The Metro, 2012

Arnel Murillo, La Carlota Sugar Mill, Bacolod, 2012

I dreaded the idea of Arnel (good friend, photographer par excellence, fellow member of the Camera Club of the Philippines) winning the masters cup for 2012. Not because I thought I was the better man (I was in the running at #2 for a very brief period). On the contrary, I was the one who got “bettered” by a host of others after having fallen from the race midway. For that other fella to win did cross my mind albeit for a very very brief moment. But then I caught myself. “Are you nuts? That’s Arnel, after all”, was what I muttered to myself as I heard the scores being announced; my friend still able to maintain his lead.

How he rolls. Photograph by Bobby Wong. Bacolod, 2012.

I freakin’ dreaded it because I knew that I was going to be tapped to give a darn speech. Needless to say, my stomach was already churning halfway through the year when I got that unsettling feeling that Arnel actually had a chance of nailing it. If people thought Arnel was under heavy pressure as he was expected to win this cup ever since he joined, I was stressed out as well because I knew I was the one who was going to give him a tribute. Every win translated to a sigh of relief in Arnel’s face and a smile of unease in mine. It was really an Imodium moment every time the man won and the bathroom was several months away.

A signature Mindoro landscape photograph by Arnel Murillo. Now you understand why I shoot with this guy.

But this article ain’t about me bitching about the whole tribute thing although I did manage to allocate two paragraphs to it. This article is about me being thankful that I was given the privilege to do it in the first place. In retrospect, few are given this opportunity. Most tributes that we know of are usually given after the honoree has moved on. Ok, to be more precise, dead.

Going through 6 years worth of photographs was like a trip down memory lane. I uncovered photographs that I didn’t know even existed. I began to reminisce about the years past. How great it has been to photograph with people who I consider to be men of respect, men of honor. And how I still have a lot of years in me to spend time with these guys. It was all about being thankful of the opportunities and the blessings.

Beyond the image, photography is about friendships. Xiapu, 2012.

I have always wanted to feature my good friends in The Bigger Picture. But it really gets difficult once the circle gets really tight. I have several in mind that I want to do an article on before I die and one of them is Arnel. The problem that I have with doing this type of an article is figuring out the approach. To the crucial few, well, I had to really leave it up to serendipity and Arnel winning the masters cup was the opening that I needed to do an article on him.

Tweetie De Leon and Arnel Murillo share a light moment during a shoot for the Philippine Cancer Society benefit (2008).

Here’s a copy of the speech that I made last night peppered with several photographs that formed part of an audio visual slideshow that I made.

To my friend, Arnel, congratulations for a job well done!

===================================start of speech===============================

I remember meeting Arnel for the first time. Palawan, 2006. The signature cap, shades, and that shiny silver case. Definitely brimming with attitude. There was something oddly disconcerting about his presence as he didn’t exactly fit the mold and stood out from everybody else. And, yes, I can still recall my initial reaction when I saw him.

I asked myself, “who the hell is this guy?”.

Talk about attitude. Arnel Murillo, The Fort, 2012

And I am pretty sure that it’s the same question that many of us here asked ourselves when he first joined the club in 2007 and proceeded to steal whoever’s thunder back then by winning the monthly contest with his first ever entry.

Right from the get-go, I had this eerie feeling that Arnel was going to be on everybody’s radar.

And rightly so.

Together with the late Francis Magalona, he finished his probee term in half the time that it took for us mere mortals to finish an application. They bagged the probees of the year award and for good reason.

2007 Probees of the Year, Arnel Murillo and the late Francis Magalona.

The club was going on its 80th year and a big Ayala Museum exhibit called “Elements” was being planned. Together with Felice, they designed the exhibit from the ground up with Arnel doing most of the execution. Much to the chagrin of his fellow probees including myself, Arnel designed  the exhibit in such a way that made ingress and egress a nightmare. Oh yeah, did I mention that it was a travelling exhibit that covered several SM malls? Up to now, I still cringe at the sight of tracing paper.

I can tell you a lot more great things about Arnel. About how great a photographer he is. How he is quite uncomfortable being in the spotlight. I can go on and on but I would only be belaboring the obvious.

Photograph by Arnel Murillo, Papua New Guinea

What isn’t obvious however is how much of a good friend Arnel can be. Just as he  is willing to go out on a limb for a photograph, he would do the same for a friend. I’m sure the club can attest to that as well. Unfortunately people do tend to take advantage of such generosity and good-naturedness (Arnel, paprint ng entries ko for 2013). Biro lang ;)  

I prepared a slideshow as a personal tribute to my good friend.

Arnel, this one’s for you.

<Queue Keynote>

 ======================================end of speech============================