Thursday, January 31, 2019

Maligcong Elders Portraits: Documentation Continues and the Importance of Building Trust

I know it's been kinda slow in coming along, this personal elders documentation project I've planned about two years ago. Can't blame some people, mostly posters in FB, for suggesting I just come to their place and take shots. I appreciate the welcome but building trust, especially among the village elders is not built overnight.  Nor is it built on the strength of two or three visits (case in point:  I've been visiting every 2-3 months the past 4 1/2 years). I deviated from Maligcong a bit by heading to Alab Oriente on the hope of finding Apo Herbert Todyog, probably the oldest living citizen of Bontoc, but I aim to continue my Maligcong advocacy. I can't really blame some of the locals for refusing to pose for the camera.  The plain truth can be painful to admit -- they've been burned by one too many camera-wielding tourists/visitors/photographers either stealing a shot or two, or brazenly taking a picture and maybe promising to give a print copy but NEVER did.   There have been cases of requests from the family of an elder who passed on for a picture to remember their loved one by but were either openly refused or tacitly ignored. It's a sad thing really. And one that bears a burden to future interactions with photographers who mean well.

Anyway, on this January 2019 visit, I added six faces to the Maligcong Elders gallery; some we really have to coax to oblige for a picture or two. There were colorful people my guide on this occasion, Gina Ati-oan, and I, have to respect for their vehement refusal to pose. Still, a bright point to our visit to Fangurao was bumping into one of my female subjects last November. I remembered that she really didn't want to pose for a picture when my friend, Suzette, and I, bumped into her coming home from working in the fields. When I handed her prints of her picture, she let out a loud laugh, exclaiming that she's old and wrinkled. I guess bringing some joy to the elders is worth the time and effort. Maybe word will get around that some crazy regular visitor to their place go around taking pictures of their peers and for a change, comes back and hand them a copy -- to smile, to laugh, maybe even to fuss about.

(All portraits taken with a Sony A6000 + Sony 50mm f/1.8 lens © 2019 Oggie Ramos)

Friday, January 25, 2019

The Search for Bontoc's Oldest Living Citizen: Alab's Apo Herbert Todyog

The concrete path leading to Bontoc's oldest living citizen is steep and slippery in places, rising about a thousand feet above the highway and the Chico River.  Should you look up to the west, you'll see an imposing, breathtaking view:  the cliffs of Kamanbaneng or what the Sagadans re-labeled as Marlboro Hills, a most dramatic sunrise viewpoint of a sea of clouds enveloping the distant mountains.  My guide-friend, Tina Paspas Sokoken, and I muttered under our breaths that this daily climb to get home must be one of the reasons for Apo Herbert Todyog's long life.  Lest anyone scoff and say the old man hardly descends from his literally, lofty perch, Apo Herbert insisted on coming down and receiving his centenarian award at the munisipyo some months ago.  

Through a stroke of serendipity, we first bumped into Apo's grandson halfway through the path; later on, on the final rise we met his grand-daughter-in-law, Anti Wilma who was on her way to run some errands.  She gladly stayed on and welcomed us to the Apo's abode.  It was around 7:30am and we arrived at the tail-end of Apo's breakfast.  A few minutes later, he obliges us by sitting outside and rolling some leaves, filling his pipe and smoking, his only vice.

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