WHOOPEE

From where I strut is the Rinconada integrated irrigation system — an outstretched waterway right at the foothills of Mount Asog here in Iriga; rendezvous for bathing or doing the laundry. Who says you can’t wash your dirty linen in public?

I started shooting around and the kids scampered to show off their platform diving skills.

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Meanwhile, a few meters up ahead on the same canal is a team of damulags enjoying the waters first-hand!

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MARBLE TOWN

Old folks used to tell about whenever babies look beyond you and giggle, they’re being touched by an angel. I think babies are angels themselves; their wings diminish as their limbs start to grow. When Michelangelo saw an angel in a marble, he immediately carved it right out of it’s stone.

Anyone can be an angel. In San Ramon, I took notice of this young man who was tireless in tending the needs of the people in the town cemetery. It was almost Todos Los Santos and everyone wanted their gardens well-prepared. He was everywhere. 

It’s awesome to be blessed, but some people really prefers to be a blessing. My way of giving the hand a big hand:

San Ramon Cemetery, Iriga City by Elmer Nev Valenzuela

IF YOU CAN’T SAVE TIME IN A BOTTLE

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When hell becomes workplace, heaven would be just across the street. Five hundred miles more and it’s vacation.

Vacay. Heaven.

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I looked back at the city and I see zombieland. Nice to be back to human flesh again. How do you savor every minute of it?

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You can’t save time in a bottle.

But you can take a walk with your camera.

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CREATIVITY AND CAMERA-DERIE

I have been going through my files from last Saturday’s Scott Kelby WorldWide Photowalk hoping I’d pick something worthy of an entry to the photo competition. Nada.

Not that I have failed though. It’s just that I had 200 shots that didn’t worked.

Still, I settled for this “headless” figure I came across the pavements of Sta. Cruz as I was about to take off from the engagement. A shameless submission actually.

The annual photowalk is a social event where we meet up with fellow photographers, walk around, shoot, meet new friends, dig the streets, and basically have fun. This year, I went out with the maestros and some noobs of Litratista sa Daan — the most prominent assembly of street photographers in the country.

We even feasted on a Chinese spread afterwards.

But somehow — amid all the camaraderie — I must have forgotten about that old magic wand called creativity.

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STREETRATO: SHARING THE BEAUTY OF BLACK & WHITE STREET PHOTOGRAPHY

MUNING by Ateneo Sta Ines

MUNING by Ateneo Sta. Ines

Ateneo Sta. Ines, or “Teni” to his circle, bumped into me one evening as I was getting high on a Rey Valera live performance inside this mall. This was during the kickoff of KLM Philippines and DPP Magazine’s OnAssignment photo competition where photographers will pair up as a team and show off their works in a video format. They’re giving away an all-expenses paid photography trip to Europe on this. As they always do.

So I asked if he’s got a teammate already and he said none and then asked me the same question. We ended up in a coffee and two weeks of photo-video-editing collaboration. Our finished product I labeled “STREETRATO.” From his own mind actually. A crafty amalgamation of street and ritrato (portrait).

Yet I was wondering all along how could it happen that such a big name in Philippine street photography be caught without a team. Teni — to SP — is a boss. If it’s by a roll of the dice that we tie up on this one, then I shall lead you to our entry — only if you’ll promise to hit the SHARE button and kick us both to Prague.

Without further ado, please enjoy https://www.facebook.com/elmernev/videos/10207992846763520/?pnref=story

PHOTOCOMMUTE MANILA

For this year’s Scott Kelby WorldWide Photowalk I will be joining Mr. Joel Mataro’s lead featuring a spin around the metro via the controversial railway systems: the Yellow Line(LRT1) and the Blue Line(MRT). That’s if these light rails would still be functional by October 3. It is essential we train our lenses on the trains.

The photowalk will loop around the Pasay Rotonda → Cubao → Recto Stations and back, plus a walk around each brief stops for some snaps. Click here for full details.

Now here’s the challenge: these are no-photography facilities. Light Rail Authorities are not too crazy over photographers hanging around their setup. Anyway, you know what they say about “If you obey all the rules…”

Aaand now, here’s a snack before the meal:

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FIVE ON THE FLOOR: STREET PHOTOGRAPHY GROUNDS, MANILA

In ’59, Vivian Maier walked Manila — regarded as Paris of the East once upon a time. The place was a lot nicer then: people don’t tinkle anywhere, and the streets don’t reek of humanure. If it’s street photography that brought her here, we have yet to lay eyes on her opuses. And we’re looking forward to it all — big-eyed. How was it from the lens of the enigmatic photographer..

For all we know, it’s awesome to have her roaming the place (like, of all the gin joints in the world she comes into mine). Although apparently, Manila has been an ideal place for urban photography even before your Lolo began courting your Lola. You don’t believe me.

Today, Manila has gone to the dogs. But still a classic hole for street photography nonetheless. You see, street togs are strange species. And if Vivian Maier were to walk Manila today, she would surely fall for any — if not all — of these popular, most frequented, photowalk-worn SP grounds:

5. Luneta & Intramuros
The Walled City is generally a peaceful place to walk your camera. Don’t mind the image below, it’s just an isolated case of a drinking spree gone sour. Rizal Park and Intramuros taken together is a tourist area and, as such, a photographer’s turf.  People roam with cameras hanging around their neck here if that would make you feel better about the place.

Arzobispo corner Anda Street, Intramuros. A drinking spree gone sour.

Arzobispo corner Anda Street, Intramuros. A drinking spree gone sour.

4. CCP Complex & Roxas Boulevard
The Cultural Center of the Philippines structure is a favorite among the graphic or impressionist types mainly because of its architectural patterns, shadows or textures. If there is one most street-photographed edifice in Manila, this could be it.

And the joy doesn’t stop there. There is a lot of visual experience around the complex and into the stretch of Baywalk in Roxas Boulevard. The promenade is perfect to train your eyes in picking subjects from a crowd. Go pick your jump-off point.

Crushed-seashell textured walls of the Cultural Center of the Philippines

Crushed-seashell textured walls of the Cultural Center of the Philippines

3. Ermita & Malate
What used to be the red light district of Manila back in the days is holding on to its reputation. A when-life-is-making-you-lonely-you-can-always-go place. A bit treacherous area for the not so street-smart. Still, one of the choice street photography grounds in the city that, well, never sleeps.

Mabini Street, Malate. Caffeine deprivation

Mabini Street, Malate. Caffeine deprivation

2. Quiapo & Sta. Cruz
The most popular street photography ground in Manila. Feast your lenses in this area of organized chaos of trade, culture, religion, street foods, spiritualism and lawlessness. Although these places are — for the most part — safe for doing streets, never let your guards down, ever.

Soutbound, northbound Quezon Boulevard underpass Quiapo, Manila

Soutbound, northbound Quezon Boulevard underpass Quiapo, Manila

1. Binondo
Probably the best place to document the walks of life in Manila. Escolta to Chinatown to Divisoria. Manila’s most densely populated area where social order is a jumble; a convergence zone of commerce, underground economies, traffic, awesome food strips and — again — criminal elements. There’s a mother lode of stunning street photography in this district in store only for the inspired eye.

Ongpin Street, Binondo. Don't let the beauty pass you by.

Ongpin Street, Binondo. Don’t let the beauty pass you by.

Make no mistake, street photography in Manila is not limited only to these five venues in the same manner as Street Photography is not defined only to “streets.” It’s a big city and the wellspring for creativity is almost boundless.

When people ask me what equipment I use – I tell them my eyes, anonymous said.

When people ask me what equipment I use – I tell them my eyes, anonymous said.

What used to be a city so small people put it simply as the north side of the Pasig River and the south side of the Pasig River was also referred to as the Queen of the Pacific. So many reasons for Vivian Maier to shoot around. But that was way, way back the Rolleiflex era. When anyone can create postcard-worthy snapshots of the capital like nothing.

And then, Manila became a dump. Nothing is worth photographing anymore. Thanks to street photography, we were able to squeeze some art and fascination out of the mire this city has sunk into.

IRIGA CITY IN A SNAP

Iriga city is fairly an uncomplicated little town — you come in from one end and, before you know it, you’re already leaving on the other. Every destination is a walking distance; you get to chance upon the same faces anywhere you go. Most likely you’ll bump into the town mayor at 7-Eleven.

Fishball vendor rolling fast on Iriga-Baao Road, Iriga City.

The streets blare at daybreak and — in a short while — quiets back down when everyone’s gone about their businesses.

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Pedicab umbrella turned upside down in San Francisco, Iriga City

Crammed tricycle in Iriga City

By businesses, I include those “chores” that keep the locals absorbed in their thoughts.

Chess match on the street, Iriga City

Landscape artist, Iriga City

I make it a point to bring the camera with me all the time — even when taking out the garbage. There is no telling what phenomenons await the streets of Iriga.

But when the habagat kept me in for nearly an entire week, I somehow managed to find some window of opportunity for Streets.

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Or get butt-naked under the sun.

Lourdes Hospital, Iriga City

Each morning I take the Cereal Killer to the Lads and Lassies Learning Center; with the camera at the ready (as umbrella is to rain). You can’t let grade-school moments just pass you by.

Unfortunately, the little man hates getting his pictures taken! So I turn to some kids hanging around instead.

Lads and Lassies Learning Center, Iriga City

Lads and Lassies Learning Center, Iriga City

Suddenly it’s nightfall all over again. Time flies when you’re having fun with your cam — on and off the beaten track.

Railway tracks, Iriga City

Tinagba Park, Iriga City

Tinagba Park, Iriga City

Iriga City is home-away-from-second-home. What the future holds here, it’s going to be a shot in the dark.

NOW BACK TO THE STREETS

I’ve just come from the land of siling labuyo. Where internet service is extremely poor and the weather was not so permitting for whoever walks with a camera. It’s good to be away from all the digitization for a while. At least I thought it would save me from this menacing “digital eye strain” sort. My eyes — of all the senses.

Alighting at Harrison Plaza, I tried a color test on this kaleidoscopic wall. I’m going back to the streets this long weekend. And, Taka Suzuki — if you’re getting this — message me, let’s go. Photowalk, anyone?

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GIVING

I traveled back to Pulilan a few Sundays ago in search for the piscator — the unwitting subject for my Rio de Quingua winning shot — and to surprise him with a tiny portion from my prize money. It’s called balato, in a classic Filipino sense.

He was asleep when I found him in their humble shack just underneath the bridge; so I introduced myself to the wife and kids instead and told them the whole story. She was so grateful when I handed her the small amount saying now we can buy rice!

But what really broke her down to tears was when she found out I have come a long way for this.

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THE PISCATOR

One daybreak in April, I stood on the pedestrian walkway of the long Angat River Bridge, waiting for some universal force to fix me a picture-perfect scene. It was the closing days of the RIO DE QUINGUA NATIONAL PHOTOGRAPHY COMPETITION — a photo event featuring the deteriorating Angat River (formerly Rio de Quingua). I was hoping I could snap something and raise a few eyebrows.

The walkway clings just beneath the eastern deck of the bridge, which bears the North Luzon Expressway. From where I creep, it’s basically in-between a rampaging highway and a peaceful waterway.

I didn’t come here to fish, but they say good things come to those who bait. Weeks earlier, I set foot for the first time here in this Pulilan town, thirty miles north of Manila. Signed up for the competition, slipped into my life vest and embarked on a boat ride on the winding Angat river in search for a winning shot. The contest may be costly but there hasn’t been a photo event this pleasurable. To be out there is prize enough. As I have often insist, there ought to be a river ride in one’s lifetime.

After hours of shooting, I went back to Manila — unfulfilled. My images were just like everyone else’s. I skimmed through all my shots and found nothing. Except for a flicker of thought that would make me go back for a re-shoot: the waters of Angat are remarkably rippleless at the first flush of morning; in soothing jet-black tone; ebon as storm clouds. And there is no better angle to capture this beauty than from above. The Angat River bridge might just provide a good perspective.

I traveled back to Pulilan and headed right away into my ambush position behind the railings. The walkway felt like giving in to the violent surge of traffic as it spans the full breadth of the Angat. The jet-black river mirroring the half-lit skies as usual. Farther down the course, a figure splits into two. Boatmen!

One of them coasted into dimness, while the other paddled straight into my direction. A simple composition is all I’m after. The serenity of Angat river joined with a human element, that’s all. One piscator and that would be it.

I took a deep breath as he closes in on below me. Who knows how fleeting this would be. In a short while he’d be deep, hidden underneath the bridge, gone from my field of view.

My arms trembled with the heavy poundings on the bridge. I need to take the shot and I need it sharp. If the structure would come crashing down behind me, I don’t really mind anymore.

Suddenly, the boat stopped.

A brief commotion.

I clicked.

Another shot.

A third shot.

And he was gone.

THE PISCATOR by Elmer Nev Valenzuela

THE PISCATOR by Elmer Nev Valenzuela

The result ended up just as I have visualize it to be — simple and minimal. A bird’s-eye view to exhibit the placid waters and to lay bare his measly catch.

However, it was fortunate to have been charmed with a SURPRISE ELEMENT — the circular sprinkles created by the ringed trawl. It created a clashing effect with the perfectly still waters of Angat. It has become the most important detail in the scene. An essential feature that — I believe — made the impact. The x-factor.

On May 13, the image was awarded the second spot in the competition. Woot! Seeing the great number of pros who went out for the challenge and knowing the judges had a hard time picking the winners and considering my busted auto-focus and crappy eyesight, this has been a big, big, BIG deal. Whatevs, I have come a long way for this. Maybe one day I’ll ask myself how.

RIO DE QUINGUA TROPHY

Life is so full of trouble you just got to freak out on those days when you’re in La-la-land

PHOTOWALK PULILAN

Hours before the parade, the crowds have already amassed themselves on both sides of the road. It was the much awaited annual Carabao Festival of Pulilan. No scorching summer heat can keep them from witnessing the event.

Sadly though, when the first column of carabaos started rolling in, a heavy bunch of photographers crossed the barricade line and mobbed the parade like madmen. Depriving people of a good view of the spectacle. Mindless of the calls to get their arses off. How did it ever came down to this.

As a gesture of silent protest to this kind of behavior — as well as to the organizer’s incompetence in crowd control — I have denied myself of the attraction and trained my lens instead on the poor Bulakeño audiences.

Nganga.

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There ought to be ethics in a photographer’s lifetime.