11.07.2020

A usual 30-minute drive from Legazpi to Guinobatan, Albay took us an hour due to the moderate traffic caused by road mishaps; in one town, a truck caught low hanging wires in the road. These are some of the aftermath of the storm Rolly along with misaligned electric poles in the highway.

The weather was gloomy when we arrived at San Francisco, Guinobatan. It is one of the most affected areas by Rolly with lost lives and destroyed houses. There was a rush at the vicinity as everyone was being asked by the City Hall Officer to leave in preparation for another low pressure condition in the region.

We were advised to go to the evacuation center where the families are housed temporarily, including Salvador Manrique. Salvador is the father of Samuel Manrique, a boy whose body was swept away by the flood and was found 25 kilometres away from their home, unclothed and on the ground. I was deeply saddened by the news that the burial of Samuel was held yesterday. I didn’t make it.

Following a patrolman, we headed to the center where, similary, there was a commotion. The community was being evacuated into a new facility situated on a higher land. I and my companion Hiroki, walked along the pathways of the center and handed out relief packs to whoever we saw. Some were waving and were calling us. Some were preparing their belongings, waiting in front of their rooms, about to hop on a military vehicle…

Then finally, I went to the quarter where Salvador and his remaining children were staying.

“We find meaning in life by giving.” A word that remained in my heart from a recent conversation with a confidant.

Grief. We don’t know when will it last.

Hope.

Photographed on phone here are among those who are keeping shelter at the MORMS Evacuation Center, Guinobatan Albay. Please help them if you can.

Thank you to everyone who bought my photograph from LAWIG and those who supported this cause.

The Locals

Portraits from Albay, Philippines and Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Rebecca

Photographed using Nikon F90 analog camera and Kodak Portra 400. Which version airs a more cryptic mood?

Pathways. Venice. 2012.

The sudden pause in our world has allowed me to slow down and to revisit the photographs from the past.

Here I am sitting in an old wooden chair writing this note on my laptop stationed on a similarly old wooden table. My abode is small, perfect for one person. Minimal — a cabinet holds my clothes, bed stands to a wall, plants, while a shoe rack greets visitors at the front door. The kitchenette connects to the comfort room by blue painted walls. My landlady must have adored the sky and the sea and its endless horizon.

I should be somewhere now. Perhaps in London or in another place where I have photography work. And yet I have been in this neighborhood for some time. It is the longest period that I have stayed in my home country, Philippines, for the past 8 years. I am not complaining. I am, maybe (long pause), just bored and longing for an adventure.

It is now 11:49 in the evening and here I am, still at the same spot, wondering what can I write? About Venice exploration and those ancient facades, mayhap? Or the hint of light in those pathways that can represent hope in our time?

New e-mail notification. Opened. Read . . .

12:23 a.m. I still cannot figure out what to write. Perhaps tomorrow when I wake up.

9:55 a.m. Good Morning.

Sipping my coffee while I hear the chicken crooning its sunrise song, even at this hour ( as if it too has lost track of time). Adding tones to my ears, is the slow dripping of water rhythmically filling a pail.

It started to rain. There is a storm in the province.

On to a good read – Naomi Campbell for the cover of the November issue of American Vogue. Isn’t she great? An icon. A symbol of diversity and of bravery. I’ve seen her few times during fashion shows, off and on the runway. Her presence, her command — it is incredible. Naomi Campbell is a dream to photograph.

By the time I finish my coffee, I am halfway through reading the article. By the time I finish the story, the pail is full.

What was I going to write again? Oh, Venice and pathways.

Santigwar

We met Mommy Tess, a para-santigwar ( folk healer ) who uses oil, plate, and candle in her traditional healing practice. She narrated her story to us and showed the ritual. What I remember most from the conversation is her conviction while she was explaining pagtubod ( faith ). Without absolute faith in the divine power and in santigwar, healing isn’t certain. You may read the story at LAWIG

How are you, my creative friends?

Today is World Mental Health Day.

I must admit, I am prone to prolonged deep thinking, day dreaming…

Isn’t that common to us, fellow artists?

When we created this story, “The Mirror Has Two Faces”, the idea was to explore two personalities in singular persona – one that is romantic, free and light and the other is constricted, dark, sinister – through dance and fashion photography.

Mental health as a subject or a starting point for a fashion editorial or show has been a debate in the creative industry. Remember the cover of Vogue Portugal “Madness Issue” that was pulled out last August? Or the Gucci runway show, September 2019, where one of the models walked, palm showing scripted with “mental health is not fashion” ?

“The Mirror Has Two Faces” was not an intended depiction of the matter. But, when I saw the result, I was concerned that it may have presented or romanticised it, and that it won’t be run by the magazine. How would the readers interpret those series of images?

From then on, I learned to be more cautious of where I take inspirations for my fashion stories. Though, it goes back to what the mind can only see – the otherworldly, the dreamy, the fantasy.

LAWIG

My everyday view since the lockdown, end of March, plus the result of regular running and home work out – down to 72 kg – photographed against that charming rooftop, owned by a fitness comrade. I’m quite proud of what I have achieved.

Some low moments during this period of uncertainty. Who doesn’t have, anyway? Long term plans were canceled that brought forth lost resources and opportunities. Mine included a residency application in Spain and photographer’s representation in London, which I processed earlier this year. Bummer!

While my creative journey has been a source of joy and reward, its unpredictability bothers me at times. More so, now.

Today, as I woke up, I pinched myself, picked up that spirit of optimism and stood with courage again.

Playing it by ear and see what the future holds.

For the meantime, follow @lawigstories for creative produce.

Dear Little Self

With about 30 years of age difference, here are two of many things I can impart to you :

  1. Go and get it cobber!
  2. Don’t forget to dance, laugh, and enjoy the moments with friends in your life. The memories will last forever.

Dear Photographs

4 years ago, I woke up to the saddest call in my life. On that same day, I took a flight from London to the Philippines. Broken heart. Empty soul. Suddenly, I lost my my best friend.

The tears from the pain, longing, loss… they fall until now.

The Meaning of Life.
October 2016.
Esquire Singapore.

Hope

I traveled around Southeast Asia and photographed many faces, fashion, cultures, and landscapes.

This set of images stands out the most.

In the last portrait, young monks rest on the fortress like keepers of the remains of Angkor Wat Temple. Full of hope.

2011.