

Alren Jerome Beronio volunteered to take pictures for the Diocese of Borongan in the central Philippines in 2012 when he was still in his teens.

From then on, there is no turning back for the young man.

“The words ‘service to God’ inspire me to do this,” said the now 23-year-old photographer. He said his work for the Church also means honing his skills and offering it to the community.

His “service” started when he became an altar server at the Borongan cathedral during his grade school.

“When I was young, I went to church with my family, and I said ‘I want to be like the altar boys,'” recalled Alren, the youngest of four siblings.

He was an acolyte until high school when he became part of the communication office of the diocese.

“My service to the Church continues even after my time serving at the altar ended,” he said.

When the diocese set up an online news site, Alren’s photography skills were put to use.

“Taking photographs is very fulfilling, especially during church events like the Holy Week,” he said.

As a photographer of the news site of the diocese, Alren started to realize a childhood dream, that is, taking photos of religious images and church personalities.

He covered the visit of Pope Francis to the city of Tacloban in January 2015. He was also present during the historic return of the Balangiga bells in December 2018.

When the church of Guiuan town in Eastern Samar province, which was devastated by Super Typhoon Haiyan, was rededicated, Alren was there.

He covered the annual festival of the Child Jesus in Cebu, a Marian congress also in Cebu, and other church activities.

“My big dream to is to be a Vatican photographer,” he said. “Since I started photography in high school, I really look forward to taking a picture of the pope,” added Alren.

His wish was realized in 2015. “It was fulfilling that it finally happened,” he said.

“Pope Francis is compassionate. He is the true face of love. That’s why he is my idol,” said the young man.

A photograph taken by Alren Jerome Beronio on Good Friday shows how people in the Diocese of Borongan practice their faith amid the new coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by Alren Beronio)

In April 2019, he teamed up with American filmmaker Michael Sellers and historians Rolando Borrinaga and Bob Couttie for the documentary movie “Balangiga I Honor and Sacrifice.”

Alren served as director of photography for the movie that explained what happened in the town of Balangiga during the latter part of the Philippine-American War in 1901.

The town’s church bells, which were taken by American soldiers as war trophies, were returned on Dec. 11, 2018.

While he received a modest “honorarium” from the diocese for his services, Alren said his “greatest reward” was when he discovered his talent through his work with the Church.

“The Church discovered my talent,” he said, adding that his “advocacy” now is “to be of service to the Church.”

Last month, Alren and his photographer friends found another way of extending his service to poor children.

They launched “Project Dagway” with the Borongan Digital Photography Forum, which is composed of about a thousand photo enthusiasts and professionals.

The group is taking photographs of poor children in hinterland communities who will be finishing school this year.

“Dagway” in the local language means “image.”

“We want to paint the sweet smiles of these children, and because we have the equipment and talent, we thought of sharing them to those who do not have access to these kinds of services,” said Miguel Voloso, a colleague of Alren.

Alren Jerome Beronio and his friends holds a photo session for graduating pupils in hinterland villages as part of “Project Dagway.” (Photo supplied)

The group has already taken pictures of about 500 graduating children, including teachers in the province of Eastern Samar.

“We are happy that there are people who helped us in creating good memories for our future,” said Viena Antoinette Orque, a graduating student from Arteche town.

“I am overjoyed every time I see the smile of the students in the remote areas,” said Alren.

As the Philippines continues to brave the threat of the coronavirus pandemic, Alren is finding ways to continue his work.

He still takes photographs of church activities while maintaining the “social distancing” protocol imposed during the quarantine.

His photographs of how his diocese celebrated the Holy Week amid the lockdown caught national and international media attention.

Work continues for the young photographer.

He looks forward to the preparations for the 500th anniversary of the arrival of Christianity in the country in 2021.

“There is no stopping us in serving God,” he said.

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