Saturday, May 29, 2010

Stranded on Boracay Island

The island of Boracay, just off the coast of Panay was originally home to the Ati tribe. Boracay is part of Aklan Province which became an independent province in 1956. Formerly undiscovered, it wasn't till the 1970s that tourism began to develop in Boracay, and the island became popular with backpackers in the 1980s. They tell me that years ago, Boracay Island was a well-guarded secret, but then in the 70s a foreign movie crew accidentally "discovered" this island paradise. Since then Boracay has become one of the major tourist destinations in the Philippines.
I came to Boracay Island in an attempt to find a tropical island get away for our possible 2011 photo tour; a kind of retreat, a place to recharge our batteries, review our portfolios and take in a little bit of Philippine beach culture. This kind of R&R is not usually a part of any of our other photo tours, but with the beauty of the Philippines, I am reluctant to exclude it from our tour.

I hadn't planned on spending this much time here, but after arriving I was informed that flights off of the island were fully booked.  Anyway, as beautiful as it is, it's a bit too touristy, so tomorow I'm off to try and find another, less traveled island, one that can be our little slice of "undiscovered" paradise. Of course, there could be worse places to be stranded, so I'm not complaining. In fact, I took advantage of the time and yesterday, hired a guide Anthony, and his boat, for a circumnavigation of  the island...Boracay is truly a stunning place!
Paalam! (Tagalog for good bye),

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Leaving Sagada, the long haul to Baguio

Just prior to leaving, I came across a small group of people, preparing food in a forested area near town, they were dismembering chickens. I was not able to communicate with them but everyone got a kick out of me being so interested in photographing the scene.
The main bus terminal (actually just an intersection with a small sundries store) in town was buzzing with action. Travelers and families waiting for the buses to fill before the drivers would proceed.
While waiting for my local bus to Bagio, I noticed a group of Filipino photographers ane we started a conversation. Several of them were carrying Think Tank bags, so I grabbed a few shots before the bus took off for Bagio. I think the folks at Think Tank will be happy to see that photographers the Philippines love their Thnk Tank bags!
It was a long 7 hours to Bagio and it was raining heavily on arrival. The road between Sagada and Bagio is an amazing engineering feat. The trip is not for the squeemish or those who tend to get motion sickness, but the scenery along the way is totally amazing. This stretch of road is considered by many to be the most beautiful section of road in the Philippines and I wouldn't disagree. The road passes through countless small villages and provides views of rice terraces, nearly the entire way.

Rice Terraces and Hanging Coffins at Sagada

Sorry for not posting in such a long time, I was under the impression that this post had already been uploaded, but when I checked the blog a few days later, I saw that this post was not successfully loaded. Anyway, here it is again...

The amazing rice terraces of Echo Valley, Sagada. Absolutely stunning and they are everywhere! I will be hard to choose the ones to photograph.
 My local taxi driver guy said that the day before the fog was looming above the terraces!
Below you can see the cliffs near Sagada, where locals "bury" their dead. The coffins are actually suspended on the cliff face!
Here's a close up showing a skull and bones clearly visible.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Oh what a difference one vowel can make!

After a short flight and a long bus ride, I arrived in Vigan, hot and dry, stepping off the bus I reached into my pocket for my Chapstick (probably laboratory tested on animals) and applied it to my parched lips. Wearing my leather flip flops, (made from genuine cowhide), I set off to find my holel. Along the historic cobblestone streets of this UNESCO World Heritage City, I passed vendors selling the Philippine's famous balut (boiled egg with embryonic chick inside) and restaurants selling Vigan's famous Longanisa sausage, (a delicious concoction of all things carnivorous). It appeared, at least at first glance that there were few Vegans here in Vigan. Like I said....what a difference one letter can make. Now, let me go on record as saying that I have nothing against Vegans, or vegetarians for that matter, and I do spend quite a lot of time in parts of India where meat is difficult to come by. Although I enjoy a nice vegetarian curry dish now and then, when it comes down to my eating preferences, I do prefer a 100% beef burger over a McVeggie or a tofu sandwich any day. For example, tonight, I stopped for some street BBQ, it was delicious!
After checking into my hotel I set out for a quick twilight shoot of the historic district of Vigan, the heart of which is Calle Crisologo, with it's crumbling Spanish architecture. Vigan kind of reminds me of Havana, but without all the music, nightlife and partying!
All around the historic heart of Vigan, horse drawn carriages were plying the streets past shops selling antiques and handicrafts. There were even a few shops selling cigars made from local tobacco and Vigan's own mango wine.
Today I did a thorough exploration of the town and discovered some photo locations, including a weaving cooperative and a pottery factory.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Last Day in Manila

It's been an amazing three and a half days in Manila and I think that there will be plenty of options, if we decide to run a tour here. Between the bustling markets, the street scenes and all the photo-friendly folks, Manila has much to offer for photography.  Here are a few "parting shots" from Manila. Tomorrow I head up-country to Laoag and Vigan. I'm told that the Vigan lives up to its reputation of being the most well preserved Spanish Colonial town in the Asia. UNESCO lists it as a World Heritage site, so it's probably going to be excellent.
Water front promenade, Manila Bay, Ermita.
Jeepnies plying the streets at sundown.
Motorcycles in front of old door, on Mibini Street
Man with shopping  bag, waterfront, Manila Bay
Child scavenging through flotsam and jetsam on the beach, Manila Bay
Sunset over the guard tower, United States Embassy, at Manila Bay, Ermita, Manila.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Manila Day 3

Yesterday was spent mostly in traffic, commuting around Manila meeting with travel agencies and checking out a photography gallery in Makati.  Despite all that time sitting in taxis and jeepnies, I couldn't help but take a few snaps along the way.
CocaCola logos can be found in all the remote places on the planet, and they are a great backdrop for photos. Whenever I see a Coke logo with someone or something interesting in front of it I grab a few shots.
This guy saw me walking along, and lit up with a great smile and a thumbs up, I quickly raised the camera and snapped off two frames.
I share the four shot sequence above to point out the importance of staying with a subject long enough to capture the unfolding emotions or expressions. I often shoot sequences like this for my NGO clients, so that when they put together a piece, they are able to use the image that fits best. Moral of the story...stay with it, don't put the camera down and start chimping until the action is over! My favorite is frame number three, what's yours?



Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Manila: a lot more here than envelopes and file folders... (bad pun)

Day two in Manila and there is so much here, I would put it on a parallel with Bangkok in terms of photo opportunities.

Red Santos and I started out by exploring and shooting around the railroad tracks in Manila, about 40 minutes away from the Ermita area, where I am staying. Just getting to a destination in Manila, provides plenty of visual stimulation. Jeepnies are a favorite of mine, with their color and adornments!
Under a highway bridge, just 2 meters from the railroad tracks, about 20 families have set up living quarters, each family staking out a spot large enough to construct a makeshift bed from cardboard, wood, or discarded mattresses. This family with four children have been living here for 4 years. The man works as a motorcycle taxi driver earning about 100 pesos a day ($2.25 US). The children play along the tracks, keeping a sharp eye open for oncoming trains.
There are quite a few men who operate small human powered trains, that will transport people along the tracks from point to point for a small fee. The "train" consists of a bamboo platform with seating and an umbrella. Underneath small wheels and a braking system can be found. The whole rig is powered much like riding a skateboard, pushing with one leg. If a real train comes along, everyone just jumps off and the driver removes the rig from the tracks, the ride is resumed after the train passes. Red and I took a ride and it was quite amazing! It reminds me of the "bamboo train" in Battambang, Cambodia. I've tried to upload a Flash video that I made with the D3s. I converted the AVI file to Flash using Proshow Producer. I have no idea how to do this, so there is no guarantees but if you are on broadband, you might try this link..and then wait for 4 megs to download...good luck

Next we got back on the "real train" to get across town to our next photo shoot at a large marketplace. En route, the train hit a pickup truck at a train crossing. No one was injured but it caused quite a commotion.

After a long, hot, productive day of scouting, I bid farewell to my new found friend Red Santos. Thanks for all the help Red!