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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Purpose: Today’s Life Changing Plans for the Future

Well hello again, dear reader! my, has it been months since I last voiced out opinions. It’s been a whirlwind of events and emotions have been spiraling out of hand. To sum it up, things have been crazy. Life has been throwing tomatoes at me left and right, and here I am dodging my way past each one. I’m thankful though, to be given numerous opportunities in work, in my career, and just life in general.

Now for the good part! I’ve decided to share with you all new decisions and changes that are currently being made in my life as of the moment. I woke up on the morning of my birthday a few days ago realizing how awful Mother Earth has been treated and how fast she is dying – she is nearing her end and it’s crazy scary! Studies have shown that approximately by 2050 there will not be any more ocean left to swim in due to the vast amount of plastic we humans have thrown in it! And it’s all because of our irresponsibility. Just.. crazy. I decided that morning that I am going to make a change, one that’ll influence those around me to help out and save this planet from humans.

Get rid of plastic! Nowadays, almost everything is made with, made in, or made of plastic. Not enough consumers are aware of the drastic implications plastic has on nature. The smallest steps lead to great changes, believe me! You can start by bringing around a water tumbler instead of constantly buying new water bottles that you’ll end up throwing in the garbage anyway. Klean Kanteen and Keep Cup have some good choices! Another way to keep from plastic is to bring along with you metal straws as well as metal or wooden utensils. Numerous local online shops have been selling these items together organic and reusable casings. Go Zero, Sip PH, and Island Happy have some good choices.

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Think twice before you purchase. With the immediate satisfaction this generation craves leaves our world in such a tragic place. Like the fast pace of trends in fashion and retail or the impatience for deliverables of things that are convenient to us but harmful to the environment. Do you really need a new shirt? Maybe try recycling your old ones. Have them altered. Maybe try rummaging through your mom’s closet or better yet, shop in a thrift store. If you can’t handle the second hand stuff, do your research for the brands you’d like to order from. Know their workflow process – where do they get their materials? Is it organic? Is it fair-waged. Aim on finding local and sustainable brands!

Be mindful. The choices you make today can completely alter tomorrow’s outcome. A person makes and average of 14 lbs. of trash a day! Imagine the accumulated weight of trash you make in 5 years and multiply that by billions! The plastic and trash free choice you start and/or continue to make will have an incredible positive effect in the future. It’ll influence those close to you too!

I myself continue to make the choice of zero waste as much as I can. I bring water tumblers with me as much as I can as well as metal utensils so I don’t need to use plastic ones. I’ve also decided to give up film photography (or put it on pause for now at least). The chemicals that go into processing the film and simply the creation of the film is pretty toxic already! This deserves a separate blog post completely – although unnecessary – but that’s pretty much the gist of it all. It’s quite a big sacrifice that I’m making, to the point where it feels like a part of me has died. I guess we’ll just talk more about this soon.

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“Difficult roads lead to beautiful destinations.”

As someone who is slowly making the change, I’m not going to lie and tell you that I’ve been doing perfectly at it, ’cause I’m not. It’s been really difficult for me but I’m really pushing for a trash-free lifestyle. In spite of it all, I know things will be amazing in the end.

Are you going zero waste too? How are you doing it? Share with me your stories!

 

Photos by Gio Lo

Quintessential Living

I’ve only just settled into the cold hard bed that is November, and already, I am bewildered by what this month has brought and what it has yet to bring. (Still a little hungover from October’s happenings but, hey, I’ll get over it.) Now, in spite of the challenges ahead, I am quite hopeful of the opportunities I have yet to receive for myself. I continue to question the abilities I hold as a being on this planet. Am I enough? Am I at my best? Am I giving too much? Regardless of what the answers may be, surprisingly, I’ve got a feeling that I might just be on the right track.

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When questioning life’s Jack-in-a-box moments, the film The Secret Life of Walter Mitty always come to mind. It’s not that I hold a secret life behind what I wish for my readers to perceive of me. No. Thinking about it now maybe I should create a secret life. Ala Vivian Maier perhaps? Although…. what good will this bring? Also, I haven’t figured out how this would benefit my already messed up state as a 21-soon-to-be-22-year-old living in 2016. This topic most definitely deserves an individual post.

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I have not found the quintessence of life. I am still on a voyage to discover it but I do feel like I’m on the right track to finding it! I urge you to do the same.

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“What do we live for, if it is not to make life less difficult for each other?”

 – George Eliot

Olympus OM-1 | Kodak Ultima 1oo

A Lack of Prismatic Thoughts

I don’t recall  ever avoiding colors as a child, and I bet you don’t either. Our thoughts filled with the utmost brilliance of hues and tones that express all these emotions that leave you carefree at the end of each day. Yet the older we become, the harder it is to run the color-creating factory you have inside you. Envy, regret, and sadness introduce themselves as loving beings, yet strip you of every tone you have ever spewed out from your head. Brights are now a shade of charcoal, pastels are now a mushy gray, and you’re left asking yourself, “Why?”

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Olympus OM-1 | Kodak Colorplus 200

Life Would Be Dream

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“I desire to be locked in a quiet room, lying on a mattress, and reading this book. Perhaps even under one hour, preferably with you.”

I came across this quote whilst scrolling through my Twitter timeline an hour before I got off work the other day. I couldn’t help but want this desire; a thirst for this sense of peace. I guess the question now is, where do we find this “peace”? Is it out there? And if so, where? Is it reachable? Should I look for it or should I make it happen? These are questions that continue to resound in my head. I’ve been wondering for years and still left with nothing.

All I desire is happiness. I used to think that happiness was found in a place or sourced from another being – preferably someone with I’d have an emotional attachment with – but one day, without being struck by change, I realized that it was just a state. A state you can jump in and out of in which none of it is an obligation nor should is it a default substitution of emptiness when people question your emotional state. We all have different perceptions of happiness and how it resonates within us. Differing in effect for each and everyone of us. We shouldn’t try too hard to find happiness based on someone else’s experience on it. Nor should you, reader, pressure yourself into finding happiness when it has clearly left the building.

I guess the question now is, have found happiness?

Well, I think I might just have.

Olympus OM-1 | Kodak Colorplus 200