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?