Photography Goals

Recently, I’ve been studying how to do photography. It’s pretty fun. I recently learned the do’s and don’ts for photography. I’m just recently learning the basics but I’ve improved a lot since my old photos (looking at all of them back then, I was just taking shots of things I found to be pretty or precious).

A lot of people want to go professional with photography. They want to be known for their amazing photographs. Some just like flattering photos of themselves. Everyone has a goal when they get into photography.

Mine? I want to make the world look gorgeous. Or capture the positive side that everyone has. Or realism. Shit, I was going somewhere with this.

Okay. Let me refine that phrase. I want the world to see what I see.

My family has a lot of photos. Most of the photos are awkward. My dad with his eternal peace signs, my mom just posing awkwardly for the photo, and my brother just stands there (still looking awkward, it runs in the family).

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Mom posing for another photo

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Tita being a little cheeky with the camera

Ever since I started learning photography, a lot of things have changed. I have photos of my mom and my dad just smiling naturally. My mom looks so gorgeous in her photos (not that she wasn’t gorgeous before, I just managed to capture her at her best) and my dad exudes a calm that you wouldn’t have seen in his old photos.

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Dad, looking at a frog. Really.

I’ve taken photos of my extended family too. My tita looks amazing in her photos. I love taking photos of people and showing others what I see. When I see people, I want to believe that they’re all good. A little flawed in one way or another but no one truly believes they’re the bad person, just a victim of consequences and society.

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My mom and her sister taking a selfie ❤

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Dad being a goofy dad

There was this series I used to watch, Scrubs. It was a dramedy about a hospital. Ben Sullivan, played by Brendan Fraser, was one of the guests on the show. He was the brother in law of one of the main characters, Dr. Cox. He hated posed photos. He thought they didn’t really show the truth. He truly believed candid photos were the way to go.

I kind of understand what he meant. People are always caught off guard with photos. Unless you’re truly comfortable in front of a camera, you always have a practiced smile, not the one you use when you’re talking with a loved one, but a smile just for the camera. And trust me, there’s a big difference.

I love taking candid photos of people. It’s not because I think that camera smiles are fake (there’s just something off about it), it’s because candid photos often capture the realness of people and their reactions, their poses, and who they really are.

I still do believe that some posed photos are fun to do, just for the sake of capturing pretty things and seeing the world in a whole new dimension. I just honestly think there’s room for both.

Anyway, that’s it for this thought process. Thanks for reading! 🙂

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Describing the Philippines through memories

What’s the Philippines like?

To describe it to most people unfamiliar with the place, it’s a tropical country full of wonderful beaches and amazing mountains. It’s an archipelago in the middle of Asia with a surprising number of people who speak English well.

I hate the Philippines so much.

Or rather, I love it so much.

It’s funny how the just literally being born in a country can make you love and hate it at the same time.

The Philippines is more than just beaches, mountains, and tropical fruits. It’s more than its violent history with Spain, the Americans, and the Japanese. Mostly, the Philippines is my life. It is my culture.

It’s not just the national costumes, the national anthem, or the national flower. It’s a way of life. Honestly, all of that is done just to unite the country, but what really unites us is our shared experiences. Let me tell you about a Filipino childhood.

Memories of riding the jeep with your mom and sitting on her lap because she didn’t pay for your seat (kids don’t take up much space). Being threatened with a tsinelas when you didn’t do your chores. The weird trinkets they sell at elementary school like the necklace with colored sand, blue ink that disappears after a few minutes on your clothes, or the random street vendor who sells i-scrambol that has that distinct purple (or sometimes pink) colored ice.

I recall my childhood full summers at the beach. Full days spent under the sun (even during noon hours), sunburnt skin at the end of the day. I have photos wherein you can distinctly see the difference of my skin color through the outline of my swimsuit. I recall making sand mounds (castle would be too much of a stretch, they never lasted too long) with cousins and friends.

I recall strict teachers and nice teachers. Classmates having their seventh birthday party at lunch time. After school activities included running around in just a sando and the school skirt (we were always sweaty and in the sun, looking and chasing for grasshoppers in the grass). After school activities included chasing after classmates, doing cartwheels in the carpeted hallways.

Going to Baguio as the top vacation site. It was, in our definition, pretty cold in Baguio. We would walk around with gloves on our hands, knitted hats, and jackets. It was a treat to ride the brightly colored horses. Film photography was expensive, unlike the millions of selfies we take now, taking photos back then was a cherished moment.

Storms were frequent too. Signal number 1 was a frequent category Zambales was placed in. School would often be canceled due to the freakish rain and thunder that visited this tropical country. Floods would occur. People would flee from their homes to evacuation centers in the baranggay. Donations are frequent. Losses were even more frequent.

There are so many more memories in my head about the Philippines. Just looking back at all these memories, it just occurs to me how much of a big part of my life this country has become. I love this country because this is where my life began. This is where my parents were born too. I may not know any cultural dances at heart but I can belt out to Aegis. I can’t understand Ilocano, but I eat like one (diningding, pinakbet, bagnet, you name it).

I don’t know. This whole this is just me rambling about my memories as a Filipina. I thoroughly enjoy living in the Philippines. Despite all the political issues, stressfully influential church over the government, and all the mishaps and tragedies that happened, a lot of good has happened here too. I just have to make sure to contribute to all the good that’s happening here.

 

To my younger self,

Hi. You’re about to start high school. It’s a whole new school. Your best friend is going to a different high school. You’re about to be left behind. To be honest, you didn’t really think of it that way, did you? In your mind, you guys will always be best friends.

You’re only eleven, but you’ve been through a lot. To be honest, you’re kinda nerdy and you don’t take care of yourself. You’ve got internalized misogyny. You didn’t take care of yourself because natural beauty is better. You played video games. You saw yourself as one of the guys. You beat all the guys in your classroom in arm wrestling.

You hate yourself.

You’re asking for help. But you don’t know who to talk to.

I still remember that entry. In sixth grade, we were required to make daily logs in our journals. I still remember that vividly. You wrote in your diary terrible things.

You wrote about cutting yourself. You wrote about how the blade felt nice against your skin. It was better than what you were actually feeling. Being numb. Feeling empty. Scared of the future.

Every week, our teacher made us pass our diary. You passed that diary. Along with that journal entry. You were scared that our teacher would read it. Yet, you were also relieved. I guess somewhere deep in your mind, you thought that maybe he would help you out.

The weekend passed slowly. You were in agony waiting for that Monday morning. Would he call your parents? Would he talk to you about it? Would you get in trouble?

Monday morning came. You got to your seat. Our teacher started class. He called out for attendance. Made some morning announcements. The hum of the airconditioning filled the room.

“I’m giving back your diaries now.”

You could hear your heart beating through your ears. Palms sweaty, your knuckles almost white from your closed fists. Minutes felt like hours.

He calls your name.

You get up from your seat. You walk towards him, in the middle of the classroom. You grab your diary from his hand.

He barely looks at you. He calls out the next name. You turn around, you’re confused. You walk to your seat slowly.

There it is. Your diary. Your half-assed diary, to be honest. A cut out of Snow White (which you grabbed from an old kiddy magazine at the last minute) stuck to the cover page. Pages upon pages of entries filled half of the notebook. The first few entries were long. Covering one or two pages. As you flip page after page, the entries become shorter and shorter, to the point where an entry was just a sentence long.

I would know. I wrote all of that. I half-assed it after several months in school. There was nothing to write about. Or rather, I didn’t really feel the urge to write so much when we already had enough schoolwork.

And you finally get to the latest page.

“Dear Diary,

Today I cut myself. I was mad and upset. I grabbed scissors and just kept running them through my fingertips. It felt really good. I don’t know why. It made me feel better. It helped me stop being upset. Please don’t tell my mom!”

On top of the paragraph was a huge red check mark.

You let out a sigh of relief. Or was it disappointment? I’m not really too sure. It’s been eight years since I was last you. I can’t really remember.

I do remember though, what you did right after. You grabbed your correction tape and erased that whole entry. Instead, you placed a stupid wishy washy entry about doing homework, eating dinner, and playing computer games that night.


This letter is never going to reach you, younger me. It’s not possible. Several years later, you would have a conversation with that teacher (he was, after all, one of the very best ones you’ve ever had). He would confess that your handwriting was so bad that he didn’t read your diary logs at all. He would also confess that he thoroughly read through your classmates’ entries though, because their handwriting capabilities were better.

You laugh with him. You try to defend yourself by joking around. It’s all a secret.


To my younger self,

I honestly don’t know what to say to you. You’re eleven years old. You think about death often. You cry a lot. Your best friend is leaving for another faraway school. High school is going to suck. But honestly, you’re just excited about school. You’re excited about studying and making new friends and having fun.

You’ve got a long way to go before you become me. You’ll be spending majority of the next few years hating on your parents, hating on your life, but clinging on to it because of your friends. I still remember you.

If I have to tell you something positive, it’s this. Things get better. Things get tougher. But they get better. You will face hardships you wouldn’t have known possible. You will cry a lot. You’ll be awkward. But it’s okay.

Because you’ll have a support system with you. Your parents are your biggest supporters. You just don’t see it because you’re blaming them for a lot of things.

To my younger self,

Because no one told me this when I was you.

I see you. I know what you’re going through. I’m sorry this is happening. You will be your own person, not the worst case scenario you’re thinking you will become.

To my younger self,

You are important. Isn’t it amazing that out of all the stars, the mountains, the rivers, and the people of the earth, the universe decided it needed you too?

You will do great things some day. I know it.

To my younger self,

I love you.

Heneral Luna – a way to tell history

I absolutely don’t like history classes. They’re so boring. Especially as a kid, my mom had to drag me through studying the history of the Philippines. Our ancestors? I don’t feel connected to them at all. The questions were always the same things on exams. What is the name of our 10th President? How long did the Martial Law last? What date did Magellan come to the Philippines?

Gahd. Why should I care about this stuff? It’s all about people who ruled and changed history yada yada yada but honestly I didn’t see the point of memorizing dates, whole names, or even the names of the laws enacted, wars that happened, or betrayals that occurred within the government.

I’m looking at you, Emilio Aguinaldo. Yeah, we all know you had Andres Bonifacio shot. Modern time Brutus.

Even in college, I avoided all the Kasaysayan (History) electives. My aversion to history was so bad.

That was until, I was introduced to Heneral Luna.

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His name means moon but he is my sun (haha get it get it? no please don’t leave no more jokes I swear)

Heneral Luna was a biopic film released in 2015 by Jerrold Tarog. Here’s an interesting tidbit: the movie flunked at first. It was screening in 70 theatres (???) nationwide but within a week they stopped showing it in at least half. No one was watching it. I mean, who the hell would pay P200 for a biopic? That’s the equivalent of two Jollibee meals.

But then, the people who actually did give it a chance were raving about it so freakin hard. They posted on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat. They encouraged people to watch it. Facebook was flooded with friends talking about how amazing the movie turned out to be. The last biopic released was a flop.

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Surprisingly, even with stars like Padilla and Padilla

So, of course, as people are wont to do, they watched the movie. Encouraged by friends on Facebook (so it’s seen as an authentic review rather than advertising from a company making money off of it), more and more people trickled in the theatre, and more and more people watched it.

In a world of social media, Heneral Luna managed to advertise itself through word of mouth.

So from 30 or so theatres, the number jumped to a 100 theatres. The movie managed to stay in cinemas for several weeks. It was shown in New York, Los Angeles, and Hong Kong. Filipinos all over the world flocked to watch this movie.

What’s the difference between Heneral Luna and Bonifacio? This movie humanized the people from history.

Think about it, can you really ever imagine Barack Obama, going through college? Awake at three in the morning, cold coffee on the table. It’s dark and quiet in the library. He hasn’t showered for three days, the paper is due in a few hours. His penmanship is getting more and more unreadable as the night goes on.

You see, I think that’s why I hated history back then, when I was a kid. We were told all these stories of how Lapu-lapu managed to get rid of the mean Magellan who attempted to “civilize” our ancestors. He was seen as the great and the powerful. But so what?

I don’t know how that struggle feels like. What does it feel like to have other people depend on you for leadership? What does it like to fight to the death with people you disagree with? No, I’m not trying to undermine any of what history says, but it’s just ultimately uninteresting to me (and I’m sure to a lot of other people).

Heneral Luna changed all that. Usually, biopics had very stiff language. So formal. So intense. So tragically distant. But check out this trailer of Heneral Luna.

The Tagalog used is modern and easy to understand. And it’s so friggin quotable. The movie takes it up a notch too. Heneral Luna swears, he’s always pissed. There’s a scene in the movie where the military gained a train for transporting goods to their base. Everyone brought along their family to ride the train and check it out. Luna drives them out, screaming

“Puñeta! Hindi tayo mamamasyal! (Son of a bitch! We aren’t going on a trip!)”

-Heneral Luna, as he used his baton to chase the Filipinos and the chickens away

The movie isn’t all serious. There are scenes that will make you laugh, scenes that will make you tense. You get to know Luna as a person. Throughout the movie, you’ll see him tired, frustrated, happy, angry, making jokes, and honestly working very hard for a country that doesn’t seem to love him back.

Then the movie ends with the actual brutal truth: Heneral Luna was brutally murdered under the alleged orders of Emilio Aguinaldo. The entire scene takes fifteen minutes. It’s brutal to watch. It’s not even the most agonizing part of the film.

Everyone who was in on the plan for his death looked straight in the camera and talked to the audience. They vehemently denied their involvement in Luna’s death. Emilio Aguinaldo argued that Luna was his best commander. Buencamino stated that he hated the guy but definitely not enough to kill him. And they believed this with thorough conviction.

You walk out of the film dazed and angry. It feels like you just lost a friend.

I watched that film four times. I have a picture with one of the actors. It’s just… wow.

This is something I realized two years after the film was released, though. All of this writing is from memory. I didn’t have to look up their names on a history book or Wikipedia. I just honestly loved it and it’s basically history.

The same for Hamilton, the amazing musical on Broadway about Alexander Hamilton. I know so much shit about these people.

Here’s a key takeaway schools should learn from biopics like Heneral Luna or musicals like Alexander Hamilton. History shouldn’t just be about memorizing dates, names, or places of wars, peace treaties, or freedoms claimed. It should literally be about the story of the people before us.

Make history interesting by making the people interesting. Philippine history books just always talk about it like a list of facts to memorize. Make students understand. Make it a story.

Because honestly something we were never taught in history is the fact that these were normal people before history wrote them down as important. Heneral Luna was a doctor, Andres Bonifacio was a middle class citizen who cared for his family. Jose Rizal was a womanizing short dude who had an insane schedule of studying a lot. So basically he was a nerd.

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National hero. Nerd. Original fuccboi.

You gotta translate it for the students. What made them fight for the Philippines? Why did they decide to risk their lives for everything? You can’t just say shit like “oooh, they loved their country so much…” because Filipinos nowadays are just looking for ways to leave the Philippines because the opportunities here are so shit.

Make the students write plays, tell stories. Little tidbits of trivia clickbait will make students more interested.

Did you know World War II started because an assassin ate a sandwich?

Did you know that Heneral Luna was actually a momma’s boy?

Did you know that the Berlin Wall was torn down because of miscommunication?

History looks at things in retrospect. Things weren’t seen as so grand before or during the event. In retrospect, history identified these key events and pinpointed them to the escalation of tension, to the eventual climax of changing a significant perspective of a nation or a group of people.

The only difference between us and the people in our history lessons? They took action and fought for what they believed in. Make us understand, education systems.

Make us love our country once more.

 

Running a blog is hard

It’s been a month (?) since I started this blog. I’ve written a lot of stuff since then. I’m actually pretty happy with how this blog is coming along and I’m enjoying myself, writing about whatever comes to mind. It’s pretty hard though.

I’m running out of stuff I want to write about. Actually, no, that’s not the case. I have a lot of stuff I want to write about. I want to write about my current interests. I want to write about how I’m starting to learn Digital Photography. I wanted to post the photos I’ve taken so far, but it’s really difficult putting them up on WordPress.

I wanted to write about romance but I’m not even sure I’m an expert at love or anything. I wanted to talk about exercising but I’m not sure I’m an expert at that either. There’s so many things I want to write about but I’m just honestly scared it’s not good enough for my readers or for my standards.

I want to post more photos here, to be honest. It’s so tough to upload photos on WordPress. Everything loads so slowly, especially with how the internet is very slow here in the Philippines. Someone even nominated me for the Valiant Blogger Award (thanks clusterofstars!) but I don’t know that many bloggers either.

I’m still exploring what I honestly want to do in my life. I don’t have that many experiences that can amount to anything yet. All I’ve had so far is rejects of suggestions or possibilities I know I won’t enjoy. Everyone else is moving forward and it feels like I’m stuck.

There’s so much stuff I want to write about but I just feel like I amount to nothing sometimes. Running a blog is hard because it makes me reflect that I haven’t really done much to make a difference in my life or anyone else’s.

I want to change the world in my own way. I want to make it a better place. But what can one girl do? What can someone like me do to make this world a little bit nicer?

Running a blog is hard.

The disconnect between the people and the academe

Recently, there’s this new movie by M. Night Shyamalan called Split (2017). You can check out the trailer here. The antagonist is basically a guy who has many personalities or in more clinical terms, Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) or as it was previously known, Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD).

Judging from the trailer, the guy who kidnapped them has 23 whopping personalities. A woman who has a masters degree in psychology even vouches that this is something extraordinary indeed. This man terrorizes the three girls.

Being a psychology major, most of my Facebook newsfeed was dominated by my fellow psych majors arguing adamantly as to why the premise of this movie is misleading and also harmful to those who have DID. They all had good points.

The movie is categorized into horror. Mental illness is a terrible thing to experience (see my depression post here) and depicting it in an even more negative light in media will make it harder for those who experience it everyday to actually be more open about their illness. Why is it that mental illnesses are shown as “scary” where as more physical illnesses are depicted as tragic?

However, while I agreed with my friends’ arguments, they started talking about how they wished people would read up more on mental illnesses. Look at diagnostic tools, read books about it, etc.

See, this is where the disconnect between the people and the academe occur. Whereas, the academe’s number one priority is learning, studying, and researching the world around us, the people’s number one priority is to keep on.

In the academe’s perspective, everyone has the resources to learn more. Everyone has the time to learn something new. When you’re in a university, you’re easily informed of new things, new perspectives, and new issues that come up every now and then. When you’re in the office five days a week, doing chores, paying bills, struggling through traffic, making sure ends meet, and focusing on your own realities and issues, it’s kind of hard to look study something that you’re pretty sure isn’t going to affect you.

Is it apathy? It’s easy to mistake it as that but it’s not. I don’t think it is. I think it’s simply people trying to look out for themselves. It’s funny. Politics divides people. Families with huge generation gaps fight over Trump, Duterte, or gay rights. Before I went to college, before I was aware of any issues that the government needed to address, we didn’t fight about it.

It’s just that when I was introduced to the academe, I was introduced to the reality of studying everything and learning so much about what’s wrong with the universe and how little the amount of good that comes out. My reality changed but my conservative relatives’ reality didn’t change at all.

They still had to deal with the horrible traffic, dangerous streets, high taxes, constant flooding problem, or even making ends meet. I still argued that they should listen to me and understand why LGBT rights is important or why drug addicts shouldn’t be killed.

Of course, they all take it with a grain of salt. Why should they listen to me? I didn’t even hold a proper job yet. I didn’t understand how the world works. I knew of their struggles but I didn’t have to deal with it. For a few moments, I hated going to family meetings only to be tuned out.

However, nothing changed. Literally no one changed except me. I just became more aware, I just learned about these issues. Everyone was still nice, everyone still cared for each other. If someone in the family fell ill, everyone pitches in to help. My titas and titos would be right there if I needed anything.

It wasn’t that they were apathetic. It just wasn’t part of their reality. But if it were part of their reality, they would surely make time for it and learn more about it.

See, the disconnect between the academe and the people isn’t simply miscommunication. It’s that the academe is so disconnected from the people to the point that they are kind of outsiders to the reality that people live in. That’s why the academe can point out all the flaws and errors of the world.

It’s like when you’re watching an old video of yourself. You don’t recall having so much hand movement. You can point out your errors. It’s because it’s not you.

The best solution is to honestly find a way to get the people to learn about issues in an easier manner.

No one is going to read thick and heavy books about capitalism when children need feeding. No one is going to be browsing through an academic journal about the economy when a paywall of $32 is required to see the data.

Studies show that only those heavily involved in the academic world actually read the journals. So meaning those with masters degrees and PhDs. That’s a very small percentage. Here’s a link on a news article saying that 50% of the published articles are only read by the editor, peer review, and the authors themselves.

It’s interesting. I talked to my GrabCar driver today and I asked him if he’s satisfied with Duterte. He was very proud to say that Duterte was his president even before he won. He told me about how he knew so many people who were drug addicts but now were laying low. I listened to him talk about his perspective and he listened to me discuss mine too.

That’s the thing. People are willing to listen. They’re smart. They can think for themselves. All we have to do is find the right medium to deliver the message.

 

 

Being honest with yourself

Recently, I had a fight with a friend. I won’t go into the details of it but basically he was being a douche. I was so mad at him. He did something that he knows is a huge pet peeve of mine yet he did it anyway. And his reasoning?

“I didn’t think it would count because *technically* it isn’t your pet peeve.”

-Lamest excuse of the century courtesy of the biggest douche of the century

Oh, wow. I didn’t think I needed to get a lawyer to get so specific that you would actually attempt to find loopholes in my pet peeve. I’m still mad at him, so excuse my sarcasm for the moment.

You see, as with all pet peeves, for example, chalk scraped on a board, you’d be pretty sure that anything similar to it will irk the person as well. Say, playing a YouTube video of chalk scraping a board, it still pretty much counts.

That is, if you have common sense.

Unfortunately, this friend of mine did not have the very uncommon common sense. Instead, he didn’t think it counted because technically, he’s not the one doing the action.

But as I further prompted him, he revealed that he knew that it would piss me off, he just had to justify it in his mind that he’s not doing anything wrong.

So here’s my life lesson from this fight: Stop. Lying. To. Yourself. Be. Fucking. Honest.

Aside from chalk scraping on a board, I really hate it when I notice that people lying to themselves in a serious manner. Not in a joking way wherein you really know what the truth is, but rather in a way that really attempts to distort your view on things negatively.

“This neck injury isn’t that serious, I’m not too worried about it. Besides, going to the doctor is such a hassle. Ahahaha~”

That’s dangerous. You should get that checked. It’s not something to laugh about. This person just lied to himself about a serious neck injury because going to the doctor would be too much of a hassle.

I lie too. I lie to people a lot.

“So do you exercise daily?”

“…yes.”

(No. The answer is no.)

Or maybe something like

“How are you doing today?”

“Good, I’m doing good!”

(I have depression and death is a daily thought of the day, so no.)

I lie to people but not to myself. Lying is part of everyday situations. Sometimes the situation is not right for you to tell the truth immediately. Sometimes it’s a meaningless small talk that doesn’t entail you going into detail of how you just pooped so much you clogged the toilet.

People to lie to each other. Please don’t lie to yourself. We already have enough “alternative facts” (cue my sarcasm) and misinformation going around the world. You don’t have to lie to yourself too.

In other news, that friend owes me free food. So, there’s that.