It was 10:30 in the evening, May 31. We were having the final meeting on the flow of the culminating day of the First International River Summit the next morning. It was meticulous; no less than the President of the Philippines will give the keynote address. At the same time, His Excellency will launch the P11.2 B Jalaur River Multi-Purpose project of our agency. It was a big day for us. Everything has to be perfect.
As the Presidential Management Staff discusses the system for media coverage, I began to feel uncertain. They were talking about the print, radio and TV people. I wondered how I would fit in; but I did know that I should, by hook or by crook.
I nudged Ms. Rocky (I don’t know her real name), the dynamic genius in charge of the communications and promotions of the Summit. Incidentally, she was tasked to take charge of the launching of our project, for Senator Franklin Drilon. I told her my dilemma. I need to cover the launching for our organization, but I was not holding a press id.
To my surprise, she called the attention of everybody and announced that I am the photographer of NIA and I needed to be close to Senator Drilon, who will brief the President on the Jalaur River Multi-Purpose Project II. I suddenly got conscious. I take pictures, but to classify me as a photographer in this huge event is a bit overwhelming for me. To draw an image, a photographer is someone who carries those long telephoto lenses and huge wide angle lenses and produce intimidating clicking sounds of the shutter. A photographer knows all those Greek figures and their combinations to set a perfect shot. I, however, only possess a Canon 550D DSLR kit lens and I only know very basic stuff on photography. Sighhhhh…
I started to create a silent debate inside me: Shall I accept that I am the photographer for the senator and work my way to get a press id? Or shall I downplay things and just ask for whatever they could accommodate for me? My assertive voice pushed me to say I NEED A PRESS ID. And so they granted me one.
I felt satisfied, until the PMS stressed out that only three photographers shall be allowed near the stage: the Presidential photographer, the city mayor’s photographer and the photographer of Sen. Drilon.
WAS IT ME????
That was when I felt a chill. Everything then started to sound scary. I felt like crying. My PRO side was telling me this is a huge privilege to have that edge over the other media men, the REAL media men by the way, but this other paranoid side is telling me the pressure of it ain’t gonna be sweet.
I kept my cool (was just actually pretending), and just listened to the rules, etc. There were assigned areas for camera men, photographers, reporters. There were limitations, and there were special privileges for the close in photographers. I was only paying half attention. I was just thinking about my tiny camera and how it will play against the expectations of the Senator’s staff and the rest of the organizers.
When the meeting ended, I texted my elder brother Mawe immediately. He possesses this 300mm zoom lens and I thought, that is exactly what I need. It was almost 12 midnight, I knew he was still awake, so I gave him a buzz. After a few explanations, he agreed to lend me his camera. I felt a tiny bit of confidence say hello.
When I got home to rest, I couldn’t help but think about the next day. Lying in bed, I made a lot of dry runs inside my head. I tried to sleep but I felt my heart beating a hundred times as much as it should be. I was waiting for my heart to jump out of my mouth and give me a stroke. I was a nervous wreck!
I wondered why I was so nervous. I take pictures all the time. I never had any problems whenever the Secretary of Agriculture is here, or our own big boss, the Administrator, is here. Taking pics is always the fun part of my work. I wondered why I was so scared.
I guess it’s not just about the camera. It was how everybody was making it a big deal with the President coming. The pressure was huge for me. It was a simple yet nerve-wracking task.
I didn’t eat breakfast the following day, the big day. I knew I wouldn’t be able to digest anything. I didn’t even feel anything but nervousness. When my brother delivered his camera, I started to familiarize myself with the heavy, complicated equipment. I know nothing beats being prepared. I can’t seem to get the results that I needed, given the LCD of his Pentax camera was a bit smoky, but my brother reassured me my practice shots were ok.
At the venue later, I practiced some more. When the press started to set up their huge video cameras, I felt crumbling again. I kept myself focused on things that I needed. I just need to know where I could have a better shot, cleared with the PMS on where I could take pics.
Later, Ms. Jen of the PMS introduced me to the Presidential Security Group. They needed to know who are the close-ins. It was really weird all along. I would have preferred if they don’t use that word. I felt like it was the culprit that’s making me crumble.
After I had clarified the places where I was allowed to take shots, I roamed around, and later decided to follow some rules but will still find my own way in and out. My feet and legs started to hurt. I was wearing flat shoes but realized the heels are slippery against the floor. Anyhow, I decided not to be bothered about it and told myself to just feel confident knowing I’ll have less competitions and more advantages. I asked the PMS to introduce me to the Presidential photographers so I’ll know who do I tag along to.
Ms. Jen introduced me to one. A veteran named Bong. He proved himself very supportive; gave me a lot of tips in maximizing the DSLR, especially in fast-paced activities like this. I was glad I met him. Then I found another guy, a tall, strong built man who doesn’t seem to smile much. I introduced myself to him, then later asked his name.
“Jay Morales“, he said it with an “air” and walked along. I smiled, hiding my uncertainty; his name sounded so familiar. But I was a bit irritated; I thought he sounded like he’s supposed to be famous and I’m so dumb not to know who he was. (I googled him later and realized I was really dumb. He was indeed a top caliber photographer!)
Anyway, I decided not to annoy him…
When the emcee announced the arrival of the President, the action began.
I thought I’d take some shots of the President but will focus more on my main subject. It seemed like a hundred PSGs were walking ahead of the President. Even at a close distance, it was difficult to take a shot. I then looked for Sen. Drilon who was walking a bit behind the President and his dozen more armies of PSGs behind him. As we were pushed and signaled to give way, I had to run a bit ahead again to have more space to take shots. I only took a few. It wasn’t the main event anyway.
During the course of the program, I just walked around, went near the side of the stage, anticipating what’s next. When the emcee announced Sen. Drilon’s turn to speak on stage, I bravely walked with my head and upper body down in front of some tables, kneeled down and got ready.
I was the only photographer in front.
I looked behind and I saw Kuya Bong, a bit farther from me. It was ok, he has a better zoom lens than I have. I felt the stares of the photographers on the few of us who got that privilege of being that close. They were allowed to come near, but we were still closer to the stage. Still, their telephoto lenses would avenge for them, I thought.
Things happened so fast. The senator’s briefing ran for only a minute, as what Ms. Rocky has promised, and the launching went by in a blur. I imagined the long months of preparing the scale model of the JRMP II by our architects and engineers, and the late nights of working on it up to the setting up of the scale model at the venue…
It all came down to a few minutes of glory for NIA.
Later, during the photo-ops, all photographers were allowed to get closer. But again, I already had enough confidence to stay in front of all of them. My camera is but a speck compared to theirs and I’m not gonna allow it, nor myself, to be overwhelmed and intimidated by their equipment. (To be honest, I was, that’s why I used my edge and stayed in front of them all. Hehe!)
After all the brouhaha, I suddenly felt drained and starved. My work is done and all I wanted was to eat — a lot!! I and my colleagues from NIA waited for the long lines to subside and got our own food. I then went around and said hello to some friends and familiar faces attending the summit. I felt more relaxed, and happy. I can already afford to finally smile.
I saved the pictures on CD and delivered them to Gino, the staff of Sen. Drilon in-charge of the media stuff, at the Hotel del Rio. I warned them that my shots were not that good. Well, I think my shots were good, but I’m not really sure how they would rate them, so maybe I didn’t want them to expect too much. Mr. Chris Borja, the Chief of Staff of the senator, told me not to worry and asked for my full name for the photo credits when they post the pics on the Senate website. He then proposed something, which I readily (without giving much thought) accepted. They want me to be their close in photographer every time the senator visits Iloilo.
I was all smiles, having built their trust and confidence. I wish I had that confidence in myself. I felt very happy and excited, but I’m not really sure if I will be allowed by my own boss to do it, or if Mr. Chris would even remember me when they come visit Iloilo again. Nevertheless, it was a good thought and I’m savoring it’s sweetness.
This had been an exciting experience for me. It was a simple assignment, but very challenging because of some limitations. I’ve asked prayers from my husband and some friends, knowing I badly needed God’s strength and guidance to keep me calm and focused the whole time. I’m so relieved and thankful that everything went smooth. I knew that my gifts are not my own and at the end of the day, my victory is His.
For my part, I have to ask my boss to buy me a better lens soon.