The sky wasn’t my friend that day, and neither was the sun. I mean, I woke up, looked out my bedroom window, and there it was, staring sardonically back at me—a sky so cloudy it looked like it was falling. Not overly overcast or anything—just that there was no hint of blue at all! And the sun wasn’t its usual bright self, too! I was this close to calling the whole thing off, but I knew I couldn’t: one, this was my last solo shoot before I was going to start my apprenticeship (at Shutterfairy Photography, in August of this year); two, I couldn’t bring myself to let a best friend down.
Paolo, the groom-to-be, is my best friend Andre’s younger brother. It was Andre who’d asked me to do this, and I’d said yes because, well, his family was like my second family, plus it had been years since I’d last seen Paolo—and I’d never met his bride-to-be! I’d offered something that was young, a bit messy and hard-edged, in the same vein as my grunge-inspired first solo shoot (for an Ormoc-based couple). But Andre had had something else in mind, something more “mature” and sedate—“They’re parents now,” he’d reasoned. Fair enough. A stylist himself, he’d been visualizing his future sister-in-law’s look for days. “I want modern, floor-sweeping gowns,” he’d shared, “but set against the mountains!” He’d proceeded to show me photos from a recent road trip with friends to Busay, and further up the Cebu Transcentral Highway to Balamban. “Glorious, isn’t it?” To which I’d nodded, for indeed they were breathtaking pictures, but I’d had to warn him that “I’m not very good with these nature-y locations” (you might remember me talking about this in a previous post, about how deathly afraid I was of vegetation and anything countryside/bucolic). But I’d had to compromise—Andre had made it clear he was going to take care of the styling aspect of it, and so here was a chance for me to focus on just taking pictures, something I’d been praying for for so long! And so, mountains it was.
Which was why I’d hoped for “blue skies” to be “smiling at me.” I’d wanted to give them “glorious,” like Andre had described. Laugh all you want, but in the days leading to the shoot all I could picture in my mind’s eye was something that looked like that generic Windows XP wallpaper—you know, sprawling verdant hills against a vast blanket of cerulean skies. But, alas, cerulean had decided to take a day off, leaving us with nothing but a canopy of cotton. “Well, we will have to do with what we have,” Andre said. “Let’s just be thankful it’s not raining!”
I was in for a pleasant surprise, though, when we got to our first location, a grassy cliff tucked behind a small market where local flower and vegetable growers sold their fresh picks to drivers passing by (it was the makeup artist Owen who led us to it). The sky may have been cloudy and devoid of any trace of blue, but that was alright because the grass was in a lovely shade of yellow-brown! Looked kind of dull, actually, when I took my first few shots, but just a few experimental adjustments to the white balance, and I was able to add a yellow cast and kill some of the greens (of course, the vibrance I would work on later on in Photoshop). As I followed Paolo and Kiselle around as they traipsed on these fields of yellow, I couldn’t help but call to mind these beautiful lines from Sting’s “Fields of Gold” (one of my favorite songs from when I was a child, and still one of my favorites now—I kind of like Eva Cassidy’s rendition, too): “You’ll forget the sun in his jealous sky/ As we walk in fields of gold.”
Also loved how I was able to spot a solitary tree. Swear to God, I am getting good at keeping my eyes open these days. You should’ve seen me that day, I almost broke my neck darting my head from left to right as Paolo sped through the highway, on the lookout for a lone tree, and I think it freaked everyone out when I screamed “OK, stop!” as soon as I spotted one. Well, at first it wasn’t really solitary, as there was this colossal water buffalo grazing right next to it. My friend Inez, who tagged along for this assignment, wanted to place a bet that there was no way I could get the thing to scoot over—to her dismay, I was able to, and I didn’t even have to pull my sleeves up! I don’t know if everyone was impressed with my “buffalo whispering” skills, but I knew I was impressed with myself. Nice to know I have a way with these four-legged creatures!
Speaking of four-legged creatures, perhaps the biggest treat that day was when Andre was able to get a gorgeous horse into the picture. I love horses. To me, they’re the most beautiful creatures on earth (next to Kate Moss, of course), and few reflexes are as pleasant as the gasp that escapes my mouth upon seeing a horse throw its head up, arch its back, and whip its tail. This was perfect timing, because I’d missed taking picture of horses. It had been almost a year since I’d last taken pictures of these beauties (at the Kentucky Horse Park, in August of 2010, where I’d spent some five or so hours clicking away at every single horse I’d bumped into), and what a refreshing experience that had been! Even more exhilarating, though (and I think I wrote about this in a previous post), is when you get to know—and call them by—their names. This beauty right here was named Athena, after the Greek goddess. At first Kiselle was hesitant to get up on the saddle (antiquated leather!), afraid she might topple, but the caretaker was quick to assure us Athena was very neighborly and always treated her riders kind. Before shooting I spent a couple of minutes caressing her mane and touching her face, and I couldn’t help but notice there was a tinge of sadness in her eyes. Mr. Caretaker proceeded to tell us the story of how, just a few weeks back, Athena had lost all her three or four siblings to a mysterious equine illness—that explained the sullen look in her eyes. Despite this, though, she carried on like a trouper, and made love to the camera like a pro. Before we said goodbye I felt the need to whisper in her ear—you know, that she was going to be OK, and that her eyes were going to regain their sparkle one day.
Speaking of expressive eyes, I simply couldn’t take my eyes of Kiselle’s. I liked the way they disappeared into tiny slits every time she laughed—whether out loud, or silently, in her head. She was a woman of very few words, and instead relied on her eyes to do the talking. I loved how, when she needed Paolo to do something, she would just give him a certain look, and then he would set out to do it. Yes, they had that kind of chemistry, and it was enviable. Kiselle’s father would touch on the subject of her eyes and their convincing powers three months later, at the wedding reception. “I don’t like speaking in front of people—when I was in school, I would pretend to be sick on days when the teacher would ask me to recite in front of class,” he shared during his father of the bride speech. “Only Kiselle could get me to do these kinds of things. I wasn’t gonna do this, but it’s her special day, and she’s looking at me with those eyes… Kiselle’s eyes are beautiful. They’re the eyes that she got from her mother. And now Kiselle’s daughter, my granddaughter, has them.” Nice to know there’s plenty of them to go around.
Jun Paolo Dedamo and Kiselle Ibones | Photographed by Angelo Kangleon in Busay, Cebu, on July 24, 2011 | Styled by Andre Emmanuel Dedamo | Hair and makeup by Owen Taboada (to book Owen, click here) | Sittings assistant: Inez Reformina | White strapless bias-cut crepe de chine gala gown, black strapless draped silk-georgette gala gown, and scarlet strapless bias-cut silk-georgette gala gown with laser cut detail, all by Owen Taboada
Behind the Scenes Instagrams Clockwise from top left: The hairstylist/makeup artist Owen, who is also a designer (he made all the gowns that Kiselle wore for this shoot), fixing Kiselle’s hair; Inez and Andre scouting for a good spot; Owen keeping our special guest star Athena happy by feeding her with corn husks; Andre and Owen on the simple suspension bridge at this place called Island in the Sky Resort in Balamban; me holding on for dear life as I tried to photograph the couple on the simple suspension bridge (the photos came out bad because it was just too foggy that afternoon); test shot with Owen and Kiselle; we all just had to have a photo with the beautiful Athena. Behind-the-scenes photos courtesy Andre Dedamo.
Seems like only yesterday that they said goodbye. Sharon was first to leave, for California, to settle down. And then Kathleen, for Doha, as if predicting that Arabian Nights chic was going to be the next big thing (true enough, the Persian Gulf would prove to be an irresistible lure to the Sex and the City girls a few years later). And then Anne, to go to New York, to fulfill her rock ‘n’ roll dreams of seeing Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor, among others, live (and at the exact same time that The City had to steal Whitney Port from The Hills). And then Aya and Katrina, for Singapore. And then Meyen, for Manila. Swear to God, it got to a point where I was pretty much convinced that everyone’s favorite thing to do was walking out of my life!
But, as it turns out, there is some beauty in goodbye. I mean, without it, what would happen to send-off parties? Not to mention, of course, the infinitely funner homecoming parties—you know, for when they come back, because they always come back. And those things, they could get pretty crazy. Distance and time have a way of making you grow wiser, get smarter—but apparently not wise and smart enough to make you forget that there was a time you once played it dumb and made some pretty foolish choices with the friends you grew up with! Those are what make the ecstatic high points of reunions—the ability to look back on the stupid things that you did together, and to just laugh about it, even toast to it!
I was lucky enough to have been part of such rowdiness just a couple of days back, when Sharon, Kathleen, Anne, Aya, Katrina and Meyen came back. Yes, by some weird twist of fate and wicked stroke of luck, all of them came back at the exact same time! Never in my wildest dreams had I imagined this would happen! Like, might as well ask the world to stop turning, or the sun to stop shining!
Well, no, I wasn’t about to ask for the sun to stop shining, especially since a boating trip was in order. Yes, that was all they’d asked for, and perhaps appropriately. You know, to prove that “you can take the girl away from the island, but you can’t take the island away from the girl.” Well, that, plus they’d wanted an excuse to scamper around in their new kaftans and bikinis and maillots (for these girls are nothing without their “cruise clothes” and swimwear; Meyen alone has a swimwear closet that could dress an entire island). So a private banca was commandeered, a huge lechón from Lapu-Lapu’s finest (not disclosing; they’re our best-kept secret) and buckets of freshly cooked crustaceans were reeled in, bottles cling-clanged as coolers were dragged, and off we sailed to what could possibly be the most riotous excursion of our adult lives!
As far as “girls gone wild” go, this bunch are pretty awe-inspiring. Don’t let the first couple of minutes fool you—they’re gonna come off as mellow and all, appear deep thought-thinking and pensive, even start talking about how their lives in their new cities have “changed” them. When they do this, they’re really just sleepy. Aya knew better, of course, and all she had to do was bring out the mixologist in her, whipping up some pretty lethal concoctions, and in no time everyone showed their true colors! I’m telling you, these girls, they make talking about the past real fun. My jaws threatened to lock when we remembered, for example, the ex-crush who’d thought he was too cool for school—until he’d fallen into a manhole! Or, the countless brawls with girls who dressed bad! And even our own embarrassing errors in fashion judgment! Listening to ourselves exchange stories of yesteryears was like listening to a really good mixtape—you know, when, to borrow a line from Butch Walker, “even all the bad songs ain’t so bad.” Whether or not these mistakes had helped shape our lives, I couldn’t tell—but they sure had a hand in shaping our laughs, and that’s all that mattered.
Of course, nearly as entertaining as listening to them talk was photographing them. These girls had been “camwhores” even before that term had been invented, so to not anticipate a photoshoot to be inserted into the agenda would be rather foolish. It was hard not to gasp or almost drop my camera as their silly, unchoreographed antics spread out before my eyes. Luckily for them, because I love them to bits and pieces (and how else are you supposed to?), I’m gonna pretend I never took those, um, unbecoming shots, and just post the more adorable ones on here. Not saving anything for blackmail purposes, either—I would never, ever, do that to these girls.
Funny thing, ‘cause just a couple of weeks ago one of my detractors wrote something about how lucky she was because she was “always surrounded by friends,” insinuating that I was a loser ‘cause I was almost always on my own these days. Well, now you know, my dear, that the only reason I’m not “surrounded by friends” 24/7 is because my real friends don’t live here anymore—they are citizens of the world! Yes, they may not be with me all the time, but at least on the days that they are they make sure they do something stylish with me. And at least they’re confident enough to whip out their bikinis when it’s time to hit the beach (which is not something you can say about your girlfriends, what with their penchant for wetsuits and men’s surf jams even when they’re just hitting the pool). Said differently: At least my friends don’t have anything to hide! We embrace each other’s imperfections, and even have the guts to laugh them off! So, by all means, keep on hating! I would understand.
In related news, my friends are also prettier than yours. I mean, look: Sharon looks like Jessica Alba, Katrina looks like Audrina Patridge, Meyen looks like Katie Holmes, and Anne is a dead ringer for Olivia Palermo. Of course, I do not think I need to tell you who I look like. Everybody knows I am Lauren Conrad. LMFAO.
Photographed by Angelo Kangleon in Pandanon Island, Bohol, and the Cebu Strait on October 16, 2011