ALTHOUGH he may have taken the best photo out of almost 8,000 entries in the Sinulog photo contest, Joshua Ian Laroga believes it was the Señor Sto. Niño who captured “the perfect shot” he had hoped for.

The 28-year-old, who bought his first digital single-lens reflex camera last August, is this year’s grand prize winner.

“I’m just a person who has hungry eyes for photography, but with a pocket that can’t afford to feed that passion. If it weren’t for my mom’s encouragement, I don’t think I’d have made it,” he told SunStar Cebu.

A former videographer for a local television broadcast network, Laroga said he has always had a liking for photography, but couldn’t pursue it because of his meager salary.

It did not help that after five years in the industry, he and many of his colleagues were retrenched.

But unfortunate events in Laroga’s life slowly began to create a domino effect.

Although he wanted to get another job as soon as possible, he had to stay home for eight months after getting sick due to pneumonia.

After recovering, Laroga was hired by another media outlet, only to leave yet again to tend to his mother, Suzy, who has been diagnosed with stage two breast cancer.

Necessary support

“Even if it’s my mom who’s having the hardest time in our family, she remains strong. She constantly supports me and pushes me to pursue my passion,” Laroga said.

Although she, too, needed to save up for chemotherapy sessions and medicines, Suzy gave her son some money to buy his gadgets.

As the Sinulog approached, the 65-year-old encouraged her son to join the festival’s photo contest, not for the prize, but for the experience.

With nothing but P150 to register, Laroga was among the very few contestants who submitted fewer than 15 photo entries.

But instead of getting discouraged, the contest neophyte kept on replaying in his mind his mother’s advice.

“I had no other money and I also really wanted to try it out. I don’t even have those very big lenses other contestants have,” he said.

It didn’t matter whether he had the equipment or not, as his photo of the contingents of Asturias town was chosen by the judges as the best of this year’s images.

Sinulog Foundation Inc. Executive Director Ricky Ballesteros, in a separate interview, said choosing this year’s grand prize winner was easy.

“We chose the photo which, even at first glance, can make people say, ‘That’s Sinulog. That’s not Dinagyang, Maskara (festival), but simply Sinulog’,” he said.

Angelo Miguel Sanchez won the second grand prize, while Maui Recla earned the third grand prize.

As for his cash prize of P100,000, Laroga said he’ll be using it to support his mother, who just had another chemo session last Friday.

“It’s not really me who took the best picture, but Sto. Niño. He helped me make my passion an instrument for me to do well and help my mother. I’m dedicating this to her,” he said.