Our house is like part of the town plaza, among the beings frequently dotting the park specially on Sundays are photographers. They are what I have learned to call the click-and-collect cameramen. With them, a stroll in the plaza could be more-than just a memory when with and only if there's a few peso which they call "patinga" - a down payment. Manong Donio and Manong Ben would do the measured clicking to capture the moments with their aged boxes but still bankable tools. They have been my friends- my first mentors in photography.
It was Susan Sontag who said,"to collect photographs is to collect the world. Movies and television programs light up walls, flicker, and go out; but with still photographs the image is also an object, lightweight, cheap to produce, easy to carry about, accumulate, store." And as we store them in our family albums, pictures have this power to bring us home - to where our hearts could feel the blessing of nostalgia.
Today, no one could be as good as Manong Ben (Benjamin Montalban) when it comes to his manual "photoshop" touch. He could transform a humble barrio girl into a Nida Blanca. The black-and- white prints with his set of lowly colors were like Sampaguita Pictures' window preview. His studio,specially the dark room, was part of my playground. My childhood treasure collection included the empty black film containers.
When I had my first camera, the carabaos at the riverside were my first subjects. I did not even know the shots were to become my first landscapes.
Two years ago, Shalom of National Geographic and I went to cover the Holy Week celebration in Boljoon, the oldest church in Cebu island. These pictures that I took felt like home:
LUIS C: alone, myself, again away
from that other self in the city
On this piece of ancestor land
My pulses slowed, I am at peace
I have no wish but this place
To remain here in stopped time
With stars trembling on that water
And in the sky a brightness
Answering: I want nothing else
But this stillness filling me
From a pure darkness over the land
That smells ever freshly of trees
The night and I are quiet now
But for small laughter from aneighbor
The quick sweep of a winged creature
And a warm dog, snuggled by my feet.