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

Sunday, November 30, 2008

old friends

seriously.. thank god for facebook.  i haven't connected with so many people since ... i don't know when.  i met up with my high school class a couple of days ago.  i haven't seen some of these people in 18 years!  to me, they still look exactly the same.  if you threw on the uniform it would be a time warp.  the only difference is that some of them are toting little (and big) kids rather than bags and brushes.

the school setup in the philippines is very different from the US.  here each grade is referred to as a batch of a certain year, ours was batch 90. we were the 150th jubilee batch of our school.  200+ girls graduated with me our senior year.  each batch is divided into several sections (with approximately 40-45 girls in a section) i belonged to 4-1.  each section is assigned a room and the teachers came to us.  in other words, we were sharing classes throughout the school year.  it's quite the bonding experience. 

over dinner 8 of us passed around a list that roxanne was trying to put together.  it was a list of the girls in our senior year section.  struggling to get our minds to recall each girl in our class.  we couldn't even agree on the number to begin with.  was it 41?  42?  or 44?  with each name that got added the question marks multiplied.  someone should have brought the yearbook (or at least the class picture).

this coming saturday i'm meeting up with other batch mates for another reunion.  the holidays are the best time for get togethers it seems.  a lot of us come back to the motherland from far away strange places lured by family, friends, and the filipino christmas.  

angel -- our party crasher.  not 4-1 but still our batch mate... always welcome to our party.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

hello...is this thing on?

this following post is a snippet from an email that curtis wrote to one of our friends talking about the road trip north before i got sick.

Hello... is this thing on? Testing....This is obviously Curtis right... (note the varied use of capitalization ;O) and the big nose! he he!).  We took a little 3 day road trip to a town callled Vigan (a few weeks ago) and on to what should have been another good surf spot Pugudpud but no such luck on the latter, surfwise at least. Beautiful though, think Siargao but quieter and mas mahal (too expensive) for what you really get. Vigan was great! It's about 4 hours by bus north of us (A story in itself...) and has the oldest architecture I think in the Philippines, circa 1500s Spanish style brick. There was this little street called Calle Crisologo that was made of bricks and all of these old buildings on either side somewhat reminiscent of London or old Spain more likely. Really neat. We took a Calesa around town which is just a horse-drawn carriage and stopped at a couple of heritage sites, museums and a zoo of sorts. They had tigers, ostriches, birds, deer and this butterfly sanctuary where you could walk through with hundreds of butterflies flitting here and there, sometimes landing on you. 

Pugudpud was another 4 hours past Vigan but when we got there it was late and dark and the tricycle drivers weren't sure where this resort at the surf was called Mike's Place. Tito Res (Michelle's uncle) had a friend who owned a resort in the town as well but not near the surfing area so we opted for that. So we tell the tricycle driver who takes us to some 
small little place that appears to be closed. We start talking to the neighbors who are a bit confused and so Michelle calls up her uncle who gets us the number to the the lady with the place. Michelle proceeds to call her up and she asks to talk to the tricycle driver. So imagine his face as he realizes he's on the phone with the Vice Mayor of the town! bahahahaha as Michelle would say! It was funny to say the least. So the tricycle driver turns us around and back we go to Saud Beach Resort.  (this is michelle: it was a nice looking resort but over our budget.  we had just enough to pay for the one night and bus fees home.)  And therein lay the problem. Pugudpud has no bank, no ATM, and the resort has no phones, so no credit cards..... cash only, of which we were short. The closest bank was 2 hours back at a town called Laoag. Translation: 8 hours by bus for 1 night in an expensive resort and we didn't even get to see the surf which is why we went there to begin with.  We went back in La Union and still no surf. However there's something to be said about feeling home sort of. 

{end of curtis entry.  back to michelle sans caps}

so it was a long road trip but a beautiful one.  the biggest lesson we learned... as much as we would like to wing it during our spontaneous road trips, that doesn't always work.  the least we could do is check for accommodations and have cash.  tee hee.  

an hour away from us (just around the coast) past the cement factory HOLCIM is a mind blowing sight.  it's an entire coast of rocks in every color, shape and size.  most of them smooth from the sea's constant tumbling.  people have been "mining" this mountain by the sea for the last 50 years.  they hand pick each rock and create piles by colors and sizes.

some of the faces that greeted us as we walked around town.

this is a shot for my 365.  the calesa (horse-drawn carriage that curtis was talking about)

this is what i call walking the cat ...

shots from the butterfly sanctuary.  check out the butterflies just coming out of their cocoon.  so it turns out that they "hatch" the most between 10am - 1pm. also see the caterpillar below, notice the similarity in it's color pattern which emerges in the wing colors of the butterfly it becomes.

the philippine carabao (water buffalo) is the national animal.  it is the work horse of this country.  used to till the rice fields, pull carts and produce milk and meat.

father burgos was a philippine national hero.  charged with having incited the revolution against the spaniards in 1872, he was sentenced to die along with 2 other priests.  father burgos is on my family tree.  this was shot at his home in vigan.

i don't know why these were at fr. burgos' house but they are coffins used by the igorots.  igorots are one of the native tribes found in the philippines.  these coffins are old.  shame on me for not getting the date.  but they were so short!  and these were intended for full grown adults.  filipinos are naturally smaller in stature but with time and mixed race, they have gotten taller.  i made curtis lie down next to them to get an idea of the difference.

vigan with its old architecture has cobble stoned streets that make you think you are in old europe.

this is pagudpud.  found at the tip of the country where the pacific meets south china sea.  miles of clear blue ocean, white powdery sands, sky and no phones.  see just clear the water is, i had to take a picture of curtis in the water.  doesn't he look like he's just sitting in a swimming pool???? 

by the way this crab scared me as we were walking.  i nearly ran into him.  he's as big as my foot (minus my toes)!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

defining my new chapter

i used to think ... if only we could live on the beach surrounded by tranquility...  if only our time was our own and we could relax and do nothing.  if only we could be happy and stress free.  we've been living that life for a while now but two weeks ago curtis and i had enough of the quiet.  my class and portrait session in manila came at the perfect time.  we got a break from the provincial life and immersed ourselves in the bustle of manila.  infused with activity and energy it's just what the doctor ordered to make us fall in love with our little hide away again.

our stay in la union is winding to a close.  it's been a wonderful six weeks.  i was standing at the edge of the ocean today, collecting more treasures, listening to the sound of the surf and feeling the tide tugging at me.  and as i stood there on the precipice of eternity i thought ... i shouldn't have to remind myself that life is wonderful.  

it's so easy to get used to the way things are and fall into a routine.  it's so easy to let life pass you by.  it's so easy to get too accustomed to seeing and doing the same things.  it's so easy to take the beautiful things in life for granted just because we see it everyday.  i've said often that i should make an effort to pause and enjoy life, see the beauty around me... but it shouldn't have to be an effort to stop and appreciate things.  but i'm thinking it's human nature to be this way.  

more often than not, our attention is caught by flash, pomp, circumstance and things out of the ordinary.  toddlers are amazed by everything they see.  they have an abundance of curiosity but the color red always captures their attention.  the beauty of life is in its simplicity but our attention is held by the reds in our lives and our indifference to all the other colors leads us to a lack of appreciation.  

pondering even deeper... perhaps that's why we make our lives and relationships complicated as well.  maybe we like drama in varying degrees ... to get out of the ordinary.  and i'm realizing all this as our days in this beautiful place are numbered... we tend to be late on appreciation as well.  

i wish i didn't have to remind myself.  i wish i didn't have to MAKE an effort.  i wish it came naturally.  as i step beyond the first pages of the new chapter in my life, i've finally realized how i would like the story to end.  i would like to love, live and appreciate with genuine passion while the moment is here ... certainly before it becomes a memory.