By Vernon Velasco
I KNOW of a photographer who’d rather get marooned on some temptation island with a really basic toy camera than get stuck with Kendall Jenner in the studio for the rest of his life. Me? I want to take Kendall to that magical island and just canoodle there, al fresco, forever and ever amen. In other words, is he out of his frigging mind?
But I have come to understand that he’s not a lonely lunatic after all, especially after he revealed that the magical place in question was the collectively known Caramoan Islands, the tip of the iceberg that is the now-getting-all-the-more-famous Camarines Sur in Bicol.
I had been to Caramoan as a tot and I remember pulling at my father’s shorts and telling him that I’d go back and marry Caramoan when I grow up.
Fifteen-odd years later, I chanced upon poignant photographs at the pedestal in Bonifacio Global City by lensmen Raymund Isaac and Erik Liongoren of the maiden and I fell in love a second time.
The set of photographs was part of 24/7/7, a seven-part photo exhibit and coffee-table book featuring Camarines Sur that was a brainchild of acclaimed photographer Jun de Leon and Camarines Sur Gov. Miguel “Migz” Villafuerte, dropping seven photographers in seven different locations to compose their visual poetry on the province’s postcard landscape, seascape and peoplescape in 24 hours.
“The idea was to showcase Camarines Sur’s people and places through a photography initiative that hasn’t been done,” Villafuerte said. “Luckily, we had Jun de Leon, who had an interesting concept and friends who were willing to take it on.”
The roster of seven acclaimed photographers included—besides Isaac, Liongoren and de Leon himself—Wig Tysmans, JA Tadeña, Jake Verzosa and Sara Black, all framing Camarines Sur onto a kind of a now-they-move-now-they-don’t photography, like the view you have from your airplane window of the boats in the sea momentarily stalling into a picturesque standstill when you ascend 17,000 feet in the air.
The photographers were alien to the concept, which, de Leon said, was inspired by the television series 24. “It made use of narration techniques via real-time footage and split screens to show simultaneous events.”
Through the eyes of Isaac and Liongoren, the ever bucolic and lonely Caramoan took an amorphous form in the nostalgic images in Sabitang Laya, Langkipaw, Matalhod, Mantalistis and then some nook and cranny populated by the island dwellers.
Meanwhile, bringing the poetic feel of Lake Buhi to the fore, Tysmans (“Lesson From Life in Lake Buhi”) captured Lake Buhi, the fisherfolk and a barangay beauty queen the way a poet might in his meandering verses.
Black’s (“Call of the Wild”) Mount Isarog trek and a dip in the Asupre Sulfur Spring yielded wallpaper-material mugshots of nature and rolling mountains. Meanwhile, Verzosa (“Of Basketball Courts, a Motorbike and One Majestic Mountain”) explored through the same mountain on a motorbike, painting pictures of the barangays of Mount Isarog which, despite its reclusive mountain, are not bereft of basketball courts.
Like a romantic bard or a merchant in Venice, cinematographer-slash-photographer Tadeña (“Treasures From the River”) waxed poetic over the Bicol River, obviously feeling a close affinity with it. On the other hand, de Leon’s photography and wakeboarding mettle came together in the Camarines Sur Watersports Complex (CWC), producing pictures that captured the frisson in CWC at different times of the day.
“It’s really just about pursuing our passion and, in the process, helping promote Philippine tourism,” de leon said, milling about and letting themselves go wherever all this beauty in the world might take them. The whole point of travel, after all, is to be lost in the way.