Coleen Garcia said no local was “forced” to join her and fiancé Billy Crawford’s controversial pre-wedding photoshoot in Lalibela, Ethopia.
The celebrity couple drew flak from social media for including Ethiopian children and women in their photoshoot, which netizens perceived as ‘cultural insensitivity’.
“We never forced anyone nor wanted to disrespect any race or culture,” Garcia said in a statement.
“Yung shot with the kids, actually patapos na kaming mag shoot noon na kaming dalawa lang and we just needed to get a few shots in, but naaliw yung kids (who were already there) and they really wanted to be a part of the photo so they kept coming into the frame hanggang sa sinama na nina Oly,” she explained.
Garcia added that a local felt the kids were causing inconvenience during the shoot, and started scolding and shooing the children away.
“But we felt differently and natuwa din naman kami sa mga bata kaya we told the man na its okay, and we let them be a part of the photo despite its not being part of the plan, and we even showed the photos to them after,” the actress recalled.
Garcia also addressed those who inveighed against them for “expensive” outfits.
“May mga nagsabi na bihis na bihis kami, but we did go there pre-styled for a fashion shoot, and everything else followed spontaneously,” Garcia said in defense.
“We based our layouts off of some of their suggestions. The locals were so kind, warm, and welcoming, and they love meeting tourists. They even gave us some items of clothing to add to our shoot, for which they showed so much support,” she added.
Garcia stated it’s “unfortunate” that their photographs were “taken out of context”.
“It’s far from what we intended. We were invited and sponsored by Ethiopian Airlines to do our shoot there for their tourism campaign and to capture their natural environment because we were told that tourism helps their economy,” she disclosed.
“We had a local guide present throughout the entire duration of the shoot and leisure time in Ethiopia. He took us around and made suggestions for the shoot, such as including the priests of Lalibela in our photos because they wanted people to see.” Crawford’s fiancée added.
The actress also stated that 95 percent of their photos taken in Ethopia were actually just shots of her and Crawford.
“There were two or three that offended people and were singled out, so the team took them down right away because that is not our intention. We’ve had the photos for months and a lot of people have seen them prior to their release,” Garcia stated.
Ending her statement, Garcia said she and Crawford “meant no harm” with their photos.
“Every time we look at the photos, we remember how we got to interact with the locals while we were there, and its something truly memorable for all of us including the team. We had so many positive encounters, kaya siguro hindi agad pumasok sa isip namin. The children weren’t sad and oppressed, they were so friendly and curious. When we looked at the photos, we didn’t see slavery or racism at all, lalo na when you take all the rest of the photos into consideration,” Garcia said.
The actress said she understood where the netizens were coming from, and apologized to those who felt offended by their photos.
“Its sad that the tendency is to jump to conclusions, but we understand din kasi nga they were not there to witness everything. And looking at it from their perspective, we see where they are coming from. Completely. It might not even be about the photos per se, but more on how it comes across and what it could represent. Being public figures, dito kami nagkulang and we admit we could have done better,” she said in closing. (Noreen Jazul)