hi there! i'm michelle, southern california based photographer and curator of the coco gallery.

welcome to my blog where i share my life, my latest adventures, photo projects, random nuggets and the occasional stray thoughts.

for clients: to view my portfolio just click on this link - theCOCOgallery.com. to book sessions please send me a message through theCOCOgallery.com or contact me via michelle@thecocogallery.com | 949.734.0604

Friday, February 27, 2009

mila | adventures . indonesia ... BALI

i'm finally fully recovered from that nasty nasty bout of dengue (that i was unaware i even had).  hurrah for me!  all the warnings about the deadliness of that disease had me paranoid for a couple of days after leaving the hospital.  every itch and twitch had me pondering over the cause.  cranky panties girl is gone .. now i'm just waiting for the bruises from the I.V. to go away.

back to indonesia.  i adore bali!  indonesia, as it turns out, is a dominantly muslim country.  bali is home to the majority of the hindu population.  their version of hindu, referred to as balinese hindu, is a combination of indian hindu, buddhism and local beliefs.  it makes for a quaint, peace loving ambiance.  it is the cornerstone of what makes bali so refreshing.  artful carvings in wood and stone rise up above the shop lined streets or appear in the alleys between the stores giving the impression of old world meeting new in a mecca of fashion and retail.  the people are relaxed and so sweet.  their inner peace and happiness makes me consider taking up their religion.  

turn instant millionaire in this country!  one million rupiah is about $85 and if you could leave the princess behind (there is a princess in everyone boys.. even you), you could live in this country for under $500 / month.  we rented a room for $8 a day!  it had a shower (though no hot water -- i can see sylvia scowling), 2 beds and space to keep our stuff.  i know we could have totally gotten two rooms but seriously.. the bargainers in us were up full force.  we were budget travelling for sure.  every penny we saved on accomodations we spent on drinks!  we had our priorities.  

cheap everything + happy accomodating people = lotsa toursists.  this was the backpacking mecca of europe and australia it seemed.  walking thru bali was like walking through a busy international airport.  it was a great place to meet a whole lot of different people.  

so here's the weirdest part... in the philippines people held me at arms length as i grew up because i didn't look like the locals.  to my people i looked "american" -- everyone who had fair skin and light brown hair was considered american and blonde.  in indonesia the locals would speak to me in balinese or indonesian.  they either knew i was filipino off the bat or thought i was a local.  kinda funny.  

indonesia is below the philippines but only a few hours away.  although the countries on this corner (philippines, malaysia, singapore and indonesia) are considered part of asia, the features are far from the "typical asian".  we have rounder eyes and darker complections in the pacific islands.  and our proximity to each other points to migration patterns that allowed for a similarity in features, languages and cultures.

the artistry of bali is apparent in all the temples (large and small) found everywhere in bali.  offerings are placed everywhere, at temples, store fronts, even taxi cabs.  in their religion they pray for everything and everyone.  this generosity is typical of the balinese people.  a word of caution though, this generosity does NOT extend to pricing of anything.  everything, from taxi fares to small wares in the shops MUST be haggled over.  sometimes the agreed price is a third of the original quote!  sharpen your skillz before you get here or hone them here at your own risk lol... but don't forget to have fun!

leave the princess at home and do $8/a day at a place like this.  be big pimipin like curtis for just that much!  (fyi.. for the squeamish out there, that picture was staged).  move up to airconditioning and hot water for $25/day.  eat where the locals eat and experience savory curries ($6 fed 3 of us and got curtis a bottle of beer).  you can walk to everything but if you need a longer trip, rent a motorbike for $4/day.  you really could live like a king on this island even with a small pension.  

there was art everywhere!  the weaving process and batik process were explained to us at length at this factory.  they had amazing batik art canvases on sale.  we also visited a silver shop were we were shown the jewelry making process.  wood carvings and stone carvings are found everywhere!  the fashion in this area is a fusion of local artistry as well as international influence from around the world.  shopper whores beware... you'll never want to leave this place!

on the next chapter... GILI INDONESIA and the friends we met along the way.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

mila | adventures . dengue

many of you know that i've been working on breaking into the wedding photography industry.  it's tough getting a name out there.  i started this blog as a way to get on the map.  i've enjoyed reading the blogs of other photographers big names and small town rookies alike.  one thing i find common to all of them is that they always show the fabulous side of life.  i have days when i can't get enough of the stuff.  every picture is gorgeous, every description is sweet as confectioner's sugar.  every event and every moment shared is sunshine and smiles.  today i feel like i'm sugared out.  life isn't always happy and sickeningly sweet.  i like grit and drama in my mix of movies.  too much sugar just screams fake and over board.  

i wonder if the dengue left traces of cranky panties in my system.  yep.. dengue.  nasty lil bug that a mosquito dropped into my system while we were out in indonesia.  i didn't know what was wrong.  5 days of fever, aches and pains then when i finally felt awesome again... i got a body rash.  turns out dengue is deadliest when you feel good.  sneaky lil devil hits the immune system the worst AFTER the fever is gone.  luckily we were back in the philippines by that time and my family stepped in and sent me to the hospital.  i think that's where i left my good nature.  i hate getting cooped up in the hospital.  i especially hate it if i'm coherent (feeling fine) AND cooped up in the hospital... for 2 whole days!

so that's where my indonesia blog post went.  it got stuck on the computer while i was recovering but i'm out now!  so i'll be posting those pictures soon.  i think that i might wait for this dark cloud to pass on by before the next post... in the meantime i want to share with you how i spent my v-day (also my bday).  note the smiles were prior to dengue outbreak.  

Monday, February 2, 2009

mila | adventure . davao

mindanao is the southernmost region of the philippines.  the philippines is dominantly catholic and mindanao is home to many of the muslim and moro nationals of this country.  the costume and culture is colorful and rich.  some of my favorite fruits are grown there -- suha (philippine grapefruit) and mangosteen.   it's also the one place in this country where even lonely planet advises extreme caution due to terrorism and civil unrest.  unfortunately we have quite a bit of unhappy citizens in that region, enough to affect tourism and enough in fact to make residents of that area move north.  but it still sounded interesting so ... we were off!   off to davao.  davao is a city in mindanao.  it is one of the largest cities in the world.

sylvia, whose family i did photos for recently, had mentioned that davao was really pretty.  my uncle (tito rez with the recent bday photobooth) had just gone to davao a month ago and said it was really nice as well.  so i added it to our itenerary.  tita candy, my dad's sister, is usually our barometer for safety.  from her we get the low down of which areas are "safe" to visit and which areas we shouldn't even consider passing thru.  usually any mention of cities in the mindanao island and her eyebrows shoot up.  when i mentioned visiting davao and she didn't even flinch so i figured it was safe.  despite all reassurances  petra and curtis were still a tad bit apprehensive.  i had never been there myself so i couldn't help alleviate any worries.  the funny thing is that for all our tension over this trip it was the most nonchalant, most blah, most boring leg on our trip so far.  figures.

manila is actually a lot cooler (temperature-wise) this time of year but davao is closer to the equator.  the first thing we noticed when we got out of the airport was the heat, so the first order of business was a search for beer.

the next item on the agenda was a place to cool off.  this is paradise island kool little hang out spot with covered areas by the beach and restaurant service on the sand.  the water is cool and shallow.  i might have gotten a tad too much sun though... sniff.  this setup would probably do well in the OC.

did you know that the crocodile is the one species that descended from the dinosaur era?  these guys go back 200 million years!  the largest crocodile recorded was about 33 feet long.  that's more than 6 curtis' laying down!  we went to visit some of these creepy guys at the crocodile farm in davao.
that's the philippine eagle above and below is some bizarre bird with big feet, no wings and a giant blue head.
curtis likes to tease me that my people live in trees.  now he has proof.  below is a sample of how houses used to be in this neck of the woods.  below that is a picture of me in mindanao garb.  it was fun that they left the costumes out for the kids to play with lol.
no matter where you are in the world... some signs are universal.

curtis is such a trip.... or such a kid.  he's an amazing volcano of energy and fun even when he's sober.  i was bummin that this trip wasn't more fun and exciting.  i guess after the sagada heaven i might have expected too much.  curtis tried to keep us upbeat and happy.