Thursday, October 27, 2005

Travel Writer. Soon to be for hire.

Cebu, 2005

“I think I want to be a travel writer next year.”

“Then go for it.”

Yeah. I told myself with quiet resolve. I glimpsed at Isa who also seemed to be deep in thought. I stared at my coffee, milky-brown from too much milk. I don’t know the first thing about travel writing.

I don’t really write. I drew. I made art projects for other people. I did comic strips. I was a skilled squigglist. My friends on the other hand, wrote. Articles for the school newspaper, poems in literary folios. Serious stuff. My ex-boyfriend was a writer.

Writing was a passing fancy in fourth grade. I churned out page upon page of childish prattle from an old, musty typewriter. It was brown, heavy and a little rusty. No casing to hide the long, skeletal arms whose keys left blotchy characters on paper. I loved it. I declared myself a “writer” in the summer of ’89.

In that same year, I discovered the beach. My first ever. It was the filthiest, most crowded piece of shoreline I will probably see in my lifetime. The water did not disappoint me. It was as salty and stingy as I imagined. The sand was coarse and hot and littered with empty bags of Chippy. I’d watch the sunset with a Kentucky Fried Chicken drumstick in one hand and a watered down Coca-Cola in the other. Such bliss.

Several years later and the lure of Batangas beaches over, I boarded the next transport to many other places. With camera in hand, I have amassed hundreds of photographs that never really found their way anywhere. Except maybe Friendster. I was never the instamatic kind of shooter. I detested the lack of control that one button gave me. “Press here, stupid” it seemed to tell me.

I inherited my dad’s old Canon SLR when I got to college. It felt nice and heavy in my hands. The camera was also equipped with macro-lens that I enjoyed using for black & white portraits. A few semesters before graduation, I was told by a friend and fellow enthusiast that she used my portraiture style to shoot writers and artists for a special issue of Heights, the school’s literary publication. Unfortunately for me, I never really had the guts to have my pictures published.

I would end up bringing this same camera to many local trips. By then, I had learned how to use the flash properly and even invested in a nice camera bag. I wanted to know more about the craft to the point that I became obsessive about it. I bought books from Amazon and flipped through old issues of Life magazine and National Geographic. I attended photo expos in Glorietta as an usisero – always looking but never really buying. I even toyed with the idea of being a photojournalist after college. Touring the world and covering important events were exciting propositions. Just me and my Nikon (because all important photojournalists seem to have them). I even sent an inquiry to study photography in France. I wanted a scholarship. The school would follow up on me for the next two years. I never bothered. I bought a book on Henri Cartier-Bresson instead.

“Dude, you just have to go out and do it.”

For all the pipeline dreams I have, this is something that seems worth pursuing. And if there’s something I do know and can do is that I write with pictures.

Yeah. Why not?

One morning in the pantry of an advertising agency. October 2005.