Whenever I find myself in deep dilemma regarding work, I go back to where I feel most safe—photography. It doesn’t matter if I am busy—I will make time for it. Sometimes, I ask myself, “Why do I always get myself into roads which lead me to asking what I want to do in life?” Because whenever I photograph, I am certain that it is what I wanna do for the rest of my existence… So why? My quick afternoon photowalk to Quiapo has somehow shed me a fragment of light.
It’s already past 1 o’clock when I decided to leave the house. The sun is scorching—the wind matches its intensity. I hail a jeepney going to Quaipo and set myself for a long ride.
We pass by a few places which meant so much to me when I was a teenager. It’s funny how time eats up these memories to pave way for new ones. It was no longer my favorite—but it still holds a small compartment in my brain. Fleeting moments rush and gush—uncontrollably. I don’t know why I do this every time. It almost feels like a punishment. Reliving long-gone college scenarios is dangerous. We slide back to a place where we question everything we have decided on after. Maybe it’s my body’s own way of making sure that I cut ties from things that are making me rethink—making me reevaluate.
Here I am again, asking myself if what I am currently doing is the thing I want to do in the long run. That’s why photowalking Quiapo is my only way of clearing my headspace. I want to be sure this time. Somehow, I don’t want detours no more.
I arrive across Quiapo church at 3pm. I traverse the overcrowded underpass—noisy and chaotic but is also therapeutic. There is something about white noises that shuts down my ever-working brain.
The streets are still narrow, just as how I last remember it—only cleaner. Sun rays pass in between the building gaps and cutting through the crowd giving them more drama, more depth.
Unknowingly, I reach First United Building in Escolta. I was surprised that Quiapo Church has led me to this. I just walked directionless into streets unfamiliar to me, then, bam, suddenly my feet took me here.
The Den, . I order their Chai Orange Lemon Soda and two pieces of brownies. As I start to eat my food, a text notification from my friend chimes in. He’s already outside. It’s time. I pack my brownies and sip my drink til the glass is empty.
I actually have no idea what to do today. Secretly, I want Quiapo to surprise me—for it to lead my feet to undiscovered spots where I can rest my weary mind.
Our starting point is at the foot of a bridge that has a very poignant view of LRT and the bustling shopping streets. I managed to get a few photos before deciding to relocate.
We make our way back to the church but somehow we both agreed that this isn’t our magical place. Then, we decide to walk across and just wait if magic will happen.
The sun is starting to set and the view starts to glisten. Dust particles make great gold glitters suspended in the air. Finally, something beautiful begins to unravel.
Wanting to take this photowalk up a notch, we start walking towards a tunnel which leads us to a secret place. All of a sudden, a different look of Manila unravel before my eyes. On my left is a bridge with jeepneys and busses and on my right are trains passing by station after station. And in front of me is the powerful Pasig river with occasional tugboats crossing.
There’s this inexplicable light that Manila exudes. Behind its chaos, there is charm. And underneath the grime, there is art. Manila is really one of a kind. Even if I thrive in a city as modern as Bonifacio Global City, I feel like Manila solely holds my heart. There’s no competition. It’s old-fashioned beauty has a different effect that is so irresistible. Manila is home. You can go wherever around the world, but there is only one Manila.
I giddily hop on the concrete to get a better view. I switch from one lens to another, from my mirrorless camera to mobile camera. The unchartered water shimmers eerily like those you see in movies.
This is what I came here for. Quiapo gave me a fresh pair of eyes to see that I should always run after new discoveries and never settle for what I know now. That after every dark tunnel there is a blinding light. And that I was born to do this and nothing else.
A LITTLE UPDATE:
I initially drafted this to gauge whether or not I should still go chasing corporate jobs or take that leap—that scary free-fall towards a real life not bounded by the mundane corners of the office. Three months after this original piece was written, guess what, I am still in this limbo. Should I or should I not pursue photography? This pandemic has really opened my eyes to how I should live my life. That I should be mindful of every minute moments. That every moment we are all waiting for is always right now. And that happiness, above all else, matters the most.
Maybe in a separate article, I can share what my decision will be.
Cheers to us, trying to stay sane in these trying times. We will all get through this.