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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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

The Rise of The Met

What was once a focal point for Manila’s high society, treated like a gem at its peak, The Metropolitan Museum, or simply the Met, is now nothing more that an empty structure slowly disintegrating into itself. Although its exterior may not show as much damage as its history has said it’s experienced, the interior of the Met tells about just that – ruined. Stolen electrical wires and balcony seats, wooden floor pieces removed from their beds, doors and windows too rotten to open, and so much more. The Met today would probably be the perfect scene to get lost in if you were filming a horror movie with the protagonist having been eliminated in the end. Tragic.

With continuous efforts for rehabilitation having been made in the past, it is only now that a full and hopeful one will be done – praying to God that it would be a successful one at that. The National Commission for Culture and the Arts had finally claimed restoration for the historical structure, allotting millions of pesos for the full revival of the long-forgotten astounding theater.

I trust that love for culture will bring back what was once a majestic palace that hosted the artistically inclined beings of the past. I hope to one day walk the new polished wooden and marbled floors of the building just like the elite did back in the day. How marvelous would that be?

The Met today.

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Olympus OM-1 Zuiko 50mm 1.8 | Kodak Portra 400

For updates on The Met, may I suggest you follow a dear friend of mine who is currently in the works of creating a photographic collection and is using the building as her setting. Her name is Aia and she is an amazing photographer. I highly suggest you check her work. http://helloaia.tumblr.com/