A Panagbenga Swan Song-A A +A
Saturday, March 5, 2011
IT IS 16 years after the first Panagbenga. For many businesses, it is the 16th year of profitable enterprises and more entertaining productions but it may be the swan song of the Baguio Commercial Photographers Guild Association, Inc. The sexagenarians and septuagenarians who in their youth came to Baguio from Pangasinan to learn the profitable trade of photography that William Ang brought to Burnham Park are now struggling to keep their head above water. Unable to accept digital photography and steadfast on clinging to their manual cameras for survival, some have experienced going home without a peso for the long hours spent in the park.
Bong Cayabyab, City Information Office photographer and adviser to the group, lamented the predicament that the 50 or so members of the association faced during the induction ceremonies last February 28 at the Veterans Building in Camp Allen. In his speech, he reminded them that 19 years ago, then Mayor Mauricio Domogan already offered to assist the group financially to boost their livelihood. Domogan already offered scholarships to the children of the members, so long as they comply with documentary requirements. Cayabyab said that there were only a few takers but the majority would not unite so that a cooperative could access the funds made available from congressional and government grants.
Cayabyab recalled how former Philippine Tourism Authority Manager Bernardo Vergara had hired him as a security guard in Burnham Park to protect and secure the park. He said that in those days, he already encountered the photographers in the park and saw how they were valuable in his work. “You are still the eyes and ears of Burnham Park,” he told them and added that for that second task, the photographers have doubled their importance for the city. They have served as the deputies to the police for peacekeeping in the park. He also related how the photographers helped him transition from the security officer to official photographer of the city.
Mayor Domogan reminded the photographers that his office is still open to assist them. However, he reiterated that they needed to unite and organize themselves so that they can get assistance. He noted that there was still P2 million unspent funds from his congressional pork barrel and they could access the money if they could form a cooperative. He added that the Secretary of Tourism expressed that the department was ready to develop the Rose Garden and that within the plans a project for the photographers could be included.
Domer Farinas, vice president of the association, echoed that the government was ready to assist them as they faced the challenge of digital technology but reminded the members that they had to unite. Farinas said that they had helped the government since the early years of Burnham Park against the bad elements that destroyed the tourism industry of the city. The group was instrumental in the solution of many crimes in the area which could have affected the number of tourist arrivals in the city, he said. He highlighted this important contribution to the city.
Greg Aberin, representative of Congressman Bernardo Vergara, recalled how the photographers of Burnham Park were even brought to La Union and other nearby provinces to take the photos during special occasions in the 1960s. He reminded them how their profession was esteemed in those days. But many people had learned the craft, he said, and even surpassed the abilities of the park photographers. He said that Vergara was prepared to strengthen the skills of the group, if they have a formal organization. He said that people were ready to pay the price for good photographs but coping with the new technology was the key, if the group was ready. He noted that loans were available for the members if they wanted to buy new cameras to continue their craft.
Councilor Elmer Datuin said that teamwork with the government was at hand because the photographers had boosted the tourism industry in the old days. He said that the government was willing to assist the officers of the group.
As the association president Carlos Cabillan took the roster, he had but one request to the mayor, that they be given a shop in a corner of the inner part of the lake. He said that it has become more difficult to earn from the profession because for the first time during the Panagbenga, some of them ended the day with a zero. Zero earnings because tourists had their own cameras or cellphones that they didn’t need the click of a camera and the whirr of the film to capture the beauty of the flowers that bloomed around the park at this time of the year.
Their slick blackened hair with silver roots have delayed the retirement of the old cameras because there are still a few companies producing colored film. But even the film single-lens reflex (SLR) camera is now the digital SLR and Polaroid has already stopped making films. The other companies will soon follow suit. There are a diminishing number of photo shops that still develop and process film. This is no comfort for the already threatened seasoned photographers.
This could be the swan song for photographers in Burnham Park amidst the growing international popularity of the Panagbenga. The season for blooming has left the enduring perennials to thin and wilt as it has heralded the annuals that never return to bloom again the next year.
Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on March 06, 2011.