Principle Photography is Complete—Now What?!?

by alex

We got through principle photography without killing each other. Awesome. (photo by dyan ruiz)

So Vince and I are done principle photography on our documentary.  But we still have two months left on our trip.  Now what?

Taytay, on the Pasig river. Just before we headed out to location we were told by our guide that we had to change plans. Two journalists (including a photographer) covering a story about drug lords had just been killed a few days before and it was now too dangerous. What you see here is the alternate community they chose, just up river. That's why we always go in with a local guide. Safety first right?

We’ve seen a lot in the last couple months.  For Vince, a lot of it was new. We saw everything from urban poor neighbourhoods, to Alabang’s gated community for the elite.  We shared (in a small way) the lives of tenant farmers, fishermen threatened by ‘development,’ jeepney drivers in their day to day routine, street-vendors in Quiapo, sportscasters covering a PBA game, doctors, lawyers, and artists.  And that’s just what I can think of right now.

It was amazing, and sometimes terrible.

A photo after filming in Bataan province. (photo by v.galvez)

We had a lot of discussions about what we saw.  It was definitely interesting to have our two (sometimes very) different opinions about Philippine society.  I think Vince thinks I might be crazy.  But somehow we didn’t kill each other in the process.

Well, now comes the more difficult part.  Now we have to face the Philippines straight up.  We no longer are protected behind the lens of what’s needed for the film, we no longer have a divide between us and the reality before us.

In Manila you don't have to look too hard to find contrasts...

For my part I’ll be doing some volunteer work outside of Manila.  I’m working with groups I’ve worked with before like Migrante and Bayan.  I’m not sure what I’ll be doing yet, perhaps I’ll join in some of the work around the election, perhaps I’ll take part is some fact-finding missions, or maybe I’ll be doing some community work in the provinces, it really comes down to what is needed of me.

All I request is to be able to visit the far out areas.  I have always been curious about how Filipinos outside of the urban centres live.  I’d love to be able to work with the landless tenant farmers who are the vast majority here in the country. [*75% of the population are landless agriculture workers that live in semi-feudal conditions.]  I’d also love to work with any of the proud indigenous peoples.  I’d also love to be able to visit Mindanao and work with our Moro brothers and sisters there.

It’s pretty exciting.

Also apparently people think standing on the ledge of Raon overpass (a two story fall to the street) for a shot is crazy. You people are crazy. (photo by k. ancheta)

At the same time it’s a little terrifying.  I’ve had a lot of people comment about how ‘crazy’ my mini-adventures have been during our doc shoot.  Well I disagree.  Life has been simple and, well, bougie these past couple months.  I’ve had the luxury to have A/C when I’m back at homebase, I’ve been eating in nice restos and going to nice areas in Manila and beyond.  This has without a doubt been my most posh trip to the Philippines to date.

Whereas I used to get by on P200/day (about $5), on this trip it’s not been unheard of to spend more than double that on a meal (or on—gasp—a taxi).  I kinda feel guilty about that I have to admit.  I justified it by telling myself that I was here on a project and that I had to experience ‘the other side’ of Manila life—the bougie side.  I justified it by telling myself that I was with Vince (and whoever else we were with at the time) and that I had to stay within his/their comfort range (while occasionally bringing him to the Philippines I’m familiar with)—the transition is easier for me, I would tell myself.

Well soon, Vince and I will be headed separate ways to work on our own projects.  I’ve shared what I could with him (he probably knows Manila better than most Fil-Cans in Toronto now) and I’ve seen a side of Manila I’ve never seen with him.

In a few days, a week at most, it’ll be time to live in Majority Philippines (where most of the 90 million live).  It’ll be goodbye A/C hello heat, mozzies, and ‘reality.’  In other words, it’s near time for the real Philippine adventure to begin…

*   *   *

I had a preview of just how much things will change for me this past weekend when I did some election work in Pangasinan, north of Manila (I’ll blog about it soon).

One night I couldn’t sleep as I was mad itchy from mosquito bites and because of the disquieting feeling that little insects were crawling on me here and there (the ‘there’ part was particularly concerning).  At one point my back was ichy/tickled and so I reached over to scratch.

Something got caught in my hand.  I grabbed and instinctively squeezed.  It crunched.  And in my hand was something solid yet creamy.

I had just crushed a cockroach.




  1. There you go again with your highs and lows Alex! You had to end it with the cockroach imagery, huh? You couldn’t just leave it sounding all epic. I got lots of suggestions about where to next: Pagudpud, Dumaguete, Banahaw, Samal Island, Ilo Ilo City…

  2. yup, yous got it dyan… gotta have balance in the universe. Squishy, twitchy balance. 🙂

  3. Cebu kids! CEBU! lol

  4. Welcome to the Philippines, particularly Manila, Alex! I’ve been living here for over 28 years and I still scream and jump when I see a flying cockroach (IPIS, yuck!). Mosquitoes are normal, so I suggest buy Off Lotion or buy the citronella bracelet from SM, to avoid getting infected by Dengue. But, hey, even if others think Philippines suck — I still love my country. I will see you around!

  5. That last picture. I think is my favorite of all you have taken.

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