Seven years ago I set foot here in Bacolod City. The city of smiles. I roamed the place, but I never saw the streets. It’s a thrill when the city remains the same and — the photographer does not.
A Frenchman once asked how come Filipinos are on a roll in BlackandWhiteStreet. His curiosity stems from the popular street photography website’s tab which shows Pinoys are among the top ten in individual ranking and with the Philippines in the top three for country ranking (first is India). I told him: aside from the fact that we have a lot of brilliant photographers, Manila — the place and the people that is — is excellent for street photography. In Paris, they have rules when shooting in public places. In Beijing, you have to be unseen when shooting at people otherwise they might come up against you. In Manila, you have to be unseen when shooting at people otherwise they will strike a pose.
So far, leading the Filipino pack are Jayvee Sotto Mataro and Ateneo Sta. Ines ( “Ka Teni” to many, this guy is surrounded by fascinating details only he has the ability to see.) Anyway, RANKING in BlackandWhiteStreet does not neccessarily constitute the presence of an inter-national competition. When it comes to photography, all are actually one nation.
Last Saturday I took the time to join these big guns at Scott Kelby’s WORLDWIDE PHOTOWALK (WWPW) in Manila. The ‘walk’, led by FUJIFILM ambassador Rommel Bundalian, covers the Malate and Ermita area. From the Rajah Sulayman Shrine to Rizal Park and back. Unfortunately for me, I have to take off so soon (nautusan lang bumili ng suka).
But not without a few clicks:
Dominador Jacolbe a.k.a Jun Jacob, the lone Pinoy admin for BlackandWhitestreet.
Rommel Bundalian encircled by a posse of FUJIFILM bugs.
“I love you papa.” My 16-year old señorita texted me.
“Love you too. Don’t you have any homework?” I messaged back.
“None. I’m just missing you.”
So I gave her a call, and caught her sobbing. I asked what’s wrong.
The lesson for today is about FAMILY. She told me how she opened up about hers in the class. How she have been without her father for a very long time now. How it’s like to be a collateral damage of a broken home. How she bursts in to tears in front of everybody. And how her talk ended with the teacher’s warm embrace.
Stormy Saturday didn’t kept me from showing up at Casa Tesoro — the seat of tribal art and antiquities in Ermita. This is upon Ms. Mai Saporsantos’ invitation for a VIP preview of 1335Mabini’s LIFE OF PERISH. A multi-media exhibit featuring the works of internationally distinguished Pinoy contemporary artists. (You read it right vee-ahy-pee preview) Funny I was just mulling over — prior to the invitation — how arts and culture has been dying out in the Malate and Ermita area. And in the process, I discovered Manila Nostalgia. It’s a gas! Plus I also came across some short fascinating details behind the chic Casa Tesoro, on how arts and antiques dealer Maria Closa toughs it out to keep the landmark alive. See what the rains can give you.
Anyway, Life of Perish runs up to October 31st. And — without further ado — let me walk you through the opuses inside the Casa.
At the Zn Gallery: EL INTRUSO/ENTREMETIDO. A group exhibition curated by Guillermo Paneque featuring works by Poklong Anading, Roberto Bellini, Anna Katrina Beltran, Roberto Chabet, Maria Cruz, David Griggs, Nilo Ilarde, Robert Langenegger, Manuel Ocampo, Jayson Oliveria, Maria Taniguchi and MM Yu, a film by Jorgen Leth, speakers and caps collected by Romeo Lee, and a selection of found objects and rumours.
B.A.R Gallery: LIFE OF PERISH. Multi-media exhibit by Yason Banal, Vic Balanon, Broke with The Sleepyheads, Lyra Garcellano, and Maya Muñoz which includes painting, video, photography, sculpture, performance, and music exploring the sublime moment of time in the construction of identity, memory, form, and pleasure.
All art requires courage. The name is boss.
My genuine thanks to Mai Saporsantos for an evening of aesthetics.
I’ve just started BLACK AND WHITE MANILA. It’s all about capturing human activities in the concrete jungles of Manila featuring Juan de la Cruz, the common tao, the hoi polloi,the bad off and the bountiful, the lovers and the breadwinners,the bitters and the blessed, the biggies or the nobodies and so much more.
This is black and white street photography around the baffling corners of city. Join us!
I was traveling on a jeepney one evening when a man flagged the vehicle down, went to the driver and asked to drop a boy off in Sta. Cruz. After handing over a small change, he then signaled the kid to jump in. The kid — coming into sight with the jeepney’s very poor lighting — turns out to be a street kid. A common street urchin. A regular homeless youth. Soiled, tattered, barefoot, and with a shirt overextending to his knees. Manila is crawling with bums like this. And they — or at least most of them — are awful on the street. They’re ill-behaved, they beg, they shit anywhere. Worse, they rob people.
And so the little boy, after finding an empty spot, rested his behind. Oblivious with the other passengers who were all eyes on him. His air was arresting everybody’s attention. It’s not everyday a ragamuffin rides with people. Then, unexpectedly, the ragamuffin made the sign of the cross. Closed his eyes, and whispered a prayer. We were all blown away. Can you believe this guy, there’s a myriad of scarecrows out there and this one is simply filled with faith and optimism.
There’s still hope for mankind after all.
Incidentally, I have just finished my collection of shots from the coast of Sagñay in Camarines Sur which features some scenes of what kids — the more fortunate ones as against the ragamuffin — in this cool beach town is so preoccupied with at a given point in time:
Looking back at the ragamuffin boy makes these young people here seem well blessed. They have a more desirable environment, they have better things to do than beg or loiter on the streets and — top it all — even the stone-broke here has something for their feet.
Just when I was dwelling upon this quixotic idea of shooting for freelance photojournalism, this ugly scene sprung up on my path — like a genie in a bottle — this bloody Sunday morning, Intramuros Manila:
In all honesty after this third shot my head snapped to look the other way — as though a blast twisted my neck — lest I’d catch sight of a bloody spectacle. Or the worst part of it.
When I turned to look back, a small crowd have quickly stepped in.