Rare: A family complete

7 siblingsEvery now and then you get a chance to witness a family coming together and ironically, as the world supposedly has become smaller, this has become rather rare.  This is the family of my mom. I took this in Lakawon island back in 2007 I think. These siblings haven’t been complete in 13 years until this time so this is one of those rare moments.

LA 2012

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The one person I admire the most…Scot Harrison

Click HERE for video!!!

Click HERE for Charity:Water video!


There are plenty of people I admire: the late Steve Jobs, Stefan Sagmeister, Sugata Mitra, Ken Robinson, Pranav Mistry, Steven Spielberg, Bono, Bill and Melinda Gates, Warren Buffet, my Tito Nene, my brother Robin, Ana Balcels, my most favorite couple in the world–Checcs and Jet Orbida, I used to admire JFK but realize I don’t know him that well, it was a time I can hardly relate to…

I realize that more than plain talent, it’s innovative ideas in making the world better or just plain excellence and extreme focus on whatever they did are what drew me towards these people.

But the person I can related to the most is this guy, Scot Harrison. Watch the videos!  One is an interview on him and the other one is about Charity:water, the NGO he put up.  Whenever I do something, I always think–what would Scot Harrison do and how would he do it?


When I was 10 years old, my parents took me and my siblings on a tour of the United States. It was really the first time we’ve been out of the country.  It was life-changing because for the first time, things and places you only saw on the television were actually both real and fake.  We got to see the fake stuff done in Hollywood of-course.  It was the typical US tour.

But what stuck with me was this place…Yosemite. There was something pure and real about it.

Now, 30 years later…I visited my son Febuary of 2011 for his birthday. There was a long weekend so we took a trip to the mountains with some old friends of mine from Bacolod.

When we entered the mountains, we stopped by the view deck, we took some photos then went down Yosemite park.  I took a shot of El Capitan with the warm sun lighting half of the wall. Then we set out to camp, found a nice spot, pitched our tents and started to build a fire. It was a perfect camp site. Ethan had such a great time with his tito Richard, tita Jana and tito Monette, the real campers.

By 9pm, I went inside the tent, it was getting too cold for me. Ethan loved the cold and so did the rest so they stayed by the fire and continued their barbecue and storytelling.

I woke up around 4am because I was hearing rain outside but it sounded different. When I went out, we were all covered in snow. Apparently, it snowed the whole night when we were asleep. Ethan got up around 5am and started playing in the snow as the sun was creeping in.

By 9am, the rangers were closing down the mounting and asking everyone to put on snow chains on their tires.  Two vehicles skided off of the cliff because of the ice.

The day before, Yosemite was this lush green summer mountain with snow caps only on the mountain top.  In one night of snow, it was a totally different place, a totally different look.  Amazing.

I took these photos off of my Lumix LX3 as we left Yosemite.

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Edge Work

Shot on a Fujinon S1, my very first DSLR. I think it was a 5 megapixel camera. I super loved that camera. It was a collaboration of Fuji and Nikon. The body was a Nikon but the digital technology was that of Fuji.


Chicago Sunrise

I shot this photo at the break of dawn on the very last leg of the Chicago Night ride of 2006.  It was a bike marathon that starts midnight and finishes around six in the morning.   I did it with my high school batchmates Kevin Limas, Patrick Hilado (who was the consul of Chicago that time) and Alwayne Tulayba.

Eventually this photo won and came out in Time Out Chicago.

Refugees in Chicago

Summer of 2006, July, Chicago, IL.

Falling in love with a whole new genre in photography and listening to Thatcher Cook in Maine made me go home to Chicago yearning for an output.  So I searched and volunteered as a photographer for 2 NGOs working with refugees from Somalia, Russia and Africa. I took a ton of photos following them through their summer programs.  In hindsight, this was a real turning point for me as an artist, I think.

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Maine on Film

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Back to School (2006)

After 2 years of apprenticing under Lee Briones-Meily, I sold my car and moved to the U.S. to study.  I settled down in Chicago gearing up to take the summer workshops in Maine, before practicing as a cinematographer.

Maine was great. Met a lot of people from around the globe. I particularly liked my classmate from Saudi Arabia who knew Filipino words and loved adobo growing up with a Filipina yaya.  He loved Filipinos.  I also particularly liked my classmate from England because of their humor.

Rode the bike to class. That was really nice. Mind you, I was 33 years old when I went to Maine.

But my most memorable class was a class I sat in after regular classes—Thatcher Cook’s class on documentary photography.  It was packed and it was free. He was great.  He opened me up to a whole different world of photography—and that changed me.

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Growing up with a camera

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My son Ethan grew up around a camera.  Whether I was shooting him or shooting something, anything, his first 5 years were years I shot the most as a photographer.

I did it both as work and as a hobby. I just loved photography. I still do, actually. I just don’t get to do it as much as I would want.

Last time I asked my son what he wanted to be when he grew up he said he wants to be a photographer.  He’s too young to know what he really wants but I’m glad he has the knack for it—even if it’s just going to be his hobby when he grows up.

He’s actually very good and I’m not just saying that because he’s my son. He is.  And he doesn’t like cameras without the viewfinder. He won’t shoot with a screen as a viewfinder.  I’m actually glad he grew up at a time when I didn’t yet use a camera with a monitor.

When he turns 12 which is next year, I will enroll him in his first photography class. We’re both excited about it.


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