There are moments that you simply want to capture and freeze. And I’m not talking here about Kodak memories where poses are oftentimes contrived and smiles are forced. I’m talking about real moments of joy, triumph, awe, jubilation, and revelry. They maybe elusive to the camera’s eyes but could tug the heart of any sensitive soul.
Such moments come alive when I’m traveling. I was born with a mole on the heel of my right foot, and as superstitious old relatives interpreted it, I was destined to wander. “Magiging layas ang batang ito paglaki nya “(This kid is going to be a vagabond when he grows up), I heard them say. I was too young to ponder that prediction seriously, but as a child of five, I clearly remember how overjoyed I was whenever I rode in my father’s car. The whole idea of my body inside a moving vehicle and being transported to a different place gave me an exhilarating feeling. Soon, staying inside our house rendered me restless. I felt an almost physical itch to go outdoors.
But I didn’t really get to travel around the Philippines until I was a teen-ager. The very first long journey I experienced happened when I was 15. My mother went to Catanauan, Quezon to discuss a prospective business with a distant relative who wanted a new set of curtains for her new house. Together with my second brother, Raul, we traveled by bus for nearly eight hours and when we arrived, I heard my mother complain to our distant relatives. She said we seemed to have reached the end of the world. For me, it wasn’t so. Deep inside, I knew that my traveling adventures had just begun.
My first job as a radio station supervisor took me to almost every nook and cranny of Laguna, a historic province laced with a distinct old charm. It was there where my fascination with religious art took shape. There I toured the old churches of Majayjay, Nagcarlan, Paete, Siniloan, Pagsanjan and other towns whose names I couldn’t recall anymore. True, cold facts might have fogged my memory but not the feelings attached to the moments of awesome discoveries. I remember them all — the serenity of the rustling sound of leaves in a dusty road in San Pablo; the inebriating effect of lambanog (native coconut wine) in Nagcarlan; the dizzying zigzag road going to Santa Cruz; the soft, musical swaying of rice fields in Pila; and the gaiety of a moving colorful circus caravan in Majayjay;. It has almost been 15 years ago but those images and sensations would often play in my mind before I go to bed after a busy day.