FILM DIARIES: WHY FILM?

Partly out of being an old-soul, partly out of sentimentality, and maybe partly influenced by the Wild We Roam videos I’ve watched on YouTube, I bought a film camera. Funny how I seem to be holding a piece of history on my hands. There was an expired film that was sitting in my cabinet for a year now, perfect to be used for a beginner like me. Not much will be wasted if no good shots turned out.

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I tried to learn about aperture and shutter speed, those nitty-gritty technicalities that is easy to overlook when using our smartphones. The first real lesson that film taught me was to focus–both literally and figuratively—on the subject, in the moment.

Dana Roberts has perfectly coined the words on why it’s interesting to take on film photography: It all just begs you to slow down, to focus on the moment at hand, and take it all in and then...the most important part...to stay present. No checking how the photo turned out, no re-taking the selfie, not even the need to see how many likes it got. Nope, a film camera gives you the luxury of hoping that you captured the moment and letting that be enough.

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Then, there was patience. It took a month for the black and white film to be developed, to say that I was excited to see those 36 shots was an understatement. I was like a giddy child on the counter, grinning from ear; those were the only negatives that I anticipated in my life. I was simply glad that there was more than one good shot among them. And yes, these first few photographs were more than enough to keep me going.

FILM DIARIES: CONSTANTS

One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.
— Proverbs 18:24

“There’s a special place in my heart for the ones who were with me at my lowest and still loved me when I wasn’t very loveable.” 
— Yasmin Mogahed

Constant. Just like the gravity that hold us down. We've always heard about people who come and go. Of people who have treated our hearts like doors to a room that they can just leave and come back to whenever they wish.  But there are also those who have stayed no matter what the circumstances are, no matter how messy the situation may be. Those who have shared their light and declared: we are here for you. 
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Photos from our earliest hike ever at Mt. Hapunang Banoi. Taken with Canon AE-1 and an expired Neopan Acros 100.

TINY STORIES NO. 3: AGAIN, WHY?

The second prompt for Summer of Sketching arrives on my mailbox, which brings with it an all too familiar question that we have asked ourselves, probably a thousand times already: Why? 

I have learned to love this one word question even before I answered it. My default response has arrived years ago, but it is good to be reminded every now and then. Humans as we are, we easily forget. As Eric said in his e-mail: it's easy to get caught up with WHAT you’re doing or HOW you’re doing it. We lose sight of the most important part: WHY are you doing it in the first place?

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Last Saturday, I attended an art appreciation talk for free (thankful as always for the Brew Your Best Year community for providing these opportunities). I love going to these kinds of events since they make me experience being in an art class – in flesh and blood. And since it was co-organized by The Coffee Bean, it also came with coffee (not gonna deny that I sometimes live for events with free coffee, I mean come on, they make events a hundred percent better. Coffee lovers would easily understand this).

But enough about the coffee, the event was centered on the works of Pablo Picasso and understanding Cubism. I concluded on that day that abstracted cubism paintings won’t be on my favorite list; Mr. Pita told us that they are characterized by not having any space left on the canvas. Every detail is connected into a one whole picture. The main feature of these paintings is something that my eyes doesn’t favor. They make me dizzy – distracted somehow.

Another interesting fact that I found out that day is that Picasso was a copier of works. It may not be an exact copy, sometimes a reversed image or a different pose but you can find the similarity if you look closer. I find it funny that one of the most famous painters started just like us, with no sense of originality or style.  We make a big fuss out of being original at times, that’s why I have always loved that Palahniuk quote: Everything is so far away, a copy of a copy of a copy. The character was talking about insomnia, but maybe we can say the same to art as well. Even the people we called masters are no exception.

The organizers were rounding up questions and one participant asked, “What was Picasso’s motive in creating these artworks? What legacy did he want to leave behind?” I was half listening, busy stirring my coffee, so these words are just a rephrased answer from Mr. Pita “His greatest motive was just to express himself, it was his outlet from the anxiety or depressive things happening in his life. He wasn’t actually aiming into what legacy he was leaving behind.”

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That afternoon was quite comforting, knowing that art can still for art’s sake. There are times when our whys are geared into creating an impact for the world or the community. But there are times when your why is about letting yourself breath through colors, shapes, or figures. To simply create, without too much expectations attached to it.

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Tiny Stories is inspired by the book curated by Joseph Gordon-Levitt (bearing the same title) that says: The universe is not made of atoms; it’s made of tiny stories. This is my attempt to compile mine, something to push me to write even if there’s not a lot of words for me to grasp.

BIBLIOPHILE PROBLEMS

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Stage I: Booksale

This word never fails to excite a bibliophile. I wondered when I started loving this place, my memory might fail me but my bookshelf is now a proof that it has given me joy within the pages upon pages I’ve managed to take home with me. After all, who can resist great titles if the come at such an affordable price? So far that only happened when I don’t have an extra budget with me. I humored a friend by saying that Booksale is a blackhole for a wallet, but at the same time a source of happiness for our heart and soul.

It’s an indescribable experience when you find a book that is included in your “must-read-list”, and will only cost you half of its original price. These books have the same soul – same content – but have gone through a different journey. Oftentimes, that’s what makes them more special. I can’t help but say a breath of thanks for whomever decided to give it up for it to land on my hands.

Stage II: Tsundoku

It springs to mind whenever I see the pile of books that have started to get taller, stacking up on one another in my shelf. I can’t help but ask sometimes, how did they get so many? (clue: see stage one.) They bring both comfort and frustration; comfort in knowing that I found these treasures, frustration that I haven’t been reading as much as I want to or as fast as I want to. My usual line when buying yet another book goes like this: I can’t help it! These books come to me. They called me. They need a new home.

Stage III: The End

“I still continue to buy books – there’s no electronic substitute for them; but as soon as I’ve finished a book, I let it go, I give it to someone else, or to the public library. My intention is not to save forests or to be generous. I simply believe that a book has its own journey to make and not be condemned to being stuck on a shelf” – Paulo Coelho, Like the Flowing River

These lines from Coelho’s essay: Of Books and Libraries convinced me years ago to give some of my books away. It has now been a yearly tradition to purge my shelf of titles that I would never open again, or books that didn’t resonate with me.

Once I met up with a book seller to get a second-hand copy of Bird by Bird, and he asked me if I was a writer to be interested with it. I replied that I aspire to be one, and shyly added that for now my words are contained in a small personal space. He then told me that this is one of the best writing books out there and the copy I was buying was his own. It made curious and asked, if this was a great book why was he selling it? “Nothing.  Just to avoid being attached to material things,” was his quick reply.

I don’t think I’ll ever come up to that point of letting even the greatest books go. But I’ll continue to free some that are meant to land on someone else’s hands. Who knows? Maybe it’s the right book they’ve been waiting to come.

The end is really not the end. It's a slow realization that these stages aren't problems after all, it's just a cycle of giving back and receiving these wonders once again.

TRAVEL JOURNAL: SINGAPORE, ONCE AGAIN

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Singapore, for the second time around was different. It was more personal, more intimate. We came back to our favorite places, but also explored new ones. The train routes never fail to be traveler-friendly, we have started to memorize it like the back of our hands. The bus routes proved to be another matter; we got lost on the far end of the Tiong Bahru suburban area. Our supposed to be 10-minute-away destination extended to an hour. Mother and I ended up laughing about it, we pat ourselves in the back and say, now we know. There are moments when we learn the way through getting lost.

I found myself looking out the train window, as we pass by houses and sight I can’t help but think…can this be home? Can I call you home? I often caught myself dreaming of walking through its streets every day. It’s the first time that I admitted to myself that I am willing to uproot myself from the island I’m from, to pack my bags and head off to a different kind of concrete jungle.

Funny how I ended up buying a magazine from Bras Basah Complex, bearing words that ask the question: What would life be like if you’d never left your hometown?

I wonder if I’ll end up answering that question or if the days would bring the exact opposite. Such questions don’t have immediate answers, but I must say that Singapore met me again during the time when I desired to leave most. It was a promise of a fresh beginning. We’re 2,355 kilometers away, yet it felt like it’s where I belong.

Nowadays, I find myself being homesick for a place I have yet to call home.