Her Name Is Chiqui

This project has been on idle for quite some time. It took me months to gather up enough courage and have these photos developed. They’re all of my grandmother, Chiqui, or to me known as Tata. She’s been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease (man, does it sting to say that) a couple of years ago. Doctors’ best bet was that it derived from the depression she went through caused by my grandfather’s death in 2011. Regardless of its origin, the disease is here.. its eaten her up.. not completely but the change has been, well, drastic.

Everyone who knows Chiqui, knows that she adores her grandchildren. Adore is an understatement actually. She’s everyone’s number one fan. I cannot begin to describe to you how much we love her – how much I love her. Plus, she cooks hella good! Don’t get me started on her Mechado!

Yet no matter how much I love her, it pains me to talk about her as I see her deteriorating. One time, she almost didn’t recognize me. It happened a couple of weeks ago, I think. She had to take a second look at me before she greeted me good morning. It felt like a Samurai shoved his Katana through my chest and dragged it towards my stomach. My heart dropped at the sight of her blank gaze and empty stare. I froze as an uneasy numbness spread throughout my body. “How? Why me?” was all I could ask myself.

I love photographing her. Before I hold my camera up to take the shot, she always says, “Isabel! Stop it! I don’t have eyebrows on!” yet would proceed to pose, smile at the camera, then laugh at what just happened. One day I decided I wanted to document her, capture more portraits of her. Real ones with the idea to ask her this question after each and every portrait session, “Tata, is this the first time I took a photo of you?”. The answers have been inconsistent as expected. I’ve shot photos of her before especially when I just began film photography and so there would be times when she would remember those days or she just wouldn’t. “We did this before na, diba?”, “No, just today.” “You never had a photo shoot with me before!! Stop saying you did!”. Those were some of many answers.  And yes, Alzheimer’s comes with a whirlwind of emotions – Tata being angry is one of them because she never really was the type to act out of rage.

I miss how she used to be but I seem to love her more now. She continues to attain wholeness even with the loss of her memory. This is all part of her journey. All part of her life.

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Chiqui has been collecting crosses ever since I could remember. She now has a whole wall dedicated to it.
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This was her cat Rusty. She’s had pets all her life. She’s had rabbits, cats, dogs, goats, a pig, a turkey, a chicken…. did I miss anything?

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One of Chiqui’s I-don’t-want-to-pose-for-you-but-let-me-smile-for-you moments.

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Here, Chiqui sits on the couch in her late husband’s den. She has her breakfast here at 8AM everyday while watching the news and Kris Aquino’s morning show before heading out to have a short walk around the block.

I can’t lie, it’s been killing me seeing what the disease is doing to her. But what can you do except be there for her right? I wonder if she even remembers she has it. I doubt it.

Mamiya 645 | Neopan 100 + Protra 400 (turned BW)

 

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An Honest Post About How I Really Feel

I’ve been jumping from one draft to another finding the perfect photos to accompany the perfect words, and I guess you can say that I still messed up on this one. I haven’t been able to write anything “good” for months and I just realized why it has been that way – I am completely and utterly consumed. I’m distracted, overwhelmed, and outright exhausted. I’m consumed with life and work. I’m distracted by jumbled thoughts and unbaked plans that are constantly being made up, one after the other. I am overwhelmed with feeling of fear, worry, and excitement. To feel all these emotions all at once baffles me. It’s a strange sensation.

My photography started off as my own little hobby I was obsessed with. It didn’t have to be perfect, it didn’t have to follow rules, it didn’t have to be anything else other than what I wanted it to be. It just had to be mine and knowing it was mine was what I loved.

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I try my best to approach each post I publish with structure, direction and a hint of emotion because, well, it’s me. 2017 has been a whirlwind and it seems that there are no signs of slowing down. I’m thankful for it, don’t get me wrong! But it feels like I’ve just started, and already, things are… like this.

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All I hope for is that things start looking up from here. Rather, my spirit and energy gets a positive punch into them.

 

Photos by Gio Lo

My Drive. My Inspiration.

Don’t be fooled. It’s not as easy as it looks.

I’ve posted enough photos on the internet to provide answers (or even just to jot down my learnings and observations) for readers who probably wonder what drives me to shoot. So I figured I’d write something up for ya’ll.

Nature – For long time readers, there is no doubt that most of my photos are almost always nature-centered (is that even a word?). It’s the smallest details that make the biggest impression on me: the different shades of green in the trees, the 5PM sunlight hitting the high grass atop a hill, the gentle motion the waves make. You know where I’m getting at.

Light – Yes, light. As a photographer, my best friend is the sun (also, sunscreen). I need to know its every move. I like to observe how it shines down on things uniquely each day. The contrast light creates with shadows can give you so many ideas.

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Walking – I’ve always liked the feeling of just walking from one destination to another whether intentional or not. It gives me this sense of freedom. It also allows me to practice my creative vision and observe the streets, people, and light (photography is all about light and I can’t stress this enough). It’s a good practice to evaluate your eyes and its creativity to mentally capture shots you think are worth photographing.

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The Goal – You can’t want to excel in something and not have an end goal in mind. No matter how long it takes, as long as you’re moving means you are closer to your goal. Don’t let that dream fade away, people!

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Photos taken with my Olympus OM-1 and a YKL 100. Processed  by Sunny16 Lab.

 

My Boyfriend – Okay, I know what you’re thinking, what a mushy post *closes tab*. Hear me out though. He’s been the one person who never doubted my ability to photograph. The one person who pushed me when even I decided to give up on my dream to become a photographer and there really are no words to thank him for what he’s done for me. Besides that, he’s got this exquisite mind. He hopes to be a director one day and his inspirations inspire me as well! His creativity bleeds onto me, the way mine bleeds onto him. I guess we complement each other that way.

There are so many more things that inspire me and my photography, but these are the five main ones that really push me to create and experiment with my art everyday even when I’m in hopeless rut!

What drives you to shoot?

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A Shot In The Dark

Photography never came to me as a calling. It simply was a hobby done due to its availability at the time I gave it a go. Never in a million years did I imagine it to turn out the way it has in my life today. Of course, after giving it much thought, practice, and time, today is a far cry from where I truly want to be.

It was a big risk what I did and I don’t believe regret has ever fallen upon me because of the decision I made. I do wish I could’ve realized it sooner.

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To all those who ever believed, to all those who ever trusted, to all those who still remember, thank you. It wasn’t an easy decision, it still isn’t, but you help me get by.

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You give me hope. You give me a reason to live. You give me guidance. I thank you all.

Photos taken with my Olympus OM-1 with a Kodak Portra 400

I am woman. I am strength.

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We are our own entity, our own mind, our own soul. We have a voice too loud to ignore, so speak up.

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We are not to be shamed on by society for we are society. We are the people. We matter.

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Women will not be chained down by irrational proclamations, made by the small-minded few.  We will do what we want when we want it and how we want it.

You are woman. You are strength.


Nikon N55 | Fujicolor 100
Photography: Iza Berenguer
Model: Dominique Berenguer