Capturing the "King of the Road" on cam

I have gone home to Manila four times now since I left in 2000 to make my life here in New York with Alan.  The first was in December 2002, May 2006, May 2008 and just a few weeks ago.  (May 2009).  It was an unplanned visit, true, and one heavy with emotion.  While we found cause to celebrate Nikky’s birthday (again), it was low key and very simple.  I had very few opportunities to meet up with friends, since I spent most of my free time by Dad’s bedside in the hospital.  I personally took care of him, relieving the evening caregiver, and going home to try and get some rest — day in and day out.

Rest was mostly trying to catch up with work here in New York.  As I told my boss when I hopped on the plane taking me home, work actually helped me to keep my inner balance through this very difficult time.

I had my trusty camera with me as always.  Everywhere I went.  I snapped up some pictures of Dad as he lay in bed in the hospital and finally sitting up in bed in his home on my last day there.  I didn’t take quite as many pictures of the family, though, but I did train my lens on something I have been long wanting to do from my second homecoming onwards — to take action shots of the so-called “King of the Road”: the Philippine Jeepney.

There was the problem of lugging a camera like mine around Manila’s streets, but somehow I  managed. In a sense, the SLR-like features made it natural bait for the snatchers, but its smaller than your usual SLR size made it easy for me to wrap it’s strap around one arm and cradle the body snugly in another hand. Many of my shots were taken inside vehicles with muddy windows — but I discovered that proper lighting or the proper focus and minimal manipulation to alter the contrast a little provided a good fix.  I even used my Blackberry camera to take a few shots that turned out rather well.  On my first of two Fridays there, my brother Abril and I went to the Shrine of Jesus the Nazarene in Quiapo and I found myself snapping away right where the jeepneys loaded and unloaded their passengers in front of the church.

I found myself immersed in such street scenes throughout my two and a half week stay in Manila.  There was so much more in the ordinary that beckoned to me.  While most of the denizens of Manila view the jeepneys as a source of pollution, I dare you to view the intricate and oftentimes artistic designs adorning these everyday vehicles that rule the roads of the metropolis.   What is ordinary to you is an extraordinary and truly “Pinoy” scene to me that I have been yearning to capture on pictures for quite a while now.  At a time when I couldn’t train my lens on people, I found myself aiming them on moving objects outside my window.

It was a challenge trying to anticipate the movement of my vehicle against the speeding jeepney in the next lane, and timing the delay between my finger hitting the button and the shutter opening to capture the picture.  Again, it was a numbers game.  While I deleted a ton of useless half and non-shots — I smiled at the treasure trove of photos I ended up with.  Very random shots, but precious shots of something truly Filipino to this New Yorker.  My blog header has seen various iterations displaying bits and pieces of my snapshots in 950×216 pixel format.  I have quite a few to work through.  Some I have already uploaded to my Flickr account. 

Perhaps this is the reason I don’t feel too bad that I didn’t even get to step into any coffee shop, restaurant or mall in Makati.  Or that I have yet to visit the elusive Trinoma which I passed briefly on the way home from Manaoag with Mom as our bus headed towards its terminal over at New York St. in Cubao.  Shopping was definitely not on my agenda — so I don’t have any buyer’s remorse or shop-til-you-drop stories to share.  I have my snapshots of the King — and interspersed between them are your everyday street scenes.  I have to go through them and weed out those that are beyond fixing and tuck them into my recycle bin. I am still deep into catching up and it will have to wait another day.

My brother, Abril, asked me what I was taking pictures of as he drove me through Avenida or Carriedo as it is now known.  I told him there is so much color out there that we can capture.  I won’t pretend to claim it’s art.  It’s just the shutterbug in me trying to put my world inside a frame to capture a thought or a feeling passing through my head.  As I often say, sometimes, I just get lucky — I capture a picture that makes me smile.  I needed that so badly that time I was there — and I got it from the King of the Road many times over.

0 thoughts on “Capturing the "King of the Road" on cam

  1. Taking pictures is a good diversion and distraction. Am glad that you were able to capture some great street scenes. But it’s great to hear that your Dad is feeling much better!


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