Sorsogon, 2014

 

It’s the detours in life that make living interesting.  And it’s no different with photo safaris.  If you go into these things with eyes and mind transfixed on an itinerary, you’re going to be one unhappy camper.  Because life hardly goes as planned, so it is with shooting trips.

It could be the weather that suddenly rains on your parade.  It could be an irritating individual who joins your safari from out of nowhere.  It could be that the pictures you saw in the internet, gasp, didn’t approximate overprocessed expectations.  It could be a million things.  Why do you think photo trips do not guarantee you anything?  Just like any other worthwhile venture, there will always be that element of risk.

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After photographing for more than 8 years, trust me, if I held a trip organizer to what they wrote on their site or to someone’s claim that a so-and-so trip would be the trip to end all trips, well, I don’t think I would’ve made it past trip #1.

So what am I saying here?  That you should actually look forward to these detours because the magical and the unexpected is almost always never in the brochure. Identified points of interest exist as a crutch to give ourselves assurance that there’s some sort of a beginning and an end. After all, planes need to takeoff and land somewhere, sometime.

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The gems are in, what my friend and I term, the in-betweens.  In-between point A and point B.  And the detours can either be physical or, depending on who you’re riding with, philosophical.  Share a ride with the likes of BobbyW (one of two of my best shooting buddies) and you move through time asynchronously as the journey becomes a trip within a trip.  And, no, it’s not that kind of trip, mind you 😉

But what I really wanted to share with you in this article is about this detour that we had in Sorsogon, a province in the Phillippines located in the Bicol region, that didn’t go exactly as planned… because there was really none to begin with!  That might sound strange but our group has fallen into the habit of trusting our guide since we’ve known this gentleman for a better part of our shooting lives. As years go by, we’ve learned to sort of let destiny lead the way. And also accept the bad with the good.

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Of course, there was a proposed itinerary. The usual sunrise and sunset spots. A fishing village here, an old church there. It just went through the ear and out the other as we whizzed through winding roads going to Sorsogon. I’m really a lazy travel photographer. I don’t take the time to learn about places, what crops they plant, how much fishermen make, etc. Our main man BobbyW does a good job and he goes so deep with these things that my brains just can’t catch up. But lazy as my countenance may seem, my other senses go on hyperdrive the moment we touched ground. And so it was that I shouted “perya!” enroute to a proposed sunrise spot for the following morning.

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Peryas are low-budget carnivals or mini-amusement parks on the cheap. We refer to them as “perya” or fair.  Peryas are really B-movie equivalents of a Disneyworld set up to run for a month or two and then move on to the next town.  This particular perya is very gypsy-like in nature. All the hands there are related.

The perya has always piqued my curiosity. While it’s nowhere near the romantic kind of carnival we’re accustomed to seeing from, say, Diane Arbus’ photographs, the tacky nature of it makes it appealing. It’s a place that Quentin Tarantino might really enjoy and get a lot of material for his next movie.

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The following morning, we headed out to that same place. While the golden hour boys were setting up shop by the pier, I walked towards the perya with two other, equally interested, gentlemen. I was really excited. The opportunity to photograph it during early morning when people are still sleeping kept my juices going. The folks there didn’t really mind us and let us do our thing. Which is quite the exact opposite of our experience in Subic when we saw a similar setup going to our hotel a few years ago. Back then, perya operators were put in the spotlight due to safety issues surrounding their operations. It’s there for all to see, after all. No such thing as safety. It’s a ride at your own risk affair. And, yes, there have been accidents and the media were all over it for good reason.

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But I think the real tragedy here is seeing kids at a young age getting exposed to gambling. It looks innocent enough with gambling tables surrounded by colorful balloons and stuff toys. Well, it really seemed innocuous enough that I didn’t even notice it until my friend mentioned it to me when we returned to that place after sunset. He was visibly disturbed and told me that he didn’t feel like photographing.

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After a few days, the whole gambling bit got me thinking. I’m not sure that their life is something that I should benchmark against what society deems as proper living. It is a surreal existence with very surreal rules. Anyway, the perya experience was a real eye-opener for me and I’ve only begun to scratch the surface. This is something that could actually be a project although I would probably refrain from going the socio-economic route. The people here are quite colorful characters and I mean that in a very positive way. The lady photographed here, Elvira, is a very accommodating person albeit a bit shy. Perhaps it was too early in the morning for a photograph? But I couldn’t help it. The background was begging for a subject and Elvira was it. So badger her we did 🙂

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By now I hope you guys appreciate what I’m trying to get at with detours. If you will notice how I seemed to get lost in my writing, this is exactly what I meant when detours become trips within a trip. You just don’t know what you’ll get yourself into if you keep a really open mind about them in-betweens. Photo trips are all about roads not taken, all about roads not in the freakin’ brochure.

Hope you guys enjoyed this as much as I did. Thanks for reading.