Random Street Photos and Portraits

I was looking through some old pictures on my laptop today and realized that I still haven’t uploaded the photos that I’d entered into last year’s LensCulture contest. I didn’t want to jinx my chances back then, so I refrained from uploading these, but since the contest is long over and I wasn’t one of the winners, it’s probably safe to put these up now. Having said that, I did get some amazing constructive feedback on these, so I still consider it a win. 🙂

This is a mix of very old work, from when I first started taking pictures in earnest, and some newer stuff from my Hong Kong trip. I’m quite happy with these, and I hope you guys enjoy them. 🙂



Mother of a desaparecido. Manila, Philippines. A mother of a victim of enforced disappearance, or desaparecido, stands in quiet defiance before a line of riot police sent to contain activists on their way to Mendiola St. near Malacanang Palace, Manila. Police prevented the protesters–who were marching for justice for human rights victims in the Philippines–from reaching the Palace surrounds on Human Rights Day 2007.



The illusion of freedom. Quezon City, Philippines. One of the farmers who walked more than 1,700 kilometers from Sumilao, Bukidnon to the Philippine capital of Manila to demand the return of the 144-hectare ancestral land that was forcibly taken from them by rich land grabbers with political ties. 2007.



Ready for anything. Lucban, Philippines. Members of a marching band continue to play at the Pahiyas Festival, an annual harvest celebration in Lucban, Quezon, despite the sudden summer rain. 2008.



Vendor. Goldfish Street, Hong Kong. The Chinese believe that goldfish bring good luck to a home, and vendors on the appropriately named street do a brisk business. 2016.



Sampan pilot. Aberdeen Bay, Hong Kong. Sampans, traditional boats that still ply Aberdeen Bay, are usually piloted by Tanka women who learned their craft as young girls. 2016.



Love/lorn. Victoria Bay, Hong Kong. A young couple embraces as a lone man stares into the darkness of the bay. 2016.



Houseboat. Aberdeen Bay, Hong Kong. A man enjoying a quiet moment on the busy waters of Aberdeen Bay. 2016.



Off to the shops. Temple Street, Hong Kong. One of Hong Kong’s world famous night markets, with shops selling everything from electronics to street food. 2016.



Playing with fire. Hong Kong. A Russian fire dancer and traveler busks on the streets of Hong Kong to earn funds for the next leg of his trip. 2016.


Renewable energy? We’re big fans!




Please don’t kill me for the title. I couldn’t resist. 😀

Did a quick trip to the Alterenergy Wind Farm in Pililla, Rizal this weekend, with stopovers in Tanay along the way. Laguna Lake was visible for most of the drive up the Marikina-Infanta Highway, and the scenery reminded me very much of Tagaytay before it became completely commercialized and kitschy.


There were plenty of roadside stalls selling fresh produce at farm gate prices, and several intriguing eco- and georeserves along the way. The area is also known for its waterfalls and rivers, and is a popular mountain- and motorbiking destination.




My companions and I reached the wind farm after a mostly bumpy ride from the town of Sampaloc. The first two kilometers of the road we were on were paved, but after that it was more potholes and rough trail than road, so I didn’t really expect the crowds that greeted us when we arrived at the farm’s view deck.


We found out after we got there that there was an easier route via Pililla, and that most of the visitors arrived from there.


The place is becoming known as a tourist spot, as evidenced by the small phalanx of vendors selling everything from tatty miniature wind turbine pencil holders to fried chicken skin and fishballs.


I seriously hope that Alterenergy and the LGU can cooperate to make sure that the farm doesn’t become another environmental disaster area.



And now, for something completely different.

I know, I know. I haven’t been a very good blogger this past year. But honestly, there’s been so much going on and I’ve been so overwhelmed that I just wanted to retreat and take stock of things before posting again.

So. To the three, maybe four, readers who still follow this blog, hello again.

I’ve been sorting through the photos I took last year trying to choose what to post, so expect a few new items to appear here soon. But for now, as I said above, here’s something completely different.

A few people in my life know that I love to sing. I love music, all kinds and all genres. As long as it resonates with me or has a good melody, I’m all over it. I’ve been known to listen to the same album — heck, even the same song — over and over for weeks on end, which, needless to say, drove the people around me absolutely batshit crazy. But I regret nothing. Ha ha.

My love affair with music took a backseat when my mom was dying in 2006. Mom was a coloratura soprano who would constantly sing around the house; I have many memories of her singing kundiman and arias  with our piano teacher on Saturday afternoons while we kids played in the shadow of a giant duhat tree on a small hill near our house. We didn’t have very many neighbors at the time, and the sound of her voice would carry from the farm almost all the way to the highway, which was a good 10-minute walk from our street.

Mom was so good that she was offered a full scholarship to the UST Conservatory of Music to study voice and music theory, but she declined because she was already pregnant with my sister at the time. Between working full time and taking care of three bratty kids, there wasn’t much time for formal classes, but she always welcomed an opportunity to sing, even if it was just singing along to the radio while she worked from her home office.

She loved to hear me sing, and always encouraged me to do so, but I always felt so awkward and inadequate next to her powerhouse of a voice that I hardly sang in her presence. Dad also sang very well — and still does, to this day — and that did not help to make a painfully shy kid any more confident in her singing abilities. I ended up singing my heart out with friends at my college tambayan, and even performing in public quite a few times during poetry readings, and later, at friends’ weddings. I sang everywhere and anytime, and I loved it.

But still, I never felt comfortable singing for my mom. Even when she was dying in the hospital and begging me to sing for her, I would always hem and haw and find a way to get out of doing it, something that I would later come to bitterly regret. She used to ask me all the time to sing two songs in particular, which I will not name here, and I would oblige her on the rare occasion. Looking back, it was a horrible thing to do to a dying person. Now, ten years after her death, I still wish I’d granted her request more often than I had then, and I still feel a tiny twinge in my heart whenever I perform for a crowd of strangers.

I lost my voice, almost literally, after she died. Music no longer held any appeal. I remember recording a song at 4am on my tiny mp3 player two weeks after we’d lost her. I stopped singing or even deliberately listening to music for a long, long time after that. I lost my voice to guilt and regret and to the treacherous voice inside me that always told me I would never be good enough.

But that was then.

These past few months I’ve found a community of wonderfully strange people online who have become my friends, and they’ve encouraged me to start singing again. I’ve been taking tentative steps towards putting music back into my life, and they’ve witnessed the struggle and the sometimes horribly pitchy recordings that I sent them while I was getting my confidence and my voice back.

Some of those recordings will never make it past that small circle, but now I’m starting to feel confident enough to let the world at large — or, you know, you three or four lovely, lovely weirdos still following me here –hear my voice again.

All this is really just to say, here’s my latest recording, and I hope you’ll like it, and thank you for still being here.

From The Digital Baul Part 3: Would You Like To Ride In My Beautiful Balloon?

Hot Air Balloon Festival 2010. Clarkfield, Pampanga.

Hot Air Balloon Festival 2010. Clarkfield, Pampanga.

Okay, I just completely carbon dated myself with that title. Haha. 😀

More from the digital baul/digital spring cleaning series. I found this series of photos that I shot back in 2010 at the Clark Hot Air Balloon Festival. J. called me at 1am and asked me if I’d be interested in joining her and her friend on a road trip to see the hot air balloons in Pampanga, but the catch was that I had to be at the meeting place in two hours.

Erm, okay.

But I figured, hey, why the heck not, since I hadn’t been on a road trip in ages. I took a quick shower, packed my bags, and ran out the door. I made it to the venue in record time, and after fortifying ourselves with fast-food coffee, we were off.

Hot Air Balloon Festival 2010. Clarkfield, Pampanga.

Hot Air Balloon Festival 2010. Clarkfield, Pampanga.

Clark in Pampanga used to be a US military base before Mt. Pinatubo erupted in 1991, reducing most of the area to fields of lahar as far as the eye could see. These days, Clark is slowly being transformed into a tourist attraction, with its own international airport, duty free shopping, wide vistas, and the mountain looming over everything and everyone. The mountain feels like a living being, a heavy and forbidding presence even when you’re standing in the middle of a flat open field. Maybe I’m just not a mountain person; I much prefer the feel of the open sea.

Hot Air Balloon Festival 2010. Clarkfield, Pampanga.

Hot Air Balloon Festival 2010. Clarkfield, Pampanga.

That said, Clark was the perfect venue to hold the festival, as the flat land made it easier to accommodate all those balloons.

Hot Air Balloon Festival 2010. Clarkfield, Pampanga.

Hot Air Balloon Festival 2010. Clarkfield, Pampanga. Yes, that *is* a beer bottle balloon. 😀

The main event started at around 5am, with hordes of people jostling each other for space at the safety cordon so they could take photos of the launch. Luckily, we made good time and got there in time to find a decent spot to hang out.

Hot Air Balloon Festival 2010. Clarkfield, Pampanga.

Hot Air Balloon Festival 2010. Clarkfield, Pampanga.

This flying barn was one of my favorite balloons that day. I like how it looks like it’s surrounded by its babies in this shot.

Hot Air Balloon Festival 2010. Clarkfield, Pampanga.

Hot Air Balloon Festival 2010. Clarkfield, Pampanga.

And yes, it came complete with animals and a farmer, too. 🙂

Hot Air Balloon Festival 2010. Clarkfield, Pampanga.

Hot Air Balloon Festival 2010. Clarkfield, Pampanga.

The obligatory solo-balloon-silhouetted-against-the-dawn-sky shot. 😀

Hot Air Balloon Festival 2010. Clarkfield, Pampanga.

Hot Air Balloon Festival 2010. Clarkfield, Pampanga.

And lastly, my favorite balloon of the day. I must have taken more than a dozen shots of this one, trying to get a steady shot without a tripod. I think I ended up half lying on the hood of JR’s car to stabilize myself for this shot. The very hot and very dusty hood of JR’s car, I should say. Good times. 🙂

All of these photos were taken using my old Lumix TZ3, which was already ancient by the time my dad gave it to me as a hand me down. Most of these are also straight out of camera, except for one image which I cropped just a tiny bit. The details are a bit soft, but for an older model, it’s not bad.

From The Digital Baul Part 2: Black And White Conversions

These were edited late last year when I was trying out digital conversion from colored RAW files to black and white. I’m not that happy with the boat photos yet; I’ll try to work on them again when I have a bit of time to spare. 🙂

Detail, Vakul Weaving. Chavayan, Sabtang Island, Batanes.

Detail, Vakul Weaving. Chavayan, Sabtang Island, Batanes.

Ivatan House, Batanes.

Ivatan House, Batanes. Facade of a traditional Ivatan house.

Sabtang Plaza Entry, Sabtang Island, Batanes.

Sabtang Plaza Entry, Sabtang Island, Batanes. The School of Fisheries in Sabtang offers very basic, dorm-style accommodations for very reasonable rates. Bring your own food as there are very limited options for purchasing food on the island.

Sabtang Port, Batanes.

Sabtang Port, Batanes. This was the view from our dorm room at the School of Fisheries on an overcast day.

Sabtang Port, Batanes.

Sabtang Port, Batanes. Taken just before boarding the faluwa back to Batan Island on an overcast and drizzly day.

Sabtang Port, Batanes.

Sabtang Port, Batanes. Taken just before boarding the faluwa back to Batan Island. Colored photo for comparison.