Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The Picture that Started it All.

I bit my lip as my classmates butchered this picture during the critique session of Ken Go's Photogprahy Lighting Class. I was more than convinced that it is destined for the shitter. It was my first ever fashion shoot and for an unfashionable guy like me, its like threading over a living hell. Imagine conceptualizing a glamour shoot which is galaxies away from my usual idea of a striking photograph. I don't even know how to let the model pose much more project before the camera. I am glad that my model Marguerethe was kind and patient. So there I was nervous and pressured while my classmates who are way above my capability -examined my every move.

I must admit I went home a very frustrated man . But I did not give up - instead "I went to the matress" as what Mobsters would say- rummaging through my wife's fashion magazines like crazy. Ken was right - after attending his class, one will never look at a photograph the same way again. I now study each photograph seeing all the hard work behind it- the time which took the make up artist to make sure that the model looked good, the set stylist who took pains in coming up with a perfect set, the photographer's assistant who suffered strained arms in raising those huge softboxes, the photographer who sweated out just to get that perfect shot, and yes...the photoshop artist who made sure that all imperfections have been taken cared of.

I don't know but when Ken emailed me a copy of this picture after he did some wonderful post production work on it - I could not believe that it is the same butchered picture I was once dreaded. Well, this maybe is my sign to do my best in this very addicting hobby. With photography, everything can be beautiful!


Wednesday, October 11, 2006

So you want to be a race car driver huh…..
(posted originally last July 23, 2005)

milo at the driver seat of my Honda Civic, 2005

(still at it after a year with the isuzu crosswind)

Someday you will see these photographs and wonder if it is a tell-tale sign that you are meant to become a race car driver.

I must tell you that your consistent ‘pestering” a.ka. requests to sit on the driver seat of “Daddy’s Cay” never fails to put a smile to my face. Every time you see leave the house with my keys in hand, you would rush and plead in your cutest way that I take you for a ride. You don’t always get what you want, son. I must admit that when ever I leave the house without you at the passenger’s seat, I feel a certain emptiness. How I wish you are always with me during my long drives. I can surely appreciate some quiet company. Hehehehe.

That’s strange, Milo. Whenever you are out of the car you are this “kiti-kiti” of a kid. But whenever you’re inside Daddy’s "Cay"…you are in your most behave mode. As if your ever ready batteries were quickly drained out. You would just sit down, quietly peek out and appreciate the other cars on the road–occasionally letting go your usual admiration for the four wheeled wonder.

You are unlike your kuya Kobe. When he was your age, he is very talkative and would bedazzle me and your Mommy about the “ish” he saw along the Marikina Riverbank road. “Ish-ish!” (Fish yon) was your kuya’s tagline while yours - “Cay-Cay”.

I know someday you will read these corny lines by your Daddy and may not remember the days when you were a little boy obsessed with cars. But I will never forget these memories. It will be always in my mind.

You have a long road to go, my eager little driver….Whatever God has planned for you, I have a feeling that these wonderful times of your childhood is tell-tale sign of the good things to come.


Sunday, October 08, 2006

What does the future holds for this young man....

The year was 1990.

He should be busy in school like any typical UP student but this young man is weighing nails in a hardware store somewhere in the middle of Guimaras Island.

Two more years and he will graduate with a degree in Marketing. Yet even before he finishes, he has known more about marketing than his professors (intellectuals yet have never managed even a sari-sari store). This young man ventured into business early –starting at age 12 while his contemporaries are still engrossed in their childhood games. He already had suffered sleepless nights due to numerous check clearings - a typical trader's pressure point. He was a cashier, salesman, pahenante, cargador and even delivery van driver rolled into one. He was a one man show.

Two years later he was already considered by older traders as a certified volante – one who sells hardware materials (nails, plywoods, cement and other construction materials) - by alsada meaning he buys the stocks on credit from his Chinese suppliers and pays them at the end of day. He relied on saliva capital (laway lang ang capital) and innocent charm that makes the seasoned chinese trader believe in his promises to pay.

At age 14, he was already trusted by his suppliers with thousand of pesos worth of credit line . Imagine a teener haggling with seasoned chinese suppliers for the price of 10mm steel bar- hoping to up his profit margin by a few centavos!

At age 15, he has managed several hardware outlets which have mushroomed from a single store he started in Kalibo, Aklan. Those who witnessed his feat expects him to become rich soon.

Sometimes when this young man goes home aboard the Guimaras-Iloilo ferry, he would stare at sunset and wonder: "Am I destined to be a hardware salesman....forever?". How he wished to experience how is to be in Manila like his cousins. The nightlife, barkadas and all. What did fate had in store for him?

After graduation, he decided to give Manila a try and pursued law studies at the prestigious Ateneo Law School. Fame and fortune as a young salesman were all forgotten in lieu of helping others in legal dire straights.

Now a lawyer and after 15 years from that time he posed at the entrance of his hardware store he looks back and ponder– Did I make the right choice?

Quickly he realize the obvious answer and thank God.


Riding in Cars with the Big Boys

One of the perks of being a lawyer is to be driven by client aboard their luxury vehicles to appointments. In my case, I often ride with my clients - the so-called Big Boys. Adding to this wonderful experience is sitting at the backseat of their luxury cars- BMWs, Mercedezes, Porsches....or sitting on the front seat while your megabuck client does the driving chores..(tsk...tsk...tsk). Most of my clients think that the word "luxury" in luxury car equates to the pleasure of driving these sleek multi-million automobiles...unknown to them sitting on the more comfortable backseat is pure bliss. It is actually an industry secret that backseats of luxury cars are designed to relax the tired fat asses of corporate bosses and taipans. Big car manufacturers have spent billion of dollars seeing to it that passenger comfort is at its best. Design engineers always expect the boss to sit at the backseat just sipping champagne while his driver manuevers the car through horrendous traffic. Sometimes the temptation of imagining things while riding on the back seat is you are being driven by a multi-millionaire - so fantasies are endless. In my fantasy, I bark directions - where to turn or when to stop.. oh my very sweet revenge for the ton of work they give me.


To First Born Sons

The first step, my son, which one makes in the world, is the one on which depends the rest of our days.


I am a first born son…so is my grandfather Beato, the learned; uncle Arthur, the just and nephew Kibboi, the wise. 

It took me until the birth of my own first born child to realize how well loved a first born son is. When Jakob was born, he was an extraordinary sight –a beautiful miracle that makes me thankful to God over anything else. I can clearly remember the first time I laid my eyes on his beautiful face and hold his fragile body close to my heart –feeling each soft heart beat. I also could remember how proud I am to present Jakob to my father Alois and tell him how my son has emulated his grandfather’s boyish charm. Yet my father died without telling him that my first son is named in his honor - after the Biblical character who was considered "Father of Israel" . I really did not want to swell my father’s ego but for me, my father Alois is the "Jakob" or the good father who inspired me throughout the years.

When I look at Jakob, I can go back to my childhood and remember how happy it was. Although that happiness is punctuated by several trials and ups and downs…after weighing them all together I realize that it is still a childhood one could wish for and maybe hope to return to. I smile every time I lecture on my son as I remember how my father has disciplined me. He was always telling me that as the first born child, I have to be an example to my siblings. He echoes what Lola Susing would tell him that losing one first born will be to lose the rest of the siblings. So I learned well from my father’s good advice. I can see that my siblings now have become good individuals because I always followed my father’s command be an example to them.

First born sons are valuable. They mirror the rest of the pack. As a father to two handsome boys, I could lose all riches knowledge and experiences that I have accumulated through years of hard work over my sons- especially for my first born Jakob. Nothing comes close as valuable to him and his brother.

First born sons lead the pack.


Saturday, October 07, 2006

Scourge of the Pasig River

I once been associated with a government agency which deals with the rehabilitation of the Pasig River and its environmental concerns. Although it is not a top secret agency with unlimited funds and nosy secret agents, it is considered one of the powerful environment watch dogs for Metro Manila and four other provinces. For obvious reasons, I hesitate to divulge its name.When I was appointed as adviser of its special task force on pollution control, I was inevitably entangled with the Pasig River and the majestic Laguna Lake where the growing metropolis empties its load of vomit and toxic goo. Even a shitty job (worse than calling it a thankless job) offers a few perks. Among these privileges is to travel along the dying river aboard the agency's speedboat (airconditioned and fast for Philippine standards). During a trip with some foreign VIP, we started at the Manila Yatch Club and sliced through Manila Bay into the mouth of Pasig River at Parola, Tondo. The trip along the the murky waters of the Pasig River was slow and agonizing. Yet, there are sights to behold along the old Aduana. The old buildings of a forgotten Manila caught my attention. There is Bureau of Immigrations building at Intramuros with its unique architecture that dates back to the Commonwealth era. Another is the enigmatic Jones Bridge which sits as a formidable sight along the river's initial stretch. I tried to concentrate a little harder and started to picture an entirely beautiful scenery that exists in the times of Rizal and Bonifacio. A river that rivals the grand Thames and idyllic Siennes. It is crissossed by bancas and steamships that ferried people from Manila to the nearby provinces. There are a variety of fishes which playfully thrive in its clear blue green water. All combined to paint a breathtaking scenery. But my thoughts are short lived and I am facing a bleak reality- the foul smell of Binondo's urine (that creeps into our airconditioned cabin), the dead dogs and cats that float along flotilla of water lilies. As we inches deep into Pasig River, I saw the decaying scenery that has resulted from years of neglect by the local and national governments. The majesty is now damned with the squatter colonies which cling helplessly along the banks. The old structures which once stirred men's fantasies are left to rot away with each year's passing.

As we were in the middle of our trip, i noticed a sudden shiver in our boat's engine. I was told we were passing the fortress of Malacanang Palace - the residence of our President. Even if we were also a government agency, we still have to pass through heavy security check and watchful eyes of the Presidential Security Group. It took us to an even slower crawl. No pictures can be taken. No body would even take along look at palace for the fear of being suspected as a coup plotter. What a bummer!! For the rest of our trip, i pondered on what has just beckoned. Now i know why Pasig River has been neglected and seldomly used as thoroughfare for Manilenos. If passing through the Malacanang perimeter will subject each boat and ship to security check, passenger ferry business will surely fold up in a matter of days. Well, thats the real score if we are going to pit the security of the President and the state of the river that most Metro Manilan's hope to be rehabilated. 

We have to admit the location of Malacanang Palace along the Pasig River is a big hindrance to the latter's development. Our good President should look for other places to cool her heels. Surely there would be a lot of fitting sites - maybe even outside of Metro Manila. Malacanang does not need the Pasig River to define it. It can totally exist without the river. On the other hand, the Pasig River cannot freely realize its full potentials if there is a huge stumbling block that drives away its well wishers. Until the offices of the big bosses at Malacanang palace are located elsewhere, Pasig River remains a high security zone and people unfriendly. Without the admiration, the dying river will helplessly fade into oblivion.


I did not Shoot the Don!

I got the adventure juice from my parents.  My late father is the real Dr. Indiana Jones, a perfect posterboy for the Boys Scouts.  My mother is  actually Amelia Earheart - a superwoman who is able to go through any myriad of trials yet able to come back in one piece.  Somehow their passion for trailblazing new frontiers has found its way to my veins. Their superpower genes have transformed me into a "super adventurer lawyer" who finds joy in accompanying my clients to mining sites and far flung towns for some legal action.  Mine sites? Far flung towns? Well, yes. Lawyering for me is boring if confined in an airconditioned office and pounding computer keyboards no end. So when my client told me to inspect mining lands in Negros Occidental, it is never hard to say no. Even if it takes taking off my Kenneth Coles midway in a muddy sugarcane field and hike through sharp and pointy rocks trail at mid-day. A valuable incentive  in all my ragtag out of town adventures is all beautiful sceneries along the way. Enchanting places and experiences that no amount of attorney's fees can match (Well..maybe a cool  Php 100 Million and a BMW  X-5...nahhh).

One of these places is the dreamy mountain town of Don Salvador in Central Negros Island. Located halfway between Murcia and Juleslandia (San Carlos City), this is one strip that will make Madame Assunta fall in love all over again. Don Salvador rivals picturesque Baguio City with its cool weather, rows of pine trees and unspoiled mountain sides. Unlike Baguio's balding and polluted landscape, Don Salvador's is pristine and majestic. It has even a viewing area which gives one a view of  an engaging waterfalls that seems to drip out of the mountain side. As I was in a hurry to meet with the Mayor of Calatrava, I decided to proceed first to my appointment and shoot the scenery on the way back.  BIG mistake....Why a big mistake? Well my DSLR conked out. On the way back, somewhere between the water falls and San Carlos City is a weird looking sight that does not fail in getting any commuter's attention. A weird looking tree which stands on the middle of the highway. This tree is very special that the road constructors must have intentionally spared it - not cutting it down but designed the road to avoid it - making it an island in the process. I immediately told our driver to stop so I can take a picture. Before manong driver can blurt an objection - there I go - the compulsive shooter rushing to the middle of the highway and aiming my DSLR at the tree. There bad luck struck...the shutter wont just fire!!!! I just stood there puzzled. I went back to the car empty handed and  frustrated. Back in the car, manong driver was about to give me scolding for pulling the stunt. But sensing that I am still the boss, all he can muster is a belated word of caution -: never dare to shoot a haunted tree on the middle of the road. Well, I am a fellow ilonggo so I know what he meant.

Mariit ang kahoy nga ina!

And so your camera suffered the worst fate -falling to a sort of magic spell which twisted its springs mirrors and circuit boards. It just gave up when I still have a number of scenes to shoot on the way back to Bacolod. I refused to believe the mariit story but who really nows? Looking back that was my first costly lesson in photography.....tsk tsk tsk.
Fektyur Fektyur!!!

A friend of mine once told me that an emotional crossroad appears when a guy reaches his mid 30s. I I think i am in that phase right now. After 10 years of law practice, I want to do something different with my life. Something totally opposite to what i consider an "uncreative"profession. I am reminded of what Richard Gere's Pretty Woman character said about "not building anything". That made him to change his ways and started building something even if he has to do this with his rival. How I wish I can walk barefoot on grass just like what Richard did in one scene.What a liberating feeling! Unshackled from pressures of expectations and the cut throat competition to the top. Hmmm..the film also reminded me that the real villain in that film is a stout bald and good for nothing lawyer!!!

I am always the creative type- I want to carve something out of boring situations. This is a no-no for lawyers. We cannot be magicians....although a lot of our kind has succeeded handsomely. One morning i woke up and decided to pursue photography!! This thought hit me so fast that I was instantly convinced to search the internet for a second hand digital camera (I already have a film camera which has a year old film inside it!!!). At first, i thought i was a fruitless pursuit as I do not have enough budget to purchase even a decent camera. Luck struck when i come across a seller in one of the popular photography online forums . He was selling his camera half the price of the most basic dslrs. Darn that was a confirmation!!! My next step is entails a miracle -forcing water out of the stone - eeking a gadget budget from my wife. Hehehehe. Well, maybe my asking her to accompany me to a camera store has conditioned her to the thought that brand new cameras are way beyond our "garbo" budget. Telling her that I will be satisfied with a "pre-owned" camera half the price of a new one is a fair bargain. After reassuring my wife, I have conquered Bataan!! Thank God giving me a wife who also is  supportive of my creative vice!!!! (sipsip!).I was excited to purchase my first DSLR - a second hand..err..pre-owned Canon EOS 300D. I read somewhere that it boast of a respectable 6.3 megapixel CMOS to which I was reassured by somebody this is a few pixels difference from the brand new ones having 8 megapixel DSLR is no big deal. Well, thats a difference of 1,700,000 pixels put into trust. But with my budget, i could not ask for anything more. Actually, it did not bother me as I was just excited to test my new second hand camera. For days to follow, I was in a shooting rampage - I shooting anything that moves. Would you beleive I also enrolled myself in Jo Avila's Basic Photography class. I'm totally bitten by the photography bug!! Soon, the 50mm lens followed and the Photoline bag that cost me 450 pesos! Now that i am in a mad streak for photography i am not minding where this direction will take me.Shoot shoot and shoot until the camera's batteries run dry!!!


Remembering Guimaras

I always have a soft spot for this island. I grew up admiring it from my bedroom window at Monja Compound in Iloilo City.   There was Balaan Bukid and its magnificent cross that jives with the setting sun.  It was a scene as classic as my mother's painting collection.

I do not know what is with Guimaras that endeared our family to make it a significant part of our lives.  For one we owned a rural bank in the town of  Jordan. My father bought it with closed eyes from its previous owners. Well, it was in the 1970s and money was not that scarce. As a consequence, my mother who managed it (poor her!) has to cross the Iloilo Straight two times a day. Thats ten times a week!! But then my mother grew accustomed with her daily trips to Guimaras. She rode all sorts of floating vessels to the island - from the big Fel-Am ferryboat with names like Island Hopper and Loadstar to outtriggers dubbed Don John and Kevin Lee. Thats my mother - the unsung adventurer. Hey, did I tell you about the day when the car she and her staff are riding was nearly smashed into bits by a Panay Railways train? It happened while they waiting to board a Fel Am Ferryboat at the Iloilo Aduana. Well, that a whole different story.

As our parents heavily invested on the island, so did their children. During my college days, I opened two hardware stores in the island. One in Jordan and another in Alibjon (San Miguel). Like my mother, I frequented the island to sell all sorts of knick knacks. Sacks of cement and fertilizer, boxes of nails and pails of paint. That was my usual inventory. To think that I was only 16 years old then! It was doing good until a big fire gutted 90% of Alibhon public market forcing us to close shop. I was not able to return to selling nails bolts and GI sheets for good. Yet, I missed my sukis, the day of tienda, our next door Bukay's Batchoy, Nanding's special roasted salty pork belly and yes...the free wheeling downhill motorcycle ride all the way from the IBC Transmitter to somewhere near Jordan's cemetery. But then some good things have to end.

After law school, I went back to develop one of our properties at an idyllic cove at Barangay Dolores, Nueva Valencia. We called it the Guisi Property. It was one of the nicest inland beaches there is. White sand with deep blue green waters at the middle of a natural swimming pool. I never went swimming there though...I am careful not to sully the water (joke only). It was just that beautiful. Like threading over an immaculate fabric. Experiencing its pristine beauty is pure euphoria. I tried to developed it to an eco-toruism spot but so far no takers. Maybe they would wonder -where the heck is Guimaras?  Well, thats fine. On the other hand, few or no tourists will keep it an exclusive hideaway. If I am given one chance to be selfish...I will treasure this place all to myself.