My Northern Exposure
Article by JUN REYNALES
I just have to be back in Tuguegarao City. It was a decade ago the last time I visited this charming northern part of the Philippines, in one of the bustling towns of Cagayan Province. I have prepared myself mentally for a gruelling bus ride of 14 hours from the bus terminal in EDSA Quezon City all the way north in Tuguegarao leaving on a 9:30pm trip. It is a very challenging trip but I am all up for it. The reason now is much important to me than that of ten years ago – I will be teaching and sharing my experiences and skills as a photographer to the young and eagerly interested 9 to 12 year old Tuguegaraonons as organized by MindCraft Tutorial and Learning Centre. The opportunity to plant a good foundation to these wonderful kids the value of photography and become a responsible visual story-teller or future photojournalist is just so irresistible. So my journey began last April 26, 2019 for my 2019 Creative Fun Photography Workshop. Here we go!
Arriving after almost 14 hours of back-breaking trip via Victory Liner bus, and almost mid-day, tired and hunger setting in, I was floored to see how the once quaint little town of Tuguegarao is now transformed into a bustling new town! You see familiar names of new malls, restaurants, banks, convenient stores that are a dime-a-dozen in the crazy Metro Manila now have crept and modernized this locality. Despite such massive developments, the city still has not lost its charm. Something old matches something new worked well so far. It’s local temperature, as cautioned by my friends from Manila that it will be scorching, to my surprise it was quite manageable – the temperature in Metro Manila is far more unforgiving! Perhaps because Metro Manila is so congested with concrete paths and have cemented the whole city jungle making it totally polluted; with trees chopped off and practically gone, Metro Manila became more like living in a hot toaster. Tuguegarao City is far more habitable now than that of Metro Manila. Anyway that’s enough ranting. So the story goes back to this trip.
By 11am I was warmly received by Francis Isidro Collado and Teacher Krisette Casibang of MindCraft Tutorial and Learning Centre, discussed our plans and schedule for the following days event. They also showed me the room venue and the logistics that we’ll be using. It was almost 3pm when I checked in the Crown Hotel and Restaurant, my home for the next few days here in Tuguegarao. Touchdown and now feeling back the old memories of this place a decade ago today. I can’t wait to see, feel, and feast on this city that I call as my second home.
Rested and eager to glide my feet around Tuguegarao, I was invited by Teacher Krisette Casibang to try out the famous “batil-patung” done by the popular Triangle Pansiteria along Luna Street. Started operations in 1972, now almost 48 years old, has been known by practically every Tuguegaraonon as the pioneer restaurant for their iconic Batil-Patung pansit. Originally owned by Ano and Iling Arao, it is now managed by their amiable daughter Ms. Precie Arao with her children CJ and Princess. Some recognizable personalities frequent their pansiteria whenever they’re in town -- celebrities like Richard Gutierrez, Drew Arellano and Kara David – are regular patrons to this unassuming hang-out place to name a few. Precie graciously gave me a generous serving of their famous pansit, and such serving can be shared by two to three persons. Good thing I was a bit famished due to my long bus travel, I feasted – for almost an hour or two – the generous delicious serving of their batil-patung pansit.
The Photography Workshop Begins.
It was April 27, 2019 at around 9:30am that the young participants for the photography workshop began trickling in and registering at the MindCraft Tutorial and Learning Centre. Eagerly young students are all ecstatic to start the workshop. Ages between 9 to 12 years old, with combination of hyperactive and shy personalities all mixed together made me excited all the same; and bring out the best in them as far as creativity towards photography is what matters. Bring it on I said to myself.
Using my crazy icebreaker game of “Two Truths And A Lie”, I introduced myself to my young participants now all focused towards me. One by one, I was able to convince them to open up in order for me and the others would get comfortable, enabling me to break the barriers and be able to gel this group as one cohesive student body for this workshop. Effectively, they all opened up and became active participants – coasting through my power-point presentations, the National Geographic’s inspirational video, and the exercises I challenged each one of them. Pushed and worked hard to bring out the creativity, each participant were game to do it – made them do all the basic and creative composition methods – and made sure I had it planted deep in them.
Gamely each of them worked on the challenge diligently. It was amazing! End of the first day, the participants were treated to a huge pizza for their hard day’s efforts courtesy of Fracasso Tuguegarao Pizzaria. Huge delicious treats for the participants!
On the 28th, the second day of the photography workshop had a full day schedule of photography exercises; everyone was up and about by 9am. First stop, the Cagayan Museum. With exclusive access given by Mrs. Mabel Villarica Mamba, the young participants were given anexclusive chance to visit the museum that Sunday morning.They get to not only do their photography exercises within the beautiful confines of the new Cagayan Museum but also discovered and learned on the historical past of Tuguegarao and Cagayan Province. The museum itself had its share of colourful past being once a provincial jail and once as Japanese headquarter during World War II. The children even saw the bullet holes that riddled around the walls of the place, the etched names of former convicts, and other artefacts.
After the Cagayan Museum visit, young participants travelled towards the view deck overlooking Pinacanauan Bridge and the Cagayan River, and there around 3pm started their creative composition exercises on travel photography in a beautiful environment. No amount of afternoon heat deterred the young participants from taking different positions and angles to capture their desired shots. I gave them the freedom to choose whatever subject they wanted – from the stoned walls, the unassuming flowers, the challenging butterfly, to others. Such a sight would give any professional photographer a run for their money I said.
By almost 4pm we travelled back towards the city to go do the last challenge for the day – do a food photography exercise and capture the best photo they can do with the Mexican dishes of Cantina El Yano located in Luna Streat Food Park prepared no less by its chef and owner Chef Bryan Pinson and his wife Sandy Pinson. After a few minutes of waiting, the freshly cooked Baby-Back Ribs was served. The participants are all excited and jockeyed to the best position that they can get. Through the courtesy of this wonderful couple, they showcased some of their favourite dishes – the delicious Smoked BackRibs, Tostadas Especiales, Picante Wings, Fish Tostaditos, and others. After asking the participants if they all were able to get their desired photos, surprised to tell them
By 6pm we head back to the centre to wrap up the two-day rigorous activities. Tired but satisfied, I gave my parting words to my young photography workshop participants. Satisfied to their diligence, perseverance, and efforts to the gruelling challenges I each gave them, I awarded them their individual certificate of completion, and saw in each one of them the satisfaction and success they have achieved. Indeed they have learned something
It was such a heartfelt and humbling experience to have such questions asked to me by these wonderful young participants and also by their parents. Perhaps should fate and destiny would allow us to have another chanced opportunity to happen, it will happen. “Perhaps next time soon!” is the only thing I can muster at that moment.
Perhaps indeed when the right time is ripe, to do another creative photography workshop it will happen. It is bound to happen. Destined fate would allow that opportunity to be experienced by the next batch of young eager and interested students. Only time can tell though.
The day after: My Short Adieu.
Last day of chanced discovery of what Tuguegarao City is somewhat my “see you later soon” to this wonderful place. Walked around and visited familiar spots like the St. Peter Cathedral, the horse-drawn caritelas, and usual food spots, and looking at the usual friendly smiles of people around me. On this trip, coming back after 10 years, I will keep this experience through some bits of photographs as some sort of valued mementos... as my cherished Northern Exposure trip to the place I grew fond of.
Perhaps next opportunity will be laid upon me to grab. For now it was such an exciting and a memorable experience... to have met these wonderful young workshop participants and their wonderful parents. Thanks to MindCraft Tutorial and Learning Center, through the efforts of Ms. Francis Isidro Collado, in making this all happen.
Until my next adventure all I can say is: Indeed... Life is Good!