Monday, November 26, 2012

The UP Photographers Society (through my eyes)

The Society was formed in the early days of December in 2003. At first the idea was to form a club that would house enthusiasts of photography. It is to be noted that during that time, digital photography was still in the fringes of the art. There were very few digital cameras available and you can count the phones that have 1 megapixel cameras in them. The same set of hands account for the number of people you know who own these new phones.

During that time, those who knew photography we’re those who are now considered dinosaurs. Those who shot in film with cameras such as the Nikon FE’s, Canon AE-1’s and so on. Film rolls were still sold and developed by Leo’s photo in Vega or at the Agfa store across the street.

The first few days of the Society’s life was spent between Romel and I, chatting on mIrc’s #UPLB chatroom. After we realized who each other was, we decided to continue the conversation in real life around Carabao park and at the OSA (Office of Student Affairs). We sifted through old paperwork of what were remnants of the old photography clubs in the campus. What was familiar to Romel was the Samahang Manyunyut. At first we wanted to revive this organization. Hoping that echos from the past might help in making the establishment of the new organization easier.

Unfortunately, the paperwork we found was not enough to start anything. That was when we decided to go for broke and start from scratch. During the time, and I am sure this still is going on right now, the OSA just started prohibiting New Freshmen from joining student organizations. They were in full force during the freshmen orientation during the summer and the early days of the first semester to make sure this was taken seriously. Student Orgs were all under the microscope. It was a tough time for existing groups and even tougher for new ones. We have seen attempts to form new orgs to face off the existing that fizzle into nothingness the next semester. We wanted something new, something that would get different students from different courses and colleges together. Something that will not define where you are from but will determine where you will be.

Romel and I come from other organizations. At this point, we have been head’s of another organization or two and have already gone through and experienced the typical org in UPLB. We agreed that there are many aspects of student organizations that we personally detest and find unecessary. We agreed that we will not recruit from new freshmen and that our policy will strictly be “walang kupalan”. We agreed that this included no public humiliation, no unnecessary requests, orders or assignments. We wanted to make sure that if tasks were given that these meant something to the values and vision of the org - not just some vague idea about showing loyalty, determination and commitment (values that I think can’t be tested and learned in two weeks). We wanted a recruitment and indoctrination process where the face we show before the “finals” is the same face we will welcome them with as soon as they are conferred as members.

Romel’s strength was getting members. His students (former) from Pahinungod were bright and diverse. Many of them have no experience in photography. Most though were either attracted to the fact that they will be charter members or first batches of a new organization. Almost all of them had good intentions.

The true test for us and those incoming new members were building the org from the ground up. We spent a whole night thinking about a name and a nickname for the org. We spent a night designing the seal. We spent countless of nights well into the morning creating the constitution - we debated over it’s merits and technicalities. We tested the strength of the preamble - opened it to scrutiny. We had arguments over what the members will be called. We had a whole night too to plan our first trip out of the campus.


The UP Photographers Society was formed to create a venue for photography enthusiasts, hobbyists and budding professionals in the UPLB community. It was formed without the foresight that photography will bloom or explode into what it is right now. The idea is to have like minded individuals with a common interest have an experience with a Student Group, learning organizational skills, communication skills and most of all leadership skills.

The Society is designed to give an individual vital experience on how it is to become part of a working group that has aspects like Personnel, Education, Operations, Logistics, Executive and others. The plan is to provide the members with skills that they will need post college that is not learned from within the classroom. The plan was to create a group that will instill professionalism, pride in ones work, determination, leadership and creativeness.

We teach the basics of photography and eventually allow the members to branch out into practicing their specific interest from within the larger umbrella of the craft. Our goal is not to turn our members into professional photographers. Our goal is to mold future model citizens and leaders with photography and the Society as a common bond.

Photography by design is both artistic and scientific. It is both creative and technical. A great balance for the population of UPLB. We use this balance to show that our members, though hard workers are also the same people who enjoy a good time. We wanted to make sure that members know their roles as students first, members second. We wanted to make sure that in the years to come - when people come accross a member of the Society that they expect an exemplary individual both professionally and privately.


Almost ten years into the life of the organization, the Society has healthily formed a great story all on it’s own, characters have come and gone relationships built, some kept some faded away. But ten years have passed and countless of stories have been shared - all our members look back at their own individual contribution to what we all fondly call PhotoS.

We have had bad times, drawbacks and disagreements - we’ve had bad members too and decisions we probably regret - but the achievements, the successes, the great stories all overshadow that.

It has always been a tradition to expect that the new breed will prove to be better than the last. It is expected that even though there are always big shoes to fill, that the incoming members of the next year will be very happy to step into them. Just like in photography, we expect that with every new type of equipment that every new photo will be better than the last.

Ten years into our history, we are still gaining momentum. At this point in our story we are maturely adjusting our positions to accommodate the ever changing landscape of society, just like in photography - photographers adjust to the ever changing technologies of available to them.

Just like photography though, a camera is useless if the person behind the it does not have the know how to shoot and more importantly the drive and inspiration to capture that image that has that lasting impression. Just like photography, our name will mean nothing if we don't have quality members within it.  The Society hopes that every member that joins also has, just like a great photo - a great lasting and lifetime impression of his or her time in the organization.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

My parents and I - 1.0

I'm still having flashbacks of that afternoon after school when I was told that my parents were separating. "Hiwalay na si Mama saka si Papa mo..." that's how my lola told me about it, after she asked me to sit down while I still had my backpack on coming from school. I was 10 years old, I was in fourth grade.

That night my mom tried explaining everything to me.  Telling me that it wasn't my fault, that it was something that needed to be done. I couldn't help but thing it was my fault. Not directly, but because I had let them keep fighting into the nights when they were still together. Because I did not ask them to make up and stop arguing with each other. Because I did not stop my dad from leaving for the States.

20 years later, here I am - having lunch with my mom and my dad and my little sister. Sharing an afternoon walking with them. I hear them talking about their old friends. They both bring up their old friday evening adventures stumbling luckily into Tony Bennet, The Tony Bennet at the bar they usually go to  when he was in Manila.

Between then and now, there were years of questions left unanswered, of bitterness and even hatred. There were years of pride kept unchecked, words that should have been left unsaid, of fights that shouldn't have been escalated. One would think that those were years that could be taken back, that could be forgotten but honestly - yes, sure - I would love to have had it happened differently... But I'm afraid I wouldnt be where I am and wouldnt be who I am if it weren't for that.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


When I start an entry with "back in my day..." it saddens me. It saddens me because this tells me that my life now is becoming more filled with things that I could not get back and less of things that I can have. No, it's not a selfish thing - the "things" that I speak of are a mixture of experiences, mistakes, triumphs and moments. 

During my time in university, there were still businesses around the campus that offered "typing services". You know, those places where you would bring your "neat" hand written drafts of your paper and have a professional typist encode everything using a commercial grade typing computer or machine. 

It was the time when chat rooms were found in the world of MIRC. It's a chat module, similar to a DOS based program. There were codes that you need to remember for different commands. Most of the emoticons, the shortcuts and the abbreviations that are prevalent in today's modern world i.e. texting and instant messages started in the chat world. Chatting on MIRC was an underground thing, not really mainstream. People actually still called each other up, sat next to each other and really had full on conversations. We also had photo albums of our childhood. Do you? 

I would like to believe that prior to this Google era, prior to this world when things are just a click away that creativity was more pure, that new things were actually made. Nowadays "creativity" is relegated to those who look the part. The 20 somethings who wear plaid, an urban outfitters hat, sport funky glasses and carry with them film cameras. No no, these kids are not creative. Their just - digital hipsters, plain and simple. 

A friend of mine has been posting her rants about how her students are blatantly cutting and pasting paragraphs upon paragraphs of written materials from the internet directly on to their submitted academically required paper. 

Here's the thing kids. Our generation formed the internet. Before you can even say instant message, we have already made out with and devirginized the internet. This was after we've submitted papers to our teachers after having used typewriters, or were printed using a dot matrix printer. And cutting and pasting? Well, that meant we literally cut and pasted parts of pages from magazines, newspapers and other widely used published materials. This is coming from someone born in the 80's, can you imagine the world for those born before me? Awesome for us, hieroglyphics for you. 

Most of us and everyone prior to me, sat down and actually had time to think. We created shit. We experimented, destroyed, took apart and put back together things. We know how the world was when it can be quiet in the afternoon. We knew what it felt like to play outside all sweaty and grimy and actually collected scrapes and bruises. Our eyelids did not twitch because our iphones have not made a sound in an hour - unlike you.

Since we actually typed our own papers, we had the time to at least paraphrase what we read off of Mr. Britannica's pages. 

Here's the gist young-ans - work for it. Life get's harder. It does every year. The only way to get ahead is to be better at it. The only way to be better at it is to be smarter. The only  way to be smarter is to not do whatever it is you are doing now. Oh, and stop watching VH1 and MTV. That's one thing our generation looks back on and had categorized under "mistakes". 

You have been advised and warned. Peace out. 

Monday, January 9, 2012


A friend had texted me recently and asked if I really thought it was more fun in the Philippines. I had texted back and said "with the things that I do and the company that I keep, YES". She texted back "Good answer" and I said "I know".

This big hoopla about the It's More Fun... Campaign that the Philippine Department of Tourism has created an atmosphere of pro and against between the people who enjoy life and those who spend time complaining about it. You know what I mean. You know people who admit to themselves that they too want a simple life, a nice house, a loving and healthy family and no debt, but at the end of the day, they like complaining about so many other things that they miss the point. They complain about how bad it is right now, how the government is this and that and how some people are lazy etc. etc.

I have friends who live in the Philippines and complain about life there. I have friends who live here in the US and other counties and complain about the Philippines. I'm not one to say that their arguments are not correct. Of course there's truth in it. But you know what? The corrupt government? The poor infrastructure, the crab mentality, the pessimistic outlook on life, the low standard of living? All of that exists everywhere. It exists in downtown Las Vegas, in the great cities of Detroit, Los Angeles and New York. I've seen them in London, Rome, Paris. I know they exist in Thailand, Japan and the Middle East. So C'mon... Why waste time highlighting things that obviously are there and are just sad?

Going back to the text thread that I had with that friend, I ended up arguing with her that the simple life, the healthy family, the friends and the honest source of living can be anywhere in the world, it doesn't matter. So, yeah, I do find it more fun in the Philippines, but it doesn't mean that I don't like where I am.

Then I was asked if I was not proud to be an american. I answered back, "there are days that I do what I like, and most days, I do what I must." I'm sure I got that from a movie or something. But that's how I feel about that. I also explained that I know quite a few Americans who have never left this country who have nothing but bad things to say about this country. That it's going the wrong way. That's for another argument (although that one won't go anywhere and would not have a finalized consensus). Just to clarify, I am a Filipino - look at me - who is a naturalized US citizenship. Even the US government recognizes it that way.

Bottom line is there's a good and a bad in everything and anything. That there are pros and cons to every place and situation. But surely you can find energy in focusing on the good than the bad right? I think the only time one should trumpet the negative things about life is when they are ready to do something about it and not just something to say about it.

So, friends - family. Chill. It's a good life. Just sit back, look at what you have. And if you can do that... Then you've got something to be thankful for. More than you'll ever know.