wp_head() The Camera Looks Both Ways « portraits without borders
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The Camera Looks Both Ways

First of all I’m so sorry for being behind on my blog posts. I’ve spent the last month in the Philippines. I’ve had little to no Internet service, and a tight and busy schedule while I was over there.

Edzen at the Bellevue Hotel, Manila

Cathy at the Bellevue Hotel, Manila

Like I said I’ve spend the last month in the Philippines, and it has changed me. I have traveled to over 20 different countries, and every time their was a point during all those trips that I would say, “It’s time to come home.” This trip I didn’t get that feeling. I just wanted to stay. Maybe it was because I wanted to escape from the issues I face at home. Maybe it was the fear of facing a new chapter in my life, but I believe it’s much deeper than that.

Santa Rita Fiesta, Pampanga, Philippines

I’ve been to the Philippines before, but this time I had photography work to do so I brought my (good) camera, and what I saw was something I haven’t seen before in my 12 years as a photographer. I saw myself.

Barby at the Bellevue Hotel, Manila

Dee at the Bellevue Hotel, Manila

Janine at the Bellevue Hotel, Manila

There’s an old saying in my industry, “The camera looks both ways.”  As I photographed the people of my birth country I couldn’t help but see the beauty, and piece in their souls. I saw the natural determination that makes them what they are today, and I saw the resiliency that makes Filipinos great. For the first time in my life I was truly proud of being Filipino.

Janie in Boracay

Karen, Janie, and Taho guy in Boracay

Karen in Boracay

When I first arrived to the United States I was 4 and I spoke only Capangpangan (the dialect language where I was born). Somewhere along the way I lost the ability to speak my language (I still understand it). I blame public school and the desperate need to fit in as an American. When I was growing up I had no Asian role models that I could look up to much less Filipino roll models. Yes, there was Bruce Lee, but he wasn’t Filipino. Although I did idolize him he created a stereotype that all Asians knew Marital arts, and where Chinese which didn’t help my struggle.

Kate in Puerto Princessa, Palawan

Johanne in Puerto Princessa, Palawan

For decades I would down play my identity with my non-Filipino friends. I would play stupid when someone asked me about my culture. I would be embarrassed, about so many things that make my culture unique (like sometimes eating with your hands). Being unique was the last thing I wanted to be as a young boy trying to fit in to a country I wanted and needed to call my home.

Jc in El Nido, Palawan

Jho in El Nido, Palawan

This trip I went to my home province of Pampanga, to Manila, to Boracay, to Palawan, and every person I met I saw myself. I saw the little boy with different colored skin, and hair, I saw the little boy who spoke a weird language, and I saw the boy who ate weird foods. I saw me, and it was ok. I’ve never felt so proud of where I came from than this moment. I’ve never been more at piece with who I am than right now. I’ve never felt so blessed that I come from a country with such a rich history.

Jc in a bat cave El Nido, Palawan

That pride resonated the loudest when I went to watch the Manny Pacquao fight. I watched it at a movie theatre at the mall (all movie theatres are in the mall) with 100’s of other Filipinos. As they sang the Filipino National anthem everyone stood up. I too stood up, because I was one of them..again.

My view from my room in El Nido, Palawan

The only thing I’m embarrassed about now is the inability to speak the national language, but pocencha ok, buluktot yung tagalog ko, pero nag-aaral ko. Salamat