Saturday, February 06, 2016

Intrinsic Beauty of Children: Encounters in the Philippines

Between December 16, 2012 and January 3, 2013, I traveled back to the Philippines with my family. My wife arranged this time so we can have reunion with relatives and old acquaintances, trace our roots, and see the sights in various places within the country. Having lost contact with relatives on my side of the family, I did not care much about tracing my roots or meeting relatives. However, I was definitely interested in touring the country, to see both its rural and urban landscapes. Was this interest driven mainly by nostalgia for what used to be familiar, some sort of a pilgrimage to one's native land, or was it simply my passion for street photography? I don't really know but for whatever reason, I was drawn to the idea of traveling to take pictures of places with people in various settings and lifestyles. This photo excursion covered half the length of the Philippine archipelago, starting from Panay island in the mid-section of the archipelago to as far north as the town of Sagada in the Mountain Province. Photos taken were varied, consisting of people in market places of local towns, in rice fields, beaches, mountains, urban malls, slums, city sidewalks, etc.; all showing common people in various walks of life.

Throughout this photo-op I was surprised by the reception from the local folks. Perhaps it was my graying hair or my Westernized bearing, but most local grown-ups looked at me with leery eyes, suspicious of what I was up to. Twenty-five years of absence from this place has made me an outsider. That must explain why the natives gave me those dirty looks, or turned their backs away from the camera, or maintained such phlegmatic faces. I shot their pictures just the same. But the children were different. They looked at me directly, with that candid curiosity wondering who this stranger could be that visited their village. Some were more daring and called me out as "Cano! Cano!", short for "Americano" even though my gray hairs were no closer to the typical blonde hair expected of a foreigner. Others interviewed me, asking my name and where I was staying. They seemed to be open to know and befriend me. They were drawn to me as I was to them, for they were eager to show what they do and where they live. More so, I was captivated by this quiet contentment that they exude. They all seem to be satisfied with what they have and confident with what they can take on whatever the circumstance may be.

I wanted to highlight my encounters with these children. Hence, although I did take pictures of people of all ages I decided to come up with a short series limited only to photos of children. For this series, I shot mostly at a close range. Most of the images here were shot with myVoigtlander 20mm lens on a full frame Canon 5d Mark ii. The 20mm I have can only be operated on manual focus so it was a bit of a challenge although I was not so much concerned about the sharpness of the image as I was focused more on the feelings associated with the moments of capture. Also with the wide angle lens, I was forced to shoot real close to the subject, which I really loved because the results usually provided more intimate views. Plus it allows for interesting dynamics with the subject. If I'm smiling and happy, usually the subject will reciprocate the same sentiment.

The series documents their stories. Although the images were captured in different places, there is a commonality to all. There is intrinsic beauty in the simplistic lives of these children. In the end, it's about them -- in a time when God placed them. I chose the title "Bukas Na Kami," which is a play on words in the Pilipino language. It could either mean "We are open" or "Tomorrow it's us." I'll let the viewers decide which translation they like.

© 2016 Rob Castro

Original essay appeared at January 25, 2013

Friday, February 05, 2016

Thursday, February 04, 2016

The Temptation of Sven

Man forging sword or his life?

Juzno:  Is it true that opium is the religion of the people?

Sven:  I believe you got it confused.

Juzno:  That may be so but didn't Marx say you shall not eat of the fruit of the tree of money lest you die?

Sven:  Marx never said that.  I think he was referring to the money being the root of evil.  Something like that.

Juzno:  Marx also said you will be like technocrats with good retirement plan once you eat of the fruit.

Sven:  Okay, sign me up.  Where do I eat?

Juzno:  I'll send you the Yelp link.

#forging #existentialism #laborersunite #senselessdialogue #socialism #socialjustice

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Instant Karma is Bound to Get You

Is anybody out there?

Why am I something when for almost an eternity I have been trying to attain to be nothing?  Why am I still in this world that is corrupted with greed and pollution and violence and adultery and all kinds of covetousness?  Why have I not achieve perfect karma?  Is karma but a delusion?  Why is Al Gore not answering my emails?

#InstantKarmaIsOuToGetYou #existentialism #GivePeaceAChance

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Nobody Cares

People tell me that my playing is great.  That it reminds them of the master Django Reinhardt.  What do they know about Djanjo?  These people don't know stuff.  I tell folks that I play 8 hours a day to get my chops.  The truth is I don't practice.  I improvise.  I make things up as I go.  Right now I don't even know what key the band is playing.  Nobody cares.  Because the truth is Nobody listens.  We are just background noise providing some contrived ambiance to this place.  You don't really need to like me.  I get it.

#jazzsmellsfishy #NobodyCares #Idonotcareanymore #StupidExistentialismBaloney #LifeIsMeaningLess

Monday, February 01, 2016

Wish You were Here

Pass me that Tiger Balm, will you?

Renaissance painters were masochists.  They painted on ceilings so that their viewers were sure to have stiff neck later.  Maybe this was to ensure that during service the faithful would be focused on the priest rather than the paintings.

#WishYouWereHere #PinkFloyd #mural #painting #renaissance #NorthernItaly #church #cruelpainters #stiffneck #tigerbalm 

Saturday, January 30, 2016

One of these days

So you think you can tell heaven from hell?

Okay, so this will never be like the film noir of Bergman but I did try.

#filmnoir #ingmarbergman #fadedmemories

Friday, January 29, 2016

The Butcher

I am trying to rebuild my life.  I was a failure.  I need change.  Forget about winning a lotto.  I will no longer rely on luck.  There is no such thing.  God Almighty is in control.  With God's help, I shall cast away my vanity.  I am at his mercy. But he is faithful.

#thebutcher #palenke #wetplate #providence #GodIsIncontrol #GodIsNotDead #HeIsNotsilent #HeisThere

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Night Fwever Night Fwevuh

Well, you can tell by the way I use my walk, I'm a woman's man: no time to talk.  Music loud and women warm, I've been kicked around since I was born.  And now it's all right, it's OK.  And you may look the other way.  We can try to understand the New York Times' effect on man.

Growing up in the 70s, there were three groups of guys around:

  1. Guys who hated the Bee Gees
  2. Guys who secretly liked the Bee Gees but pretended to hate them
  3. Guys who got their ass kicked every day

I was all of the above.  I hated the Bee Gees because their voices were atrocious.  I secretly liked them because they wrote great songs.  And I was the guy who got kicked around for making fun of  big clumsy people.

I would have to say that I loved and hated the 70s.  It gave us Led Zep, David Bowie and the Eagles.  (Some of them gone.)  It also gave us Donna Summer,  Abba and Air Supply.  (My fave Karaoke selections.)  And who can't forget Rick Dees's Disco Duck?  And everybody then was Kung Fu fighting Fast as lighting Oh-hoh-hoh-hoah.

Is Jive Talkin' the best Bee Gees song ever?  We should probably ask John Travolta.  I heard that he came out of the closet lately.  I always suspected guys who wore pink disco jacket.  When seen under the street light, his jacket turned a shade that was so hot that it made country hicks like Ted Nugent grabbed an axe to chop it all apart.  Of course, I'm making this all up.  After all, who can remember the 70s?

#Lensbaby #streetphotography #urban #blurism #the70s #WhywehateandliketheBeeGees

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

They will be gone because of greed

Over two decades, Chino Hills was mostly cow space.  This farm is a stone's throw away from my house.  I used to bring my daughter here to see the cows.  She would piggy back on my shoulders and point at the cows.  Laughing out she would then say to them, "moow!"  I would cherish those moments.  Now the place is surrounded with housings and just across the street is a recreational park.  The farm is still there but it has decreased in size.  I fear that the cows will soon be gone.  The fields would be replaced with concrete and asphalt.  The native trees will all be cut down and replaced with subtropical plants.  They would make room for ugly new houses.  This is where the money would be.  This is all because of greed.

#greed #gentrification #surburbandream #vintagephoto #cowswanttohavefun

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Cover for the Unsuspecting Protagonists

This image was uploaded at Flickr over 2 years ago.  It received tepid response.  Although it has been viewed 4000 times, only 20 people favored it.  The other day, an Admin finally took notice and thought to use it for their group's cover.  Sometimes, it is just a matter of time.

Posted as Thoughts on Babes, Cakes and Candies in this blog and at Flickr.

#patience #whowantssomecandiesandcakes #candiesOrcakes

Monday, January 25, 2016

Why we love to photograph for ourselves

Big hair by Genetics.  Cool smile by Obamacare.

"There are plenty of reasons to document the world around us. We might need some evidence for an insurance claim, we might want a record of what our kids look like, right now...  But when all the day to day uses of photography are cleared off the table I think most people who take photographs for themselves do it for one overwhelming reason: social connection."  -  Kirk Tuck (Visual Science lab)

Selena Gomez and Kim Kardashian, eat your heart out.

#socialconnection #socialmedia #humannature #loverachel #canIhaveyourModelRelease