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A Passion for Vision: Marc Henrich Go, his victory and the story behind it

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They say, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” A photograph conveys thousands of ideas depending on a person’s visualization of the photo. That’s the value of a photograph that makes it a work of art. We have different notions on how we explain a photograph, but there is one particular explanation why there is life in it. There is something that the naked eye does not see that only a photographer can see through his lens.

     Thomasian Marc Henrich Go won the grand prize in the 2012 Asian Cities Photography Contest which was organized by Asia Web Direct, an online travel specialist that focuses on the Asian continent.

     Marc, a fourth year student from the College of Architecture, bagged the 1st prize with his photo, “Emerging cities,” which featured the view of Singapore’s skyline.

     An online voting was conducted to narrow down the entries. After the voting closed, the top ten finalists were judged by a jury from Asia Web Direct who selected the top three entries. In the end, Marc was declared the grand prize winner. Nuntika Sathithanont of Myanmar and Umi Handayani of Indonesia were declared as second and third prize winners, respectively.

The story behind the winning photo
     The winning photo of Marc was not a planned photograph. He was really planning to capture the sunset from the Marina Bay Sands’ Sky Park, but was not able to do so because of the weather that day.

     “About a year ago, I was in Singapore. I remember rushing to this spot, and I was really breathless because it was raining hard and the traffic was really bad,” Marc narrated the story behind his winning photo. “I knew that the Sky Park of Marina Bay Sands would be an amazing location to catch the sunset, and I learned that you can see the whole city when you’re atop the Sky Park. Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t on my side that afternoon, which left me slightly disappointed.”

     Marc just enjoyed the view of the city instead. He was with his dad who accompanied him.

     “I decided to wait with my dad and instead enjoy our view of the Singapore skyline,” Marc said. “Suddenly, the sunlight started to fade and the city light sprang [back] to life, I knew I had my shot.”

     Prior to his win in the 2012 Asian Cities Photo Contest, Marc already won in a great number of photography contests. He won in the prestigious Everyone’s Vision Petron National Student Art Competition in 2011 and the grand prize in Asian Traveler Magazine’s Walk Through Asia Photo Competition, also in 2011. Marc was also a semi-finalist in the DPC-PLDT Yellow Pages 26th Visual Arts Competition National Photo Competition this year, wherein two of his entries entered the top 50—The Enchanted River and Hidden Grandeur.

     Among his works, Marc’s favorite photograph is “Blur,” his winning entry in the 2011 Vision Petron competition. “The photo was taken in Bohol, summer of 2011,” Marc said. “According to the judges, they liked the photo because it was very dynamic; you can see the motion and the colors.

     “Blur” portrays the motion of a speeding bus, and it depicted Petron’s theme of “Lakbay Pinoy.” It was chosen by Vision Petron as the best photo among over 900 entries.

Half empty or half full?
     About a year ago, just before the Vision Petron competition, Marc noticed that his vision was getting dark; a vignette was obscuring his left eye. He went to consult a doctor to find out if his eyesight was deteriorating. “The doctor said that I had a retinal detachment,” he said. “It was a case wherein your retina falls off from your eye.”

     Marc said that he was shocked when he found out about his condition. He became negative with things, thinking how will he continue both his architecture and photography with only one eye fully working.

     “I underwent an eye surgery. It was very painful. For two weeks I [had] to do everything lying down. I [had] a lot of questions in my head, ‘Why now?’, ‘Why me?’, ‘Will I still be able to take photographs?’ I had a lot of time to ponder,” Marc narrated.

     After the surgery, Marc joined the Vision Petron competition. He believed that there was nothing to lose and that he needed to try harder so that he can build back his confidence and continue to fulfill his passion.

     “There are different perspectives in photography. You have to look at the glass half full instead of half empty. In my case, only my left eye has a deficiency. The good thing is that my right eye, which is my photography eye, was spared. I realized that I can still do photography,” Marc added.

     His victory in the 2011 Vision Petron competition showed him that despite his situation, he can still accomplish great things.

Passion for Photography
     All winning photographs of Marc were captured with his Canon EOS 7D. Recently, he upgraded his camera to a Canon EOS 5D Mark III, which he used once since he bought it.

     “I’ve upgraded last month from EOS 7D to a mark III, but I haven’t used it yet,” Marc said. “The only time that I used it was when the Queen of Spain visited UST.”

     Marc’s passion for photography does not end with just getting the perfect shot. He also delivers lectures during special events when invited as guest speaker.

     For him, passion makes or breaks a photographer. He believes that an “eye for bringing out the beauty from the mundane” is the thing that makes a good photographer.

     “What makes a good photographer is his passion that drives him to go beyond the ordinary to find an extra ordinary shot,” Marc said. “Passion makes you push yourself to achieve more. It allows you to overcome all the obstacles thrown your way.”

     He also encouraged amateur photographers who want to be excellent in the field of photography to always be passionate with what they are doing. “Always have passion, always seek to learn, never let the flame die.”

Architecture vs. Photography
     Aside from winning photography contests, giving talks in special events, getting his works published or exhibited, Marc is also a full-time architecture student in UST.

     One might wonder if he still plans on being an architect someday or if he’s going to pursue a professional job in the field of photography. “A lot of people ask me that question. I am very interested in architecture the same way [that I am] with photography.”

     “I’m going to take up architecture and photography side by side,” Marc said. “In fact, I plan to take up my master’s degree in architecture while continuing my craft in photography.”

     You would not believe that for a successful photographer like Marc, he has yet to shot his dream photograph.

     “I dream of shooting aerial photography,” Marc said. “In photography, the more unique your position, the more unique your photo will be. With a position of hundred of meters up in the air, my shots would come out definitely unique.”

Contribution to the Thomasian community
     Just this year, Marc was awarded by UST with the Benavides Outstanding Achievement Award for his contribution to the Thomasian community.

     Marc, who is also the chief photographer of Vision Magazine, the official publication of the College of Architecture, and the president of Fotomasino, the official photography organization of UST, considers his craft as his contribution to the Thomasian community.

     “I consider my craft of photography and my accomplishments as my contribution to the Thomasian community,” Marc said.

     He is very grateful about how UST became his training ground ever since he took his first shot inside the university, up until today, several thousand shots later.

     “I am really thankful to the University of Santo Tomas,” Marc added. “It provided me with opportunities to enhance my [skills], it gave me [opportunities] to let my craft grow, and it led me to avenues of success.”

By Jan Angelo Yvan L. Cabantog
Photo courtesy of Marc Henrich Go

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Walking in unity for this year’s #SONAgkaisa

However, instead of attaining the needs of every Filipino, it seems that those people in power had focused their priorities towards issues that shouldn’t be tackled in such difficult times.

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Photo courtesy of Philstar.com

Numerous organizations walked around UP Diliman, holding various placards and displaying humorous forms of expression that declares their many concerns for the nation. Uniting with the protestors from UP Diliman, alongside with the online hashtag: #SONAgkaisa, the online community also voiced out their calls through different social media platforms. 

Despite being in the midst of a pandemic, now with a law that also banned mass gatherings, youth groups still flocked over to UP Diliman. They assured the general public that they would follow the health protocols like wearing face masks and ensuring the practice of social distancing in order to steer clear of the possible transmission of the coronavirus. Not only youth organizations joined the protest, but also numerous labor and health workers, as well as advocates for women’s rights, had presented themselves as they marched in unity towards the University Avenue. 

Several hours before President Rodrigo Duterte’s speech for his 5th SONA, different progressive groups that congregated for the protest tackled a lot of issues including the government’s inadequate response towards the coronavirus global pandemic, the franchise refusal of ABS-CBN that ended up officially shutting down the operation of the channel, and also the controversial process of validating the Anti-Terror Law. 

Some who attended the protest brought props that showed satire as they intensified their voices in the rally. One of the most striking and humorous displays was activist-artist Mae Paner who imitated Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque by sporting herself in a rash guard while carrying three inflatable dolphin toys. This impersonation was meant to ridicule Roque when he went to a dolphin park in Subic despite the on-going community quarantine. Her exhibit topped the topic trends in different social media sites, giving a good laugh to many netizens.

On the other hand, people who showed their art during the protest gave away masks with statements that defended press freedom; these masks implied that despite being covered, they are not to be silenced. The youth organization, Youth Resist PH, assembled trash bins in the University Avenue in order to show the government’s misplaced priorities in the midst of the pandemic. This is clearly evident when the administration focused their resentment towards human rights and civil liberties instead of bringing their full attention to improving health care in the country.

Anakbayan also showcased their protest by drawing red crosshairs on a transparent canvas, indicating that literally everyone could be tagged as a terrorist because of the recent passage of the Anti-Terror Law.

The protest was of course not brought out completely in a peaceful manner because of several police actions against activists and protestors. After a week of approving the Anti-Terror Law, many groups had feared that the usage of power by the Philippine National Police (PNP) would be abused, and eventually, the criticism against the administration will further be constrained.

Examples of some incidents that occurred were the arrest of jeepney drivers of Piston in Quezon City. They were on their way towards the SONA protest at UP Diliman when suddenly, their vehicle was flagged by the police along East Avenue. Protest materials were also confiscated in Quiapo Church when some people brought placards with written slogans against the Anti-Terror Law. A video that circulated around the internet angered many netizens because the policemen were forcefully seizing their bags and tearing down their placards. The party involved claimed that despite not displaying the placards during mass, the cops still insisted on confiscating it. They said that they’re going to file a complaint against the policemen who took their protest materials.

Participants from the protest voiced out their calls in regard to the deteriorating problems that many Filipino individuals had been experiencing during the pandemic, which continuously worsened because of the government’s actions in response to the Covid-19 struggle. Alongside these concerns, are also plenty of students who protested against the decision to push through online classes. They said that they have been struggling to attain needs for their education even way before the pandemic, and now it only became more difficult because of the increase of their tuition fees and lack of some requirements for the “blended learning.” 

National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP) national president Raoul Manuel said in an interview with Rappler, “Bago pa man ang pandemya, marami nang mga kabataan ang biktima ng mahal na edukasyon at ang binansagang terorista sa pangangarap na makamit ang mapagpalayang edukasyon”

His statement proved that not only had the pandemic made fellow students’ education and lives at stake but also the education system itself is clearly flawed and the implementation of Anti-Terror Law only worsens the situations of student activists who fight for their educational rights. 

Not only the students were present in the protest, but also private and public school teachers showed their designed umbrellas that proclaim their stance about the resuming of classes. They joined the call for the safe reopening of the academic year and a call to provide financial aid to those who lost their jobs because of the pandemic.

Amongst the protestors was also the veteran broadcast journalist Ces Drilon who spoke onstage about defending press freedom for the first time and said, “Hindi po ako tagapagsalita ng ABS-CBN. Hindi ako tagapagsalita ng mga kapwa ko manggagawa pero kaisa ko po sila na nagsasabi na kami po ay biktima ng isang mapaniil na administrasyon.” Drilon pressed on the issue about the denial towards the ABS-CBN franchise.

Aside from speaking up about ABS-CBN, Drilon also mentioned the cases that have been filed against Rappler, a social news network, and the arrest of Reynaldo Orcullo for his criticism online against Duterte. She said that even after these issues involving the oppression of press freedom, a lot of people were still indifferent. She asked when would Filipinos start speaking up, and so, she encouraged the people to take away their silence and start calling out the government for their deliberate sabotaging of press freedom.

Human rights lawyer, Chel Diokno had tweeted in his Twitter account, “Nagpunta tayo kanina sa #SONAgKAISA kasama ng iba’t ibang lawyers’ groups para magbantay, at para makiisa sa iba’t ibang mga organisasyon na nagtipon. Ang panawagan natin: katotohanan, pananagutan, at katarungan para sa mga ordinaryong Pilipino.” He declared that their reason for the protest was only to be united in calling the truth and justice for the ordinary people. 

The country had faced many struggles for the past few months due to the health crisis that surfaced and affected the lives of many. However, instead of attaining the needs of every Filipino, it seems that those people in power had focused their priorities towards issues that shouldn’t be tackled in these difficult times. This protest is one of the ways that Filipinos voiced out their deepest empathy for those who are in need of truth and justice. After barely passing through the half of 2020, many are still choosing to be clueless about the true situation of the country, but despite that, there are also many people who are now compelled to fight for a better Philippines. Bianca Labraque

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I was eighteen

It was April 2019 and I was in Los Baños for an academic conference.

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Artwork by Ana Victoria Ereño

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article contains sensitive content which some people may find triggering. The author and names are hidden for confidentiality.

I was eight. I was fifteen. I was seventeen.

I’m sure you have read those tweets. In my case, I was eighteen.

This is a story I do not tell many people because I am scared. What else could I feel right now? Victorious? Apathetic? Healed? I’m not sure if I’m the one to tell. Only a few people know about my story and even some of my closest friends don’t know about it. I carry the trauma every time I go out with my friends or even when I am in the bedroom with my boyfriend. Moments of that night when I was eighteen would come back to haunt me. Undesired and unwanted. Tricked and trapped. Panic and pressure. That’s all it was. 

It was April 2019 and I was in Los Baños for an academic conference. I have been looking forward to this for more than half a year. I was going to be with my friends, I would be presiding as part of the board of dais, and I fulfill my shallow teenage fantasy: late night trips to McDonald’s and secretly imbibing with friends in our hotel room. 

I won’t bore you any longer: the conference was a great experience for me. I will always go back to that memory when I look back again in thirty years when I reminisce about my youth.

However, I will remember everything especially that second night I got inebriated.

I wish I had the courage to tell you everything. I want to illustrate what happened that very night, just how I narrate stories of injustice. But isn’t this injustice as well? I want to write about this with the same brevity. I sat here for what seems like twenty minutes as I try to muster what has happened to me.

I was in my friend’s bedroom and we were with two other friends. We bought drinks. I laid down on the bed after four glasses, as I was already inebriated. I asked my friend James* if we could cuddle and nothing else more. The next thing I know is that I was trying to catch my breath. I was lying down and I wanted to move. However, I couldn’t move because of the influence of alcohol. I heard chatter and laughter. Two of our other friends and their mom were also in the same room.

Thankfully, some of my friends who were in the hotel fetched me an hour and a half later. By the time I got back, I was tucked safely in bed. The next morning, I woke up to see an empty brown paper bag. I had the same clothes on from last night, and I still wore the same socks. I was taken care of, at least. 

And that was it. I don’t expect you to be angry or to be compelled especially with the way I wrote my story. There’s not much to explain here, really. 

Since punctuality is my strong suit, I woke up early the next morning to stroll under the soft sunlight to process events from the previous night as I walk to the building where we would resume the conference. I later discarded the thought and proceeded with the work I had to do here. Everything else was fine until I saw him again in the afternoon at the auditorium. I did not bother speaking to him, nor did he. 

I confronted James after an hour or two outside of the building we were in. We sat at the benches underneath the trees. No one was around and it was serene. I looked hard at the gazebo a couple of feet away from us to prepare myself for this conversaton. I sat in a straight posture, looking clean, prim, and proper but inside, I felt wronged and dirty. Yet, I still don’t know what to feel. 

I told James that I wanted to leave this problem in Los Baños. I could’ve been there in the auditorium taking photos with friends or probably confessing to my conference crush. But I was there, confronting a problem I thought I could probably leave in Los Baños.

“Why did you do it?,” I asked.

“I did it because I have feelings for you.”

I was at a loss for words. I left Los Baños an hour after with a suitcase of great memories as I tried to suppress this one, and I did. After a few months, I thought I had forgiven James. I fooled myself thinking it was just a drunken mistake. 

I realized a couple of months after that I was taken advantage of. I was sexually harassed.

I’m not sure what else to tell you. All I know is that I have carried this burden since the past year. I remember what my breathing felt like. I remember that my thighs and my legs were unable to move. I remember the unconsented proximity. I remember who watched and who did it.

I am nineteen now but there will forever be a part of me where I was eighteen. It took me almost a year to understand what it was. Now, it’s clear and no apology can take that night away from me.

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The Scent of Force

It was just an ordinary night and I was home away from home.

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Artwork by Fernardine Hernandez

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article contains sensitive content which some people may find triggering. The author’s name will be hidden for confidentiality. 

It was just an ordinary night and I was home away from home. After dinner, I was tasked to deliver a document downstairs. Familiarity, the echoing of my every step on the tiled floors, and the sense of security filled the hallways. I am safe because I am home. I pressed the elevator button going down while I clutched the brown envelope on my chest. 

There was another person inside, standing at the farthest left. The elevator was quite spacious, on a busy day, it could fit six up to nine people. My feet began to move. Elevators don’t have signals inside so I decided not to use my phone but instead, look straight, not at anything, but to only look straight. 

His perfume lingered every inch of the four corners of the elevator. I tried not to crinkle my nose for he might mistake my sensitivity for disrespect and until he spoke, there was only silence. He attempted to break the silence by saying “Normally, compliments make me a tad awkward but his words made me clench my jaw. I was told that I had beauty in me and that he liked my eyes. In fear, I took in his words like nothing just to kill the conversation. 

The elevator ride became much longer until the doors finally opened. As soon as it opened, I walked out and took a whiff of the sleeves of my sweater which made me crinkle my nose. I didn’t care if he saw me, I knew I was already a few feet away from him. He went inside the convenience store which made me relax my shoulders. The delivery service wasn’t there yet so I waited. 

While I was browsing my phone, a figure stood right beside me. My jaw clenched and my palms became cold. 

“Maybe he is waiting for something too.” 

I assured myself to keep my mind clear and balanced with my emotions. Using my phone, I pretended to talk to someone and make me look as if I’m busy but that didn’t stop him from asking questions. 

“Maybe he’s trying to become a nice building neighbor.” 

I assured myself again. He kept asking if I lived there, but I didn’t, I was only visiting my uncles. That’s a fact. His expression looked as if he was doubting me. He asked how old I was. I answered seventeen when in reality, I was nineteen. It was a lie but red alarms keep going off in my head. The advice of the women in my life kept ringing in my ears, “Just be polite, and eventually, they’ll leave.” No questions escaped from my lips, only answers. 

“Where do you study?” I answered, “Manila.”

“So, where do you live?” I repeated my response. 

“Do you have a boyfriend?” I answered yes even though it was a lie. 

“Really?” He was in doubt again.

“What is your name?” I nervously chuckled in response. 

“Do you want to go to my unit?” 

Finally, the delivery service arrived. I blinked twice to jolt me back to my senses. After handling the envelope, I started to walk only to be approached by the same man again. He asked me if I was available. I said no. He asked again and insisted that we go upstairs and go to his unit. I shook my head. 

Numbness took over me as he suddenly hugged me and kissed my temple. His scent made me crinkle my nose. At his touch, my body felt like it was not mine anymore. At his grip, I wanted to cry. At his release, I felt weak. The proximity and the gesture weren’t called for. I know for a fact that he wouldn’t not care if I refused and he had the audacity to act as if he owned me. I was frozen for a moment that felt like an eon. 

His scent was on my body, clothes, and skin. As I went back inside the building and entered the elevator, I was alone. There was nothing. I rushed to the bathroom and  broke down in tears. I turned on the faucet and scrubbed as hard as I can to get rid of his touch until my skin became irritated. All I felt was the ice-cold water splashing on the burns of my arms. I looked down on the bathroom floor. Trembling at the fear that history might repeat itself. This was not an ordinary night.

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