Wednesday, November 19, 2008

An Old Photograph




Visiting my sister, a Catholic nun in Montreal, brought back a lot of memories. I haven’t seen her for a while and seeing her again led us to reminisce the past, especially things involving our family.

She also showed me old photos. It was rather touching to see people and places captured by the camera many, many years ago. It is fascinating to imagine how a particular fleeting moment somewhere in time - was captured and immortalized. Looking at that particular moment when time stood still forever, can render a person awestruck.

One particular photo was that of my mother. It was snapped in 1948 in Escolta, Manila.

The city was ravaged by the Second World War that ended in 1946. This photo was taken two years after the war and Manila was still being restored to make it look like the way it was before the Japanese Imperial Army ruined the whole city. As can be seen here, the sidewalks crossing the estero is made of a temporary wooden bridge. My mom went to church in Quiapo, and after the mass she went to Escolta to go shopping. She was carrying here my older sister who was born in 1948. Following behind her was Rosita, one of the maids who was really good with children, and the guy behind Rosita was a guy named Inocentes, the driver.

I was baffled when my sister told me that the photographer was a total stranger. She explained to me that in the old days, photographers in Manila where everywhere. They take pictures of people passing by – without asking for permission. Then, these photogs would develop the photos and when they were ready, they would go back to their hang-out and wait for the people that they had photographed, hoping to see them pass by again. When they do, they would approach the subject of the photograph and showed them the photos and if they want to buy them they are more than welcome. This photo was one of those taken by a sidewalk photographer. And knowing my mother who would never let anyone down, I’m pretty positive that she must have paid him more than what he asked for.

Little did anyone know that in just a matter of few years after this photo was taken, Escolta became the financial district of the Philippines. It was also the glitziest part of Manila, something akin to LA’s Rodeo Drive or Vancouver’s Robson Street. There were shopping malls, specialty stores, boutiques, excellent restaurants, first class movie houses and what-not.

Photographs. Snap-shots of the past. Reminders of long lost memories. Harbingers of color swatch of emotions. They could bring happy or sad memories. No matter what emotions they evoke, it leaves you, the viewer, wistful, sometimes with feeling of loss.

What happened to the four people captured forever in this photograph?

My mother passed away almost five years ago. My sister became a nun and she lives in Montreal. Inocentes, the diver, when he got married, he asked my parents to be his God-parents and my parents gladly accepted, therefore he became our God-brother. As a wedding gift, my father gave him 10 hectares of land in Bicol and that’s where he settled with his wife. Rosita, the young maid who genuinely liked taking care of children, was given by my father with a bigger land when she got married, nearly 20 hectares, and just like Inocentes, she also became our God-sister. But, despite the distance, previous maids, drivers, cooks – that worked with our family – would always come back to visit us. Then, one by one, as I grew older, they began to disappear. When one disappeared, we knew the answer. He or she have passed on.

Then, you can only see them again in old photographs, photographs that are linked, so to speak, to the past. And then, the color swatch of emotions will once again engulf you.

13 Comments:

Blogger Reno said...

Kind of sad. But touching. I remember my yaya, who succumbed to cancer some years ago. I regret not having gone to her wake. Her sister still works for my parents, though, and I sometimes think of the day when she retires, and how it will also be kind of sad.

November 21, 2008 at 2:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kuya JM:

Si Alvin ito. Nasa Italy ako ngayon nagmo-model. Ang ganda pala ng mother mo. Amerikano pala lahi ng pamilya mo? Di pa ako nakapunta diyan sa Escolta. Wala na yata ngayon iyan.

Pinadalhan pala kita ng sinegwelas last May. Natanggap mo ba? Hindi ko pa kasi nakakausap yung nagdala diyan.

Sige kuya, ingat ka palagi.

November 21, 2008 at 5:41 AM  
Blogger TheCoolCanadian said...

Hi Alvin:

Surprise, surprise. Long time no read. He-he. Ang tagal mong nawala. Lahat ng email ko sa iyo, bumalik. Mukhang wala na yata yung address nito.

Oo naman. Natanggap ko ang sineguwelas. Fantastic. Wala na kasing nag-eexport niyan dito kaya na-miss ko talaga. Salamat, ha. Masyado ka namang thoughtful. Nagi-guilty tuloy ako sa iyo. You're killing me with kindness, man. Huwag ka nang mag-abala next time dahil alam kong busy ka sa hanap-buhay. Basta huwag ka na kasing mag-"sideline" pa. Huwag mo nang patulan ang mga indecent proposals dahil hindi maganda iyan para sa iyong psychological and physiological health. BTW tinanggap mo ba yung offer ng Bench, o masyado nang mura para sa iyo? Ha-ha.

Huwag kang pupunta sa China. Medyo delikado. May isang model ditong babae na tinanggap ang trabaho. Hindi kalakihan ang offer, $30,000 a week. Tapos, sa hotel niya, nilooban siya ng isang 18 year old na lalaki. Pinagnakawan at pinatay pa. Nakipaglibing nga ako dito. Napakalungkot. Stay away from China, but stay as sweet as you are. At tama ang decision mong huwag nang mag-artista diyan sa RP. Gulo lang ang papasukan mo. Besides, di hamak na mas kikita ka nang malaki sa trabaho mo ngayon at nakakapunta ka pa sa iba't-ibang lugar sa mundo. Wala pang mga fan-atics na bubuntut-buntot sa iyo. Travelling is the best experience. Iyan ang opportunity para makilala mo naman ang mga kakuwanan ng iba't-ibang lahi sa daigdig.

If you have a new email address, please email me so we can communicate regularly para lagi kitang MASERMUNAN kapag may ginawa kang PALPAK. He-he. More power to you, my friend, and lots of luck.

November 21, 2008 at 9:48 AM  
Blogger TheCoolCanadian said...

Reno:

You said it. Yung mga nagsilbi sa aming pamilya ay para na ring naging relative namin. Ang tao, kapag itinuring mo with dignity and kindness, karamihan sa kanila ay sinusuklian din ng kabutihan ang ginawa mo. May mangilan-ngilan na tunay na ingrato, pero hindi iyon dahilan para mawalan ka ng tiwala sa humanity ng sandaigdigan. But, you are absolutely right. It's rather sad when the people you care about begin to leave this world, but that's something we can't stop. I would advice people to save their photographs because later in life, they will serve as links to re-live once again, precious memories. And there's nothing more exhilarating than reminiscing the past, especially when it involves the people you really love and care about.

November 21, 2008 at 10:09 AM  
Blogger Everlito (ever) Villacruz said...

pards buti kapa,may naitagong picture nuon...aalagaan ko rin ngayon yung ibang picture na nasa akin ng mga pamilya ko.(yung iba hahalughugin ko pa pag nakabalik ako sa pinas nxt year.)

November 21, 2008 at 9:46 PM  
Blogger TheCoolCanadian said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

November 22, 2008 at 6:05 AM  
Blogger TheCoolCanadian said...

Blogger TheCoolCanadian said...

I lost so many photos, such as the wedding photos of my parents, and the photos of my parents when they were young. Kapag nawala ang mga ito, they're gone forever. I think you should also save some of your most fave paintings. And stay away from anonymous message posters whose purpose is nothing but to vex you. You're just fine, my friend, at ang mga taong tulad mo'y pinagpapala.

November 22, 2008 6:05 AM

November 22, 2008 at 6:11 AM  
Blogger kc cordero said...

JM,
nag-comment ako dito ng mahaba, ayaw ma-save. btw, maluwag na ba inbox mo para ma-send ko yung drowing ni novo? bumalik kasi 'yung emails ko sa 'yo.

-kc

November 26, 2008 at 6:56 AM  
Blogger TheCoolCanadian said...

Ingkong KC:

Yes, please. Email me the drawings. I would really like to have a copy.

Gracias, young man ;)

November 26, 2008 at 3:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

JM,

Parang kanta ng CLASSICS FOUR ano ?

Faded photographs
covered now with
lines and creases
tickets turn in half
memories in bits and pieces
traces of love.......

Hit song ito noong 1969, TRACES by the Classics 4.

Batang- bata pa ang mama diyan at very distinct ang kanyang Castilian visage. Yung sister mo palang madre ang medyo contemporary ko.

Uso nga yung mga itinerant photographers noon, inabutan ko pa iyan. Puro Sepia colored fotos lang.

Old stomping ground ko rin iyang Escolta noong araw. Unfortunately, it has gone to seed. I don't know kung mi plano si Mayor Lim ng urban renewal sa Escolta to bring it back to its old glory.



Auggie

November 27, 2008 at 5:18 AM  
Blogger TheCoolCanadian said...

Oo nga. I have that record. He-he. Nakakatuwa naman itong mga photographers na ganito. Masarap siguro magsulat ng script na ang leading character is isang sidewalk photographer. Palagay ko, very colorful din ang mga naging experiences ng mga ito.

November 27, 2008 at 9:25 AM  
Anonymous Rey said...

you have a very beautiful woman for a mother, JM. Kaya pala pogi ka, hehe. It's a great read, by the way. I like all these reminiscing stuff.

December 14, 2008 at 7:11 PM  
Blogger TheCoolCanadian said...

Ikaw naman Rey. Baka maniwala ako niyan, ha? Ikaw nga diyan, saksakan ng lakas ang iyong sex appeal. Balita ko'y pinagkakaguluhan ka raw ng mga kadalagahan diyan sa Singapore. He-he.

December 14, 2008 at 7:35 PM  

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