Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Tandem Ride

“Harvey, have you seen Mission Impossible Rogue Nation? 'Nessun Dorma' plays a prominent role (as does the opera 'Turandot'). It's a fun movie and the best in the series. Don't miss it with John. You guys get free tickets, right?”

This question from a friend, Tonet Rivera, prompted this story.

HI Tonet. Sorry for late reply. John and I were in Davao to give a talk, "Passion and Profit in Photography." Yes, we saw that movie - I think about three weeks ago.

When we were excitedly watching the movie sequence showing Tom Cruise on a motorcycle going down concrete steps, I told John that I could relate. How do I know that feeling?

Many years ago before they covered the canal along Amorsolo Street in Legazpi Village,  it was several meters lower than the Makati Cinema Square area, where we were at that time. There were concrete steps between the two levels.

Traffic was bad on Pasong Tamo (a parallel street, on the opposite direction, where we wanted to go). We were tandem-riding on his motorcycle, not quite as big or powerful as Tom Cruise’s.  

He then asked me, "Do you love me?" "Of course," I answered. "Do you trust me?" I replied, "with my life."

I had no idea what he was planning. I just thought that he was feeling romantic. Then he gave me strange instructions, "Close your eyes, and hold tight. No matter what happens, don't let go." I did, and then quickly realized the move that he took. He turned towards the steps and we went down to Amorsolo Street, bumping along on each step.

What a cinematic experience, but a ride I would rather not have, as I felt my heart jumping to my throat. He maneuvered his motorbike well, and before I could protest, we were safely down on the street level.

Still, the experience was etched in my mind.

At the movie theater while watching “Mission Impossible,” I held on to John’s arm, and grateful that we were just watching a movie and not reliving our own motorcycle adventure, I whispered, “You’re my Tom Cruise,” and added, “Tom Cruz.” J

P.S. For the info of non-Filipino friends, Cruz is a common Filipino surname.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Elephant Talk

John’s biggest challenge in public speaking sneaked up on him in 2003, very un-suspiciously and un-audaciously.

He had been featured as guest speaker at a few PhotoWorld Manila conferences before, so he did not hesitate to accept an invitation from Apple Philippines (before Apple decided to uproot themselves from Manila) to speak on digital photography. We switched from film to digital in 2000, and the ensuing three years had established John as the then most knowledgeable photographer on both the technical and creative aspects of the new technology.

We were told that he would be the only photographer among the various speakers, and that the conference would be held at Dusit Hotel. A week before the big day, the people from Apple, and their local distributor, Power Mac, came to visit Adphoto to brief him on the program. I made the mistake of asking how many people were expected to attend, and John and I were both shocked at the number they cited: 700!

When they left, John approached me (and Kathy, who was there at that moment) – very tentatively, very nervously. He said he would like to back out. Kathy and I chorused, “You can’t – your name as speaker has been announced.” “But I may freeze and blank out. When I do, I will walk out.”  “No, you wont. We will close all the doors,” Kathy answered back, and then to coax him, she offered to prepare his audiovisual presentation. “We’ll help you rehearse, and we’ll prepare cue cards – everything you need,” Kathy reassured him. Still, John was so unsure of himself. I had never seen John so nervous (although I remember that when I first met him, he was shy). We explained that he was the most qualified person to speak on digital photography, and would he really pass up this chance and let a competitor take the limelight? That calmed him down a bit, but everyday for a whole week, he begged to be excused from giving this talk.

And so it was that that fateful day came. I handed the emcee the intro on John that they had requested. John was the first speaker. I don’t remember – but I think he was seated with us in the audience as the emcee introduced him, and then, he walked up the stage. He started his spiel, and then, very smoothly, and with tremendous confidence, he talked about digital photography, adlibbing and joking. He was informative and he was entertaining. Even without looking at the cue cards that Kathy prepared, he delivered his talk FLAWLESSLY. John was confident, funny, authoritative and convincing.  He looked and sounded as if he was born to speak before a large audience. Although standing ovations are not popular in the Philippines, Kathy and I gave him one!

While the emcee was introducing the next speaker, I whispered to John, “You were really something! You were fantastic! But, considering how nervous you were earlier, what happened? At what point did he feel that you could swing it?” He whispered back – although whispering is not easy for John to do – “When I was being introduced, the emcee mentioned that I volunteer at the zoo and that I take care of Maali.  I thought then – if I could talk to an elephant, then I could talk to photographers!”

That’s John’s secret to his confidence - talk to an elephant and conquer all your fears! Elephant talk, anyone?

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Lost and Found - Sacha

Maybe she’s not anymore, but when Sacha was very young, she was quite vain. She would choose only dresses that had matching bags, and she liked looking at herself in the mirror a lot. She also fancied jewelry, and would often play with my pearl necklaces.

Once, we were attending Sunday Mass when we noticed that Sacha left our pew and was nowhere in sight. John and I had to leave Ching Ching and Kathy with Yaya Ninfa to look for her. We found her, right away, as she did not go far, but we were amused by what we saw. Our youngest daughter, then maybe two or three years old, was checking her reflection on the church’s glass door. Her hands were over her head, and she was tiptoeing like a ballerina, completely oblivious of the solemnity of the church ceremony, or of her worried parents who were frantically looking for her.


Last weekend, John was invited to do editorial travel photography of a resort in Matabungkay (Batangas). I must admit that I don’t have fond memories of the place (of Matabungkay, not of the resort), and I hope that will change soon.

When Kathy was about five or six or seven (I don’t even remember exactly), and she was still known as “Ann Kay,” we took the family to the beach. The cleanest beaches were no longer in nearby Paranaque or Cavite, so that we had to drive about two or three hours to go to Batangas – Matabungkay, to be exact.  It was summer, so the beach was crowded with families frolicking in the sea and on sand, and there were food kiosks and ice cream carts right on the beach.

We were just a meter or two from the shoreline, and were having fun, jumping each time the wave came. When the wave passed, our heads would still be above water, so I did not think that it was unsafe.  I don’t remember who was paired off with Ching Ching and Sacha, but I was with Kathy. It was exciting to jump every time the wave came, and to anticipate the peak of the wave as the precise moment for us to jump. Kathy and I held hands, but I was not alarmed even if we didn’t, because we were in the shallow part of the sea, and we were taller than the water level, without the wave.

But, suddenly, after a wave passed, I could not see Kathy. I looked in the water, as maybe she lost her balance and could not stand, but I could not see her. Frantically, I called out – shouted - her name. When she did not answer or reappear even as I kept shouting her name, John who was farther away, and people around me, even if they did not know us, soon became alarmed and joined me in searching for Kathy. I was in tears, and my heart was pounding, but between sobs and prayers, I still called out “Anne Kay,” “Anne Kay,” “Anne Kay.”

I remained in the water, nervously and anxiously surveying my surroundings for a glimpse of Kathy, when John shouted that he had found her on the beach. Running while looking up to the sky to say  “Thank you, Lord,” I rushed to her.  She was smiling, unmindful of the stir that she had caused. I was just so relieved that I did not have the energy to scold her or to even ask where she went (I’m sure I did scold her later, and I did ask her why she left the water). I just wanted to order her to come with me to shower up and get dressed – right away!  After that harrowing experience (to me anyway, as she seemed unperturbed), I just wanted to make sure she didn’t get near or in the water again. Not again that day, anyway.

Seeing her in dry clothes, I relaxed a bit and no longer insisted on keeping a tight grip on her. But in a few seconds after I let her go – she was gone again! This time, John spotted her right away – where he found her the first time – talking to the ice cream vendor.  

That’s what took her out of the water, in the first place. She told us that she saw the ice cream cart and the food kiosk. She did not think she needed to tell me, but since she did not have any money, she was going to go back to the sea to look for me. The beach was crowded, and the shore was wide, and well, she did not find me.

It was not a big deal to her. It was to me.

We have not gone back to Matabungkay in the 30 years since then, and I feel that maybe, I need to replace my memory of that place to something more positive and pleasant. Indeed, It’s time to go back. J

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Learning A Language

I have two granddaughters, the older, “G,” is two-and-a-half years old, and the other, “A” is one-and-a-half. While babies’ coos and babbles are cute, observing how they acquire real and recognizable words is simply amazing.

The older one has learned to string together words to form intelligible (and I can proudly proclaim) intelligent sentences; the younger one is repeating every word that she is hearing.

Names, including nicknames and terms of endearment (papa, mama, nanay, tatay, wowo, lola, opie, omie, each other’s names, John – which can be confusing since both their father and one grandfather, and incidentally, some titos and kuyas are also named John), tenses (“did you,” “will you…”), time concepts (today, yesterday, last night, this morning), relationships (sisters, mother, daughters, aunts), similar and opposites (high, low, old, young), sizes (big, small, tall, short, thin, fat), colors (oh, all kinds of colors, including purple and fuchsia), things in the heavens (clouds, sun, moon, stars), food and drinks, household items, cooking terms, machines, parts of a car, names of animals, safety terms, and many others are being explored and imitated.

(Note: If I were a full-time grandmother, I would count/measure their vocabulary levels at different ages. Sadly, I am not).

The other week, as we were coming into the city from a trip to Subic Bay, both children were exhausted, and crying. While the younger one could only cry and cry out “mama,” “mommy” and even “nanay,” my older granddaughter was articulating her frustration. She was insisting that she wanted to go home. We told her that we were indeed on our way home, but that she had to be patient if we could not get home right away, as traffic was bad. She said, with the irritation obvious in her tone of voice, “I don’t like traffic.” (She has not learned the word “hate,” thanks to her parents who try hard not to introduce her to such words). We laughed (which may not have been appropriate), and chorused, “We don’t like traffic, either.” “Those who don’t like traffic, raise your hand,” someone in the car piped in, and we all raised our hands. I tried to amuse her by saying, “Let’s say “good-bye” to traffic.” “Good-bye, traffic.” She repeated, “Good-bye, traffic.” I said, “Good-bye, bus,” and she echoed, “Good-bye, bus.” Good-bye, jeep.” “Good-bye, jeep.” Good-bye, car.” “Good-bye, car.” “Good-bye, building,” I continued with the litany of things we were seeing.  “Good-bye, post.” “Good-bye, traffic light.” “Good-bye, pedestrians,” and she asked, “Lola, what’s ‘pedestrians,’” and I pointed to the people crossing the street. “Good-bye, man in yellow.” “Good-bye, Toyota car.” And soon, we were out of the traffic jam, and rolling along.

Everyday, I am awed by the many words that they are learning, and the confidence they are gaining in saying them. The 1-1/2 year old is emphatic when she says “No!” and for emphasis, repeats “No, no, no, no!” She also expects us to understand that to her anything to drink is “juice,” even when she would say “water.” But the older one? When asked by her papa if she wanted water, she nonchalantly said, “Sparkling, please.” Whoa!

The other day, we were eating at a place where food attendants accepted orders at the counter. We placed our orders, chose a table and waited.  “G” left the table, walked to the counter and talked to the attendants. We could not quite hear what she was saying. After two or three minutes, she went back to the counter, talked again to the attendants, and then walked to the side of the counter. We saw her pointing to a high chair. One attendant dutifully brought the high chair to our table, and “G” said to “A,” “A_____, sit on the high chair!”

Her younger sister would not sit on the high chair, so “G”, stared at the empty high chair. Even though she didn’t like being strapped to a high chair herself, she climbed into it. We figured that she realized that since she asked for the high chair, she should make sure that someone used it.

She was not just learning language, but the responsibility that goes with using it.

Pardon me if I am rambling. I’m just a proud grandmother!