Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Ice Cream Conspiracy

John discovered this most delicious ice cream – Selecta Gold’s Vanilla with Almonds. Yummy. Super yummy. Every spoonful is creamy, and has just the right amount and size of nuts. But, I remind him (and myself) - that's calories, sugar and tons of cholesterol - all the wrong things to be putting into our aging bodies. Let's not eat ice cream! Please, let's not eat ice cream.

He keeps two half gallons of it in the freezer, so there’s at least a full container that’s always ready. He treats himself to a bowl-ful practically every night, and before going to the kitchen, would sweetly ask me if I also wanted some. Even when I decline, he would come back to the room with two bowls of this yummy ice cream – one for him and another for me. I try to say no, but the temptation is strong. I succumb. I surrender. I meekly accept the ice cream.  Hmmm, yum, yum. As I enjoy the ice cream, I forget the calories. Forget the sugar. Forget the cholesterol. Forget about nagging John that it's not healthy. It's really yummy ice cream.

Oh, he just handed me some. Excuse me, but I’ll have to put my computer down. J

Saturday, March 06, 2010

2009 Annual Report

The dark clouds of worldwide economic gloom, which started to gather in the last quarter of 2008, ushered in the new, but not very hopeful, year. While we are thankful that we survived it, last year was a year that we are glad belongs to the past. However, if we chose to look at life in 2009 in a more positive way, the slow business calendar actually allowed us to do other things for which we are grateful.

John was able to devote time to his advocacy, started in 2008, which he now calls “Touching Lives Through Photography”. Two Autism Society of the Philippines (ASP) chapters – Cavite and Baguio – joined “Colors of A Spectrum,” a photography workshop for families touched by autism, while Makati’s Persons with Disability and Company (Perdisco) offered it for children with various disabilities. John also helped organized “Skywalk” for the Down Syndrome Association of the Philippines. In all of these projects, Canon (for which John has become an official endorser) was very supportive.

I, on the other hand, made serious moves to do things other than manage Adphoto – not for business reasons but as part of my wish to retire. Perhaps the most major step was teaching “Business of Photography,” to graduating A.B. Photography students at the College of Saint Benilde. I was also able to start researching on John’s 1970’s photos by making a few trips to the National Library. I still have a long way to go in archiving John’s photographs, but as the great saying goes, “the journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step…”

A brief but exciting challenge was co-curating a mixed art exhibit, Glimpse of A Soul” by my artist-friends at the Carl Jung Circle, which segued well into my participating in a group photo exhibit, with 18 of my students and one co-teacher. I chose three photos from a recent trip to the U.S. East Coast.

Somehow, having bucked the downtrends during many crises in the Philippines made us confident that we would survive and maybe even prosper, but the numbers were not helping. Billings were very low and collections even lower. Newly hired employees were the first to be discouraged and left. When Weng, our messenger, resigned, we decided not to replace him and instead promoted our cheerful houseboy, Ronel, to do deliveries. Ninfa, who started as Kathy’s yaya (nanny) in 1981 and moved up to fill different office positions, opted for early retirement to take care of her ailing mother. G-nie, our photographer of 18-years, after parrying many offers from abroad, finally made the move to try her fortune in Dubai. Before she left, she garnered awards and international recognition (Cannes Lions, Singapore Spikes and the Philippine Araw awards) for a series of ads done at Adphoto for Boysen Paints/TBWA. Online chats continue to connect her to us, and Ninfa occasionally visits.

With a lean staff and some deft cost-cutting measures, we managed to end the year with all assets intact and even a slim profit. We even managed to do major physical renovations at the studio, and do some meaningful team building activities – to get us ready for when the economy is better (which I believe is now).

All our preoccupation with declining business and the troubled global economy screeched to a stop in October, when floodwaters from typhoon Ondoy inundated all of Metro Manila and nearby provinces. Setting aside normal work activities, we helped affected families – by cooking hot meals, packing rice, instant noodles and canned provisions, gathering old (and some new) clothes, donating towels, rubber boots, mosquito nets, hammers, shovels, saws and some cash to families in Tanay and other places. (Thanks for donations received from Ching and John, Sacha and Wayne, friends Barbara and Sarah, and thanks also to Kathy for leading our very own relief operations).

Throughout the year, there were a lot of “hellos” and “goodbyes” when friends came in batches – former college friends and dorm-mates Aida Reyes (from Davao) and Genie Abiad (from Baguio and U.S.); International Club of the Philippines members who came from various parts of the country and the world; and dear relatives like Tia Remie who hosted a family reunion of the Valentinos, Lomboses and Dumasals. Skype allowed for regular communication between us and Gary and Sylvia Bement, and my dear 86-year old namesake, Harvey E. Jewell in Tennessee.

It was also hello and goodbye for our family. On staggered schedules last December, Ching and her John (from Singapore), Kathy’s John (from the Middle East and Holland) and Sacha (from Canada) came home for a brief but fun holiday – giving us time to enjoy each other’s company in Siargao (the surfing capital of the Philippines). Ching, John V, Kathy and John G showed their form on the surfboards, John C tried valiantly but did not quite make it to standing position, while Sacha and I became the enthusiastic audience (and official photographers) of the surfers in the family. Before everyone left, we managed to pose in color and style-coordinated Columbia outfits for a family picture with all the pets – Lucas, Ginger, Bob (African love bird) and would you believe, Maali (John’s non-resident pet elephant, through the magic of Photoshop).

Looking back, except for the damages wrought by the typhoon, we might have anticipated worse than what came, and thank God, the first two months of this year actually offer us hope that we are back on track. Goodbye 2009. Welcome 2010.