Photography, its story, our stories
August 19 is celebrated as the World Photography Day “which aims to inspire photographers across the planet to share a single photo with a simple purpose: to share their world with the world”. It originated when Louis Daguerre and Joseph Nicephore Niepce invented the Daguerreotype, a photograph taken by employing an iodine-sensitized silvered plate and mercury vapour that was later patented by the French government on August 19, 1839 dubbing it as the “gift free to the world.”
Photography has undoubtedly documented so many moments, both famous and infamous, including simple life events and experiences.
In this digital era, photography is most of the time married to traveling and has even changed the way we explore the globe, and influenced our decisions about where to go next. Why not? As they say, pictures paint thousands of words and could become memoirs of our cherished adventures and perhaps even some heartbreaking experiences.
Travel photography = Travel stories
Today’s technology has made interesting innovations that allow us to capture the moments and share them with everyone. However, I still personally prefer the art of taking photos over videography, for instance. Although I know that in the following years (or even months), I would have to invest in learning how to capture better videos that could create more compelling travel stories.
For now, let me share with you some of our favourite photographs since we started plus some snippets of the stories behind them.
Petronas Towers, Malaysia
It’s my very first trip outside the country. The first time my passport got stamped, I was ecstatic. Being my first, it felt like heading to a different world, transcending beyond cultural and geographical borders. As I look around me, I saw some of the greatest friends I knew and we share a bond that seems unbreakable to this date. We also had the pleasure of meeting our friends in Petaling Jaya where our company’s headquarters is located, and they were very kind to tour us in Kuala Lumpur. My eyes were glimmering with wonder in the simplest things the megacity has showcased, and as we get closer to its centre, the enormous structures started looming in the background — standing tall and proud as they lit up the city skyline.
Mong Kok, Hong Kong
A friend went to Hong Kong weeks before our scheduled flight to see Mickey Mouse dancing in Hong Kong Disneyland. I asked for a copy of her itinerary and she was kind enough to even give me tips. She knows that I fancy shopping and she told me not to miss the Ladies’ Market and try to learn some basic bargaining in HK’s local language. On the first night of our trip, we decided to head to Mong Kok, we even almost got ourselves lost and some locals helped us find the famous street. At the last instance of asking for directions, a local said: “Just turn on the next street.” Upon turning, we saw the familiar neon lights I’ve seen online, the busy and bustling vibe, and the streets full of stores and shoppers. Ironically, I forgot that we went there to shop and even all the basic bargaining terms I tried to learn. The street is beating and seems to pulsate what everything Hong Kong could be all about.
Mt. Fuji, Japan
“No one should leave Japan without seeing Fuji-san,” they said. And I fully agree. So I made sure that I’ve allotted a day to admire its majesty in Yamanashi — the closest prefecture to Mt. Fuji. However, days before we went to Yamanashi, the weather seemed to disagree with our plans. A low-pressure area has made the weather way too moody. Still hoping that Fuji-san would grace us with its presence, we hopped on to the train heading to the prefecture. When we arrived in Yamanashi, even I became moody. We were standing on the spot where we can supposedly see the mountain in its full glory, but we couldn’t see even a shadow, nothing but clouds. So we decided to instead spend the night in the prefecture, hoping the see Fuji-san the next day. I set up my camera and tripod, waited… for several hours. Then finally, I got a glimpse of Mt. Fuji partially covered by clouds, but never the whole mountain. Not seeing Mt. Fuji in its full glory taught us so many lessons in life and in traveling. We were saddened, but then I thought: “No one said you could only visit Japan once, right?” For sure, everyone would agree with that.
Tian Tan Buddha, Hong Kong
We took the crystal cabin in Ngong Pin 360, a cable car with a glass floor that’ll supposedly give more thrill on our way to the Ngong Ping Village. It also offered a bird’s eye view of Lantau Island’s landscape. We had fun and we appreciated the thrill it offered. But we’re so thankful that we did not spend our time just looking down. Otherwise, we could’ve missed seeing one of the most serene landscapes in Hong Kong, seeing the Tian Tan Buddha watching over the hills of Lantau. I’d say that maybe we got the best of both worlds: enjoying the thrill of being hundreds of feet above the ground, and the serenity offered by a picturesque landscape.
I’ve been to Boracay twice and it never fails to keep me in awe. Truth is, my partner and I had a fight the moment we stepped on its fine white sand upon our arrival. Because of what happened, I thought, maybe this trip wouldn’t be as enjoyable as we wanted it to be. However, it is surprising how an almost perfect place can easily repair what’s broken. How it could easily turn a turbulent storm into a calm breeze. It turned out that our trip to Boracay would become one of the best holidays we’ve ever had in the Philippines. Now it dawned upon me why Boracay would always be memorable. It was the first place I traveled to after my mom died of cancer, and it was one of the destinations that easily transformed what I initially thought would be a bitter experience into one of the sweetest escapades.
As if on cue, and as if Boracay and nature are aware of my thoughts, on our last evening, it gifted us with the most beautiful sunsets which reminded us that most turmoil and storms will always end on a good note. Ending the day with such beauty made it even more exciting to look forward to what’s in store for us tomorrow.
I love science since I was a child and, like every child, I also dreamed of studying Astronomy. If only it’s not too farfetched to dream of becoming an astronaut, I would have probably pursued the career. However, it doesn’t mean I would stop admiring science from afar. So when we were in Tokyo, we [read: I] decided to see Miraikan — Japan’s National Museum of Emerging Science. The moment we entered Miraikan, the science kiddo in me was jumping up and down, excited to explore and understand the exhibits — and the museum didn’t disappoint. The exhibit that captured me the most is the Geo-Cosmos, the globe that is part of Discover your Earth exhibit. The globe displays historical data and analysis-driven forecasts of what happened and could happen on Earth. The exhibit gave me an important realization. You need not be a scientist to admire science, and there’s no need to admire it from afar. Science surrounds us and in this era, all we have to do is rediscover our home, our planet — the Earth.
Cabugao Gamay Island, Philippines
“I’ve got no expectations,” that’s what I told people asking me about our upcoming trip to Gigantes Islands. Years of traveling, has taught me not to expect any from a destination. Will it be breathtaking? Will we have so much fun? Will we love the place? All those questions were non-existent prior to seeing Cabugao Gamay Island. Little did I know that those non-existent questions will pop-up again right after we visited this Island. Was it breathtaking? Did we have so much fun? Did we love the place? And surprisingly, all those questions were answered by a resounding yes. I guess what they say is true. Expectations could only lead to disappointments in most instances. But know that there are experiences in life that beautifully shatter all expectations and, for us, visiting Gigantes is just one of them.
The Merlion, Singapore
I know about the Merlion even when I was young. My mom’s friends frequented Singapore and often times, she’d receive a bounty of keychains and ref magnets for souvenirs. And she was grateful for them, but I am not sure how she really felt every time she’d receive gifts from outside the country. She never had the chance to visit other countries due to several difficult circumstances our family had to go through. However, I know that she’s lived a great life nonetheless, that’s one thing I know for sure. So when I visited Singapore and saw the Merlion proudly symbolising the strength and pride of the country, it made me remember and reminisce how strong and proud my mom was despite and in spite of everything we’ve gone through. It’s amazing how some of the dots in one’s life accidentally connect in the most unexpected moments.
San Joaquin Campo Santo, Philippines
It’s our first time to visit a cemetery as tourists, and to say that we felt that the place is shrouded with so much mystery and presence could be an understatement. No, it’s nothing to do with anything paranormal of some sort. Is it because of its imposing structure? Is it because we were in front of an epitaph of someone born in 1855? Or is it because of the skull and bones we’ve seen casually piled up in one of the open tombstones? No, not at all. We felt so much mystery and presence because for the first time, as travelers, we’ve ventured into an unfamiliar and unusual place. Isn’t it what being human is all about? Exploring the unfamiliar horizons, embracing the presence of the unexpected, all while trying to uncover the mysteries of life.
Zürich Altstadt, Switzerland
It’s the first time I experienced snow, my first day in Switzerland, and the first time I set foot in Europe. After enduring an almost 24-hour travel (including the layover), I went straight to the hotel, left my luggage, and headed out with my cheap and borrowed “winter clothes”. Needless to say, I am very much excited to experience all the firsts I could possibly do. I rode a tram-train heading to the downtown, as planned. But as I was carefully observing fellow passengers, something caught my eye from the window — a mountain covered in snow. I am several stations away from the station I was supposed to get off, but could I just ignore such a beautiful view? I dilly-dallied for several seconds and before I knew it, I found myself brisk walking towards the direction of the snow-covered mountain, passing by residential houses and unfamiliar alleys. And then I saw it, the snow-covered mountain and a view of Zurich itself.
I am so glad I was able to muster enough courage to get off the train and head to an unfamiliar path. Otherwise, I may not have seen Zürich from this unique vantage point. After enjoying the view, that’s when it struck me, where do I go next? Simply put, I got lost in a city — another first.
Wat Arun, Thailand
It was a scorching hot afternoon in Thailand when I visited the Temple of Dawn. I guess I should’ve really made an effort to visit it early in the morning, if not dawn. I wore the most comfortable clothes that I have but still, I was sweating profusely. However, the sheer detail of the Buddhist Temple has temporarily taken over any inconveniences I may have had. Every part of it is a work of art in itself, to which I’d like to believe was a manifestation of its creators’ devotion. But still, I was sweating and I felt almost dehydrated. I really should’ve tried visiting it earlier than I did.
Gyeongbokgung, South Korea
Imagine yourself walking on Gyeongbokgung’s palace grounds wearing royal hanbok, d’you feel like a royalty yet? Well that’s what my friends and I did, except that we did it while the weather is at below zero and the hanbok we were wearing aren’t the ones royals would wear during winter. So instead of gracefully walking like princes and princesses, we were huddling like chicks trying to conserve our body heat and clinging on to our dear precious heat packs. The lesson? Wear the right clothes if you truly want to enjoy and absorb the moment you’re in — no pretensions whatsoever. After all, being comfortable with one’s self is what would make feel someone a royalty, right?
Marina Bay Sands and Helix Bridge, Singapore
Every country really does have its pros and cons, a thought I’ve realised when I was in Singapore. Before I had the chance to visit other countries, everything in the Philippines seems okay, if not tolerable. But when I’ve been to Singapore, the mentality that led me to believe what Philippines has is “okay” quickly faded away. The trip instantly became a “Philippines compared to Singapore” game, and every time a point of comparison involuntarily pops in my mind, my admiration for Singapore grew alongside my despise for my own country. Feel free to hate me for what I just said, but it’s the truth and that’s what I felt. Then a question popped in my head: Why can’t Philippines be on a par with Singapore in several aspects?
And the answer tried to hide in the darkest crevices of my mind. It’s all about the people and their mind-set. In my opinion, progress could easily be achieved through a perfect combination of right mind-set and attitude plus hard work. Sounds cliché, yeah? But then another realisation dawned upon me: What makes me value Philippines so much despite and in spite of all the issues and its deficiencies?
The answer: It’s all about the people [in it].
Victoria Peak, Hong Kong
The highest peak in Hong Kong where you could see its skyline is worth the [minor] accident I had. The moment we saw the Hong Kong skyline from Victoria Peak’s viewing deck, we were astounded. It’s not every day that you get the chance to see an almost perfect landscape that combines a rugged terrain, a flowing river, and mega-structures altogether. Being a photographer that I am, I was taught to capture the moment on a much different [difficult] angle. So I stood up on one of the benches, unfortunately, the bench got off balance and I stumbled. I scratched my camera, the phone that I was holding, my arm, and my knees. But the most painful of all is the solid “punch” the bench gave when it hit my guts. It almost pushed the air out of my lungs. Well, what could I say, the view likewise did take our breath, only in a much kinder way.
Weeks before our flight to Switzerland, a dear friend who knows about our upcoming trip kept tagging me on videos and photos of different places in the Country. I was grateful, and what he kept on sharing with me further fuelled my excitement. One of the photos he shared with me was the scenic Alps village of Grindelwald. Indeed, seeing such made me more thrilled than I am supposed to be. However, it also fuelled my pre-travel anxieties which included failing to get my Schengen visa approved. To anyone who has applied for a visa, you’d surely be able to relate to what I felt. Going through the embassy’s scrutiny, preparing all the documents necessary, and making sure that my bank account was convincing and healthy. Fortunately, my visa got approved and I was able to visit a scenic place such as the alps village that made the anxiety and hassle all worth it.
There are just means of communication that transcend beyond words, especially when it comes to food. It was a cold day in Seoul and a bowl of hot noodle soup is indeed perfect for the weather. There’s a lot of food stalls in Gwangjang but most seats were already taken. Luckily, my best buddy and I found a stall with vacant seats that serve noodle soups smelling heavenly even from a distance. We took our seat and immediately ordered dimsum soups. In minutes, our order was served but before we indulged ourselves we realised that we made a mistake. We ordered just a dimsum soup, not a NOODLE dimsum soup.
We were disappointed with ourselves but we decided to move on and bid farewell to our noodle cravings by joking in vernacular. But moments later, the old Korean lady called our attention, in her hand, she has a strainer filled with freshly cooked noodles and gestured that we lift our bowls. We did, and she gave us the noodles free of charge. She doesn’t speak English, and even if she does, we joked about our mistake in vernacular. However, she somehow was able to grasp that our tummy was hungry for noodles. In our eyes, she instantly turned from a food stall cook to a noodle angel.
We went to Gwangjang Market in Seoul to fill our hungry tummies, but an old Korean lady filled our hearts instead (well, plus our tummy).
Pier 2 Art Centre, Taiwan
I first fell in love with photography, traveling came next soon after. But there are times that one’s passion could falter, and it was evident when I went to Taiwan, the second country I’ve been to next to Malaysia. I enjoyed our trip in Kaohsiung in general, but for some weird reason, I didn’t feel like clicking my camera for the most part of the trip. It’s highly evident on the quality of photos I’ve taken, and what you see above is one of the “best” shots I’ve managed to take. Although I felt bad that I didn’t make the most out of my trip to Taiwan, I later realised that losing my passion for a while is okay, nothing but normal. What’s not okay is to keep it that way for so long a time.
Ko Phi Phi Don, Thailand
It’s raining hard when I joined an island hopping tour to Phi Phi, Thailand. I am the only Filipino in the group composed mostly of Russians and few Europeans. In that trip, my ambivert self decided to be fully introvert and I thought I’d be spending the whole day without saying a word. I thought, maybe my mood aligned itself with the weather. But then when the tour group arrived in Ko Phi Phi Don, the biggest in the Phi Phi group of islands, a French couple, much older than I am, struck a random conversation with me while we were having lunch. They were really kind and warm, and in a few minutes, we were comfortably talking about a wide range of topics and enjoying each other’s company which reminded me — there’s no shitty weather a good company couldn’t weather.
We went to Lucerne since a good friend said that it is a must-visit in Switzerland. Truth is, Lucerne may not be as grand as its northern counterpart, Zurich. Hence you might wonder why my friend wanted me to go there and see the city. Upon our arrival, we noticed how quaint its features are and how charming it is in a totally special way. Not to mention that each feature and tradition they hold dear, remains intact and is still very much valued to this date. Lucerne is a perfect example of why things need not all be grand, what matters is that they remain true to their own unique charm for them to stand out.
N Seoul Tower, South Korea
Most towers are used as an observatory to see a city’s skyline, among other significant functions, and that goes true for N Seoul Tower as well. Seeing the Seoul Skyline from the Tower’s observatory indeed gave us a different perspective. However, for some weird reason, my eyes were more fixated on the tower itself more than the view it offers. There was something imposing about the structure that until now, I find difficult to fully grasp and put into words. If there’s something that I now understand, it is the fact that sometimes, something that’s supposedly built to show you wonders, is a wonder in itself.
I first found out about Ayutthaya from one of my Lonely Planet books which featured it using a photo almost similar to what I took above. Admittedly, I assumed that the Buddha’s head on the picture is proportionately large in real life. Upon arrival in Ayutthaya’s historical complex, I saw a crowd surrounding a wall, crouching low on the ground to take pictures and selfies. Curious, I decided to check it out myself and there I saw the same Buddha’s head surrounded by tree roots. I was a bit surprised how small it is, although its size didn’t make it any less striking. After taking a couple of shots, I proceeded in exploring the huge complex of Ayutthaya Ruins that dwarfed the statue’s head I admired moments ago. That’s where I found out that the iconic head engulfed by tree roots is nothing but a small fraction of Ayutthaya’s historical relics and significance. One has to look at Ayutthaya, in its totality, from a much bigger perspective, so as to fully appreciate its once splendid past.
Mt. Pinatubo, Philippines
A gruelling terrain coupled with an endurance-testing heat from the sun, all to see what most travelers deem as the ‘Beautiful Disaster’. To anyone who’s been to Pinatubo knows how difficult it is to get to its crater. And more often than not, it’s not surprising ticking it off one’s bucket list could be very fulfilling. However, for some travelers and most Filipinos, it is not just a beautiful disaster. It is undeniable that the moment you find yourself in the country’s most breathtaking geographic wonder, you’ll be overwhelmed — not just by its beauty but also of its history: the enormity of the story that revolved around why that crater is there in the first place, how many lives have been impacted, and how a volcano changed the course of history. We may have endured a gruelling hike, but it’s nothing compared to what Filipinos experienced back in 1991.
Itsukushima Shrine, Japan
It’s not every day that we get to be in the right place and at the right time. Fortunately, we were at that perfect moment when we arrived at Miyajima, Hiroshima. When I was looking for other significant destinations in Japan, a torii gate partially submerged in water keeps on popping up. A one of a kind destination that, if I am not mistaken, could only be seen in Hiroshima, which made me decide to include it in our itinerary. Torii gates are significant symbols in Shintoism that mark the transition from the mundane to sacred. And the Itsukushima Shrine did just that. The serenity it brought together with the most beautiful sunsets we’ve, ironically, seen in the Land of the Rising Sun instantly transported us from the mundane thoughts of being human to the right place and time in embracing calmness and peace.
Khao San Road, Thailand
My favourite place in Bangkok is, in a form of a rowdy, noisy, and in some parts smelly, street of Khao San. I in fact capped off my days drinking a bottle of Chang as I paved my way in the midst of drunken and dancing crowds of locals and backpackers, dancing into overlapping beats of music from the clubs wanting to get their attention. I know, the scene I painted may not be attractive to most, especially those who don’t enjoy dancing or alcohol or both. Wondering why it became my favourite spot? Because it’s one of the few places that pushes one beyond the boundaries of nationality, age, gender, and views in life — those things just don’t matter. The only things that do matter are fun, crazy beats, and a cold bottle of Chang.
Thank you for taking the time to read through the stories. Got experiences to share? Feel free to email us: firstname.lastname@example.org.