“Te Jo, paita gyud diay aning atong kinabuhi,” said Wang. We were sitting on the shore, with my thoughts being carried away by the waves and reached the ranges of Negros. However, other serious matters occupied Wang.
“Tan-awa, magsuwat ko,” he said and drew a line on the sand. Not later than five seconds, the waves claimed the line. I kept on staring at the place where the line was once. Stared. Stared. And his point sank in my feverous head.
Wang subtly shook his head. I was silent for a few minutes, not knowing what to say. Did I say “you couldn’t blame the waves for claiming a lifeless, storyless line.”? No, I didn’t. It sounded sarcastic, that would be too harsh, not only to Wang but also to myself, who hasn’t proved anything worthy either, who has been accused of being hilas-hilas, a Yahoo mail folder i recently reminded me. That’s beside the point.
The facilitator’s face
Or perhaps I kept on staring at the sand knowing the line is still there mixing itself in the identityless of the sand. How should I comfort someone who shares the same lament as me? Being labeled as Te Jo in a group of young writers doesn’t help either and is an additional burden because wisdom is supposed to come with age. Being called such means they can’t have the guts to criticize a lousy pseudo-poem that I wrote.
Undeniably, the hardening fat at my lower back signals that I’m ageing—which my uncle noticed two years after I graduated from college. (I made myself sound I’m fifty.) Wisdom, which I expectantly hoped to come with it, is as indistinct as the cirrus teasing the distant ranges of Negros. Wisdom that guises itself as fearless imagination, as genuine creativity. Wisdom that can make us exclaim, Voila! This is it! This is really it!
We were in Moalboal, pretending to be experts in photojournalism and editorial writing for the new staff of Ang Suga publication. Out of the sixteen staff, it would be lucky to have one or two who will be mad enough to take writing seriously, who will write with a self-imposed deadline—and guiltily break it anyway.
Moalboal reminds me of a rainy dusk, of the ruthlessness of the waves, of memories awash, of two girls giggling on the shore. And now, more Moalboal memories to remember: Wang drawing a line on the sand, Em-em and her braided hair and huge mole, Therese all smiling, the Ang Suga staff doing retreat-like activities, the cute guy facilitating the activities, and an old man goggling to see me in my bikini underwater.
“Ma’am, asa diay nimo gitak-an ang kan-on?” I asked Ma’am Leonora, the current adviser of Ang Suga.
“Sa rice cooker, day! Hala, brown out man diay no?” Her face eureka-ed for a split second before she got disappointed of her own realization. The label adviser limits her endless roles in the publication: she sliced mangoes, went wet-marketing, cooked pusit pinalataw sa sabaw, cleaned after our mess in the kitchen.
Although I was assigned to make an informal presentation about photojournalism, I found myself salting the fish, fanning the fish tormented on fierce uling, and sautéing the spices, and preparing the mongo soup.
“Em-em, doble akong sweldo ha!” I joked to Em-em, the current editor-in-chief of Ang Suga—a girl who is unaware of her own beauty, an opinion that Wang and I both shared.
I felt fulfilled, more fulfilled than my Googled presentation, which concentrated more on Western principles on photojournalism. It entails wars, wars, and more wars, which are irrelevant to the photojournalistic concerns and scenes here in Cebu. But my only consolation is that behind every photograph—regardless of the labels we imposed (ah, this is documentary photography, that is action photography, this is photojournalism, art photography)—lies the basic principles of taking good images. I learned these principles from Alex Badayos during my college years. I just reiterated what he had shared to the naive, clumsy Ang Suga staff of the yesteryears.
I aptly started my presentation with Elliott Erwitt’s “you don’t study photography, you just do it.” Because no amount of photography workshops can make a photographer out from a DLSR camera user.
Preparing the presentation was a learning process for me and discovered I prefer the grotesqueness of Diane Arbus’ works and the enigmaticness of Arno Rafael Minkkinen’s self-portraits to the simplicity of Ansel Adam’s landscapes.
Arno Rafael Minkkinen’s self-portraits remind me of Resil Mojares quoting John Berger’s “nakedness reveals itself. Nudity is placed on display. The nude is condemned to never being naked. Nudity is a form of dress.” The body is undoubtedly a medium of art.
After giving my talk, I helped in the kitchen like an eldest daughter. Using firewood for cooking is an image of Tuburan.
***For more pictures, visit Of Stories and Storied Places.