I signed up for Sino Pinas’ photowalk to get a new feel of Escolta — taking portrait photographs, to be more specific. Visiting Escolta and Chinatown is like religion to me. Since I was a kid, I have this certain fond perception towards it, so I thought this is a great opportunity to see it in a different light.
In this particular session, I am determined to take more portrait shots. For the longest time now, I have taken landscape photographs when traveling and for me this is the best time to test the waters when it comes to photographing people in the streets. I find the people of Binondo a lot interesting to photograph — gritty, raw and full of emotions. But taking photographs of them is so difficult. People tend to be aloof when cameras are in front of them which can make a photographer a little frustrated.
Escolta’s interconnected streets causes me to get a little lost which ends up with me arriving to the location a little later than usual. I climb my way upstairs and enter a room filled with people sitting on chairs across the room. Four men stand in front of us and started to talk about how their ordinary plans went into massive social movement. It sends fire to my soul, knowing that I can make it in the thriving world of social media, someday. After an hour, we are instructed to take any photographs of Escolta (landscape or portrait). Then choose only one to submit for the contest by the end of the day.
This is the first photo I have taken — a man scraping an old paint to repaint it anew. Below him, I setup my camera and take photos like there’s no tomorrow. I feel a little scared for the guy who’s up there with just a little piece of rope that holds him and his life together.
Adjacent to the building where the man paints, I see a space in between two rusty galvanized roofs, tried to peep in and realize that there is a security guard inside watching something on his phone. Before he even knew that I’m taking photographs of him, I snapshot a few more and just walk on like nothing happened.
When I walked southwards of First United Building, I catch this man in his most vulnerable facial expression while talking on the phone.
Food carts are parked on both sides of the street and the variety is surprisingly diverse. Wide array of food is served — from Mexican food to Vietnamese coffee, they got it all there.
After taking my lunch, I prepare my gear and head up to finding someone to take photographs of again.
A street full of workers weaving plastic covers caught my attention. I cross the street and walk cautiously to not disturb them from what they are doing. With one knee on the ground, I position my camera in the best way possible to get even just one shot.
I reroute to a road where no one’s taking photographs, yet. An elderly lady caught my eyes and I sneak a few shots without her knowledge. A few shots more, she approaches me and ask me if she can take a look of the pictures that I took. She returns a smile and pleasantly ask if I can photograph her more. I am more than willing to do it, to be honest.
In front of Carvajal Street, I get to meet the other photographers again once we reached the place all at the same time. We walk along the narrow alley with fruit stands cramped up on both sides. I move my eyes in all directions to find a potential subject. Good thing I see this elderly Chinese man reading a local newspaper in his spare time. It is so inspiring to see people who loves reading.
Across an altar, I find this man wielding a metal. Sparks fly all over the place and how the camera catches it is beyond magical. I maneuver all over him hoping I can catch that magic in my lens.
Just before I made my way back to the building, I am lucky enough to see a lady guard doing her daily job inside a turquoise-colored door —a fluke encounter of the subject inside a perfect framing.
Before the night ends, I decide to take one more look of Escolta (in this case two) while waiting for the train. It’s so surreal watching the cars turn into light streaks. If you squint your eyes a little, it turns into this almost dream-like sequence — unreal, spell-binding and unearthly.