Monday, June 29, 2015

Utang, Maaalala mo rin...

My past blogs have concentrated on my photography project.  I've wanted to blog for some time now on other issues, because there are many other issues more important that photography.  Last Friday I got an unexpected visitor, a family friend who lives a couple of roads from us, on the street where we used to live.  She hardly visits and the one last time she did was to ask for money to loan, "mangutang" in our vocabulary.  This time wasn't any different.  She told me her predicament over paying her bills and not having the sources she needed.  The last time (was it 2 or 3 years ago?) it was the same story and the same promise of being paid in a couple of months.  I wrote about this in one blog which I entitled "Utang Kalimutan".  (After searching for this link I now realize it's been 4 years since I wrote that blog and that loan was made).

Anyway, though the circumstances were the same: she needed money, she was asking to borrow the same amount and the same promise of payment within 2 months (mind you, it was a promise of payment of her first utang and not this present one), one thing was not the same.  I wasn't the same, naive girl that would fall again for her story and her false promises.  You fool me once, but not again.  I don't mean to be crude and I did feel her need, but I had to be practical and truthful.  I have my own bills to pay and I told her outright that I only had enough for our own budget, giving her the evidence of my two kids (who were in front of her at the time of our conversation) who need money for school besides other costs.

It was with a heavy heart that she left, though it was nice to chat with her about other things, like family.  I hope that she understood my decision.  "Sinubukan ko lang naman, baka sakali" ("I only tried, maybe hoping.") were her words.  Well, I did give her a chance the last time, but her words were not trustworthy.  4 years it has been since her last unpaid debt and she was asking for another loan. You fool me once, but not again.  I know she hasn't forgotten her debt or utang, but she said at least she has made some progress in her other loans (she has been loaning from the bombays, but has paid that off), which makes me happy for her.  She may never pay her debt to me, but I hope that she does find a way out of her financial crisis.

And as I think of a title for this blog, I don't want to repeat "Utang Kalimutan", because I know that it is never forgotten.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Project 365 - Days 16 and 17

Day 16 (June 24, 2015): Here’s something that I’ve learned and it may be obvious to others, but it’s difficult to take good shots with one hand, especially clear, focused shots.  I tried it yesterday when Jojo bought sampaguita for our images on the altar.  The strands of sampaguitas look more striking together rather than separated.  So I took the shot holding the strands, trying first to focus and also balancing myself on top of the sofa before taking the actual shot.  It turned out okay although a little dark.  It had the effect I wanted with the images in the background blurred a little. Aperture f/4 and shutter speed 1/100 sec.

Day 17 (June 25, 2015): The day is just beginning (it’s only 8:22am as I write this) but mine started about 4 ½ hours ago.  Woke up at 1am to the strong rains that lasted awhile, slept again and woke before my alarm before 4am to get ready for Benjo’s mass altar service at 5:30am.  It rained again around 4:30am and gratefully subsided before we went out.  I wanted to capture the evidence of the rain and the promise of another sunny day in these pictures.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Project 365 - Days 14 and 15

Day 14 (June 22, 2015): A busy Monday. I almost forget to pick up the camera this day.  After our daily rosary, I asked that the candle be not blown so I could take some pictures.  I wanted to catch the dancing flame, decreasing the speed but realizing that this blurs the light coming from the wick.  Increasing the speed decreased the lighting and increased the sharpness of the flame.  Here I used aperture f/14 and exposure speed of 1.6 sec, capturing enough sharpness and the shadow of the Sto Nino, which was my main focus.

Day 15 (June 23, 2015): A lot of my past shots have been indoors with low lighting. Today I picked up my camera at midday out in our garden to capture something in the natural light of the sun.  I took shots of the camias plant with its leaves making a beautiful pattern.  Here are two angles of the same plant.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Project 365 - Days 12 and 13

Day 12 (June 20, 2015): A busy Saturday, I got to pick up the camera in the evening a few minutes before bed time.  The kids in their relax-mode were my subjects, Joselyn in front of the PC and Benjo showing his flex.

Day 13 (June 21, 2015): Happy Father’s day to all dads, grand-dads and even titos (uncles) and ninongs (godfathers) and let me not forget our spiritual fathers, our priests and all members of the clergy.  We had an early lunch at Aristocrat in Banawe.  It wasn’t our first choice of restaurants as Tramway was fully-booked with those who made early reservations.  Anyway, we had a satisfying meal just the same.  Later in the evening we will be going to Joselyn’s classmate’s birthday celebration at Jollibee and I’ll be bringing my camera along and hopefully take some noteworthy shots…

Jojo and Joselyn with the Iced Tea backdrop, waiting for our meal

So we went to the birthday party and I didn’t realize from the invitation that there were two celebrants, Joselyn’s classmate and her 1 year-old brother.  The choice of having a party at Jollibee was made clearer, her brother was so excited when the mascots, the big bee himself Jollibee with his pal Hetty made their presence.  I wanted to capture the toddler’s excitement and tried to take some pictures of him as he watched the two mascots dance.  This is the best that I got.  

Wish I could’ve captured more of his expression, but being a little shy to get in a closer and better position (I am by the way just the mother of one of the celebrant’s classmate and not the official photographer), I did the best I could.  He was such a good and photogenic kid, and not scared at all with the mascots, unlike some children his age.  Anyway, here is a picture of baby Fahad as he tries to reach for his idol, Jollibee, dancing in front of him.  Aperture f/5.6; shutter speed 1/80 sec. ISO 200.

The hosts of the party also had a photobooth which used what looked like the same camera and lens as mine.  I looked at his setup which seemed simple enough and I thought (again) that maybe this is something that I can do.  So this is another project that I hope will come to fruition.  We’ll see…

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Project 365 - Sto Domingo Church (Day 11)

Day 11 (June 19, 2015): Today I picked up the kids from school since Jojo went to Binangonan.  I brought the camera knowing that Sto Domingo church is such a visual treasure.  I’ve taken pictures of this church before and its beautiful stained-glass windows, which I did again (trying not to disturb the devotees in the church).

I tried to use a small enough aperture f/11 to compensate for the darkness

The difference between using the "Direct Sunlight" and the "Flourescent" settings on the White Balance option
Since it’s the second day of the novena to Our Lady of Perpetual Help, I took pictures of this image of our Lady, which is known to have answered many prayers.  In the left picture I used a White Balance of “Direct Sunlight” which I’ve noticed tend to come out yellowish when taken indoors.  In the second picture I used a White Balance of “Flourescent”, which gives it a different, more natural hue.

Project 365 - Days 9 to 10

Day 9 (June 17, 2015): I picked up the camera at least 3 times this day. The first to take pictures of the muffins I made the other day to post on my facebook page.  The original shot was a little dark with our dining area having low light, so I added some light using my Paintshop software.  The second to take a picture of Benjo’s math work, his notebook, scratchpaper and module. This for a writeup I still need to do on the kids’ schooling blog.  The third of the set of keys and Jojo’s watch that was just lying on the shelf. Nothing spectacular with these shots, just practicing.

Day 10 (June 18, 2015): Don’t be fooled by the subject of this day. I had to summon up enough courage to take these shots.  Yes I have a fear of our dogs and I know they know it. But I’m glad they were cooperative enough for me to take some shots (from the comfort of our open door for a ready escape).

A little dark from being against the light.

Our little azkal, Crafty.

Project 365 - Days 5 to 8

Day 5 (June 13, 2015): An uneventful day, busy with preparations for the kids’ first day of school.  I did manage to pick up the camera near the end of the day.  Just took pictures of the ordinary – the ceiling fan and the bundle of hangers.

The ceiling fan taken with minimal lighting. Speed 1/60 and f/6.3

Used flash this time with the same speed and aperture as above

Day 6 (June 14, 2015): It was another busy day for me as I put plastic on the kids’ LAS (learner’s activity sheets) among other preparations.  So I made that my subject, compensating for the low lighting with high aperture and slow speed.

All ready and covered with plastic

Day 7 (June 15, 2015): First day of school for the kids, so what better subject than my kids before they left for school. Glad we got some time to do this amidst the morning rush.  Managed to catch some good shots between their kulitans.

Just before leaving for their first day of school amidst the morning rush, we were able to sneak in a pictorial

My little man with his "binata" pose

Day 8 (June 16, 2015): Second day of school. Again the kids were my subjects. Though the sun is already up when they’re getting ready to get out of the house, it’s still dark in the house with the curtains in the south side of the house still drawn.  I used flash but looks like not enough of it.  Having a flash control on the camera helps. The problem I have most of the time is that the picture looks light enough on the camera’s LCD but when I download them they look dark.

The reason for the poses: their new PE uniforms look like the ones that kindergarten kids use. So I kidded them that they were demoted back to Kinder

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Project 365 - Photography one day at a time (Days 1 to 4)

“Project 365”. This was a subject in my inbox on one of the photography tips websites that I subscribe to.  When I opened the email I read that it was about one woman’s goal of improving her photography skills by picking up the camera and taking shots (on manual mode) with her Dslr every day for one year.  She saw the improvement and came up with professional looking photographs.  Though the email had a link to her project which gave the reader a chance to purchase online, I thought I’d do the same thing without the guide but to just take it one day at a time…

Day 1 (June 9, 2015):  I read the article after taking this first shot, but thought I’d start with this day since we went on a swimming outing with our school friends which gave me a great opportunity to experiment with the camera.  I took what I thought were pretty good shots, some action shots of the kids in the pool and others of the surroundings, like this fountain where I played around with the shutter speed.  The first picture shows a shutter speed of 1/30sec and the second at a faster shutter speed of 1/160sec.

Day 2 (June 10, 2015) It was a little late in the day when I remembered about “Project 365” and I looked around the house for a “willing subject” for my project.  I set the flowers given by our dentist-friend the day before (as a belated mother’s day gift). My little photo-bomber gave me the contrast in clarity with the high aperture (f5.6) setting. I am challenged with indoor photography, wanting to use natural light, but knowing that the shots come out too dark without flash.

Day 3 (June 11,2015): Got a lot of opportunities during this day to practice my photography. We went to the post office main building in Manila and then had an early lunch in Chinatown.  I see a lot of scenes while in the car but it is tricky trying to capture good shots in a moving vehicle. The first picture is of the flags being blown by the wind in front of the post office. Smaller aperture to capture landscapes is something I’ve learned from reading photography tips online. The second picture if of a fruit vendor along Ongpin St. in Binondo, taken from the car.

Day 4: We went to Binangonan to visit a sick relative and on our way home I took pictures of scenes as we passed by.  Again, the problem of getting the timing and lighting right.  I sure want to take a picture of a beautiful sunset one of these days, on steady ground maybe with the help of my tripod.  I didn’t get to take any outstanding pictures of the setting sun on our way home, but I did get to take some fair shots of “strees scenes”.  Common sights in the Philippines, small businesses selling their products, made for a good subject for this practicing photographer.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

KOTA - Knights of the Altar

The new KOTA aspirants, newly commissioned last March 1, 2015
(on Benjo's 12th birthday, to him a birthday gift in itself) by Father Albert
When some boys are out playing on the streets or at home on their computer or maybe still asleep in their beds, some boys choose to be in church, serving beside the priest.  They are called the "Knights of the Altar", with the acronym of KOTA.  A very dignified title, a knight that guards and protects the royalty and their castle, as in the middle ages.  These knights are guarding not just any royalty though, but the King of Kings, Christ the King, who comes in the form of bread and wine on the sacrificial Holy Altar.

First actual Mass service, still as a trainee

At a young age, Benjo seems to have found his calling, or at least part of it.  He has a dedication that I don't remember I even had at the young age of 12.  He loves serving what he calls "straight" Saturday morning masses which starts with the 5:30am mass and goes on to the 6:30am and 7:30am masses.  In between the 5:30am and 6:30am mass there is a holy devotion, which they also participate in, assisting the presiding priest with the frankincense, the book or prayers, the bells and white cloth.  In between the 6:30am and 7:30am masses there is a procession around and inside the church while the holy rosary is recited.  The KOTA members, depending on their number, take turns in holding the candle holders and cross.  On the last Saturday procession, there were only a few of them and Benjo ended up carrying the cross for the whole procession, which he told me afterwards made his hands and arms shake.
The first service that Benjo took part it,
not yet a member but a trainee, the procession during
the Christ the King feast in November 2014
During the commissioning ceremony; blessing of the sutanas
to be worn by the new KOTA aspirants.
These young men are proud to be wearing  "long dresses"

But when he is called by family or friends partly in jest: "Father Benjo", he tells me privately, "hindi Mom, ayoko maging pare" ("No Mom, I don't want to become a priest").  And though I'm sure many of these young men who "work" side-by-side the priests will also follow the same vocation, there are some who may just choose to serve Him in different capacities.  But it's too early to tell and at this stage, he's just enjoying being a knight, and a special knight at that.

I write this not only as a witness to my own son's experience, but as a witness to the other boys and young men in this brotherhood they call KOTA.  I'm not sure what is said in their Sunday afternoon meeting that made my son come back and keep coming back, but it is an inspiration to see how these young men of God devotedly serve at Mass, during processions and other church activities and events. Losing sleep, walking miles, even getting a sermon or two for not doing the job right doesn't encourage them, but makes them want to do it again, hopefully even better.  Small sacrifices they've learned to make for the sake of their service to God.