The Art of Dodging Bullets

Artist Robin Haines Merrill paints canvases, shoots photos, and helps redeem Philippine prostitutes.

When Robin Haines Merrill visits the deserted streets of Ermita, the former site of Manila's notorious red-light district, she lingers over the shuttered bars, the closed storefronts where pimps and prostitutes used to stand, and the tiny park where once, not long ago, children could be rented for sex. The streets are virtually empty, the clients and the trade slowed to a bare minimum. For Merrill, the place holds many memories. Since her first glimpse of the Philippines in 1983, on a summer missions program, Merrill was drawn to Manila. "I could see that people had a great love of art, but there were also pressing spiritual and social problems," she says. After graduating from the California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland, she determined to serve God in Manila as an artist. But a providential delay slowed her return.While on assignment as a photographer in Mexico City, Robin inexplicably developed an immune-deficiency illness. During a lengthy recuperation, she managed to pick up some Tagalog, the Philippines' official language, at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena. Her zeal for missions in the Philippines was fueled by Fuller professor Tom Brewster, New Zealander Viv Grigg of Servants, and the Tottens of the Fellowship of Artists in Cultural Evangelism (FACE). Finally able to return to the Philippines, Robin—single at the time—stepped into the chaotic post-Marcos era. Robin recalls dodging bullets on the street. "I ran for my life," she says. "At one point I was hiding in a building behind some soldiers—and I didn't know which side the soldiers were on." Robin hid her camera, knowing that foreign journalists were prime targets. Later she put it to good use: the Ermita district became her subject."I drew upon ...

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Christianity Today
The Art of Dodging Bullets
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September 4, 2000

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