Evans Yonson’s Tubig, Water, Agua

by Evans Yonson

Barcelona – Finally, the long wait is over. We are opening the exhibit today after almost two years of preparation. From the 1,200 selected photographs, I have been endlessly choosing the best there is without anyone else’s opinion about what looks good to the eyes of the public. I am trusting my failing eyes with these 60 pictures that will be up for exhibit today until the 5th of this month. At the same time, I am also launching the online version of the exhibit. The website has been conceived to address the need for potential photograph buyers who could not afford to visit the actual exhibit at the Old Main Library of Xavier University on 1 -5 December 2010. The website contains more than 150 photographs taken during all of my local and foreign travels for the past six years.

Poster designed by Kaye Mercado.

The idea of mounting a photography exhibit was the farthest thing on my mind. I have always hated the idea of being the center of attraction especially in my city. I would rather be on the sidelights cheering whoever it was who is winning or losing a very well played role on stage.  I could not bring myself to think about being confident with head held up high. Or I would certainly, without a doubt, have a nervous breakdown standing before a huge crowd.

Public speaking, even in high school, was not really my forte. I would sweat profusely just hearing my classmates, who was two names away from the end. I recited Oh Captain, my captain by Walt Whitman on my first year. I took the Captain to my second year. On my third year, I recited Richard III’s opening speech. It was on this year that I discovered the art of stage drama. Although I didn’t audition to be one of the bit players of the musical, Man from La Mancha, being with a group young and carefree actors made me realize that I can stand in front of anyone else much more the stage. I found friends and gained a little self-confidence. In the university, exposure to a greater public was the name of the game. I joined a theater company at the same time took double major, sociology and development communication. One taught me to closely observe people and the other to communicate within circles.

When I finished university studies, the challenge became even more stronger and tougher. I was facing the world by myself then. Working with farmers, laborers, factory workers, carpenters, and even fisherfolks, made me see life through another perspective. Life was entirely different from the ones that I had read in books while I was drowning myself in the library. When I started travelling around the Philippines, I started to know the real me. I conversed with people. And since I can pick up language easily, communicating was almost immediate to me. But I have never stopped observing people. I could drown myself in the middle of the football field and make myself invisible. But still come out having able to meet and find a quality conversation with a single human being in the midst.

I bought my first digital camera when we were travelling to Bangkok, Thailand with my Mom, Vya (my sister), and Tchang (my niece). I never bothered buying a camera before because the offices that I had worked with had everything. The next year, we went to Hongkong and China. Year after that, I went to New York. Then to Cambodia. Spain. And so on. Throughout all these travels, I have seen a lot. Really a lot of things. Cultures. People. Buildings. And so on. But something suddenly dawned upon me, I realized that I have ceased to be the center of my own attraction in the photographs that I have taken.

I found myself a new calling. Taking serious photographs without on it. Last year, when I visited my dear friend, Michelle and her family in Italy, I only had one photo of myself. I could not resist the temptation of the Piazza di San Marco behind me. This year, probably my most travelled year ever, Granada hosted my Easter week stay and I took not a single shot of myself. The city and its processions were simply overpowering that I forgot myself along the countless stations of the cross.

After coming back from my visit to the Big Apple last year, I bought a new 500 GB external memory. I really needed to have one because saving my photographs in DVDs and CDs has become even more expensive and bulky. Only a week old, a quarter of memory space has already consumed by photographs from my earlier travels. I saw how I have collected lots of pictures through the years. Then, I told myself that it’s time to share to the world what I have seen. Enough of my faces. Enough of my talks. What were the common shots that I have taken all this time? The four elements never ceased to amuse me. There are more subjects enough to have an annual exhibit in the next ten years.

The photographs that you will be viewing in the exhibit (if you can come to Cagayan de Oro before it’s over) and online started with 1,200 shots, as suggested by a friend. After coming from Granada last April, I sat down and started choosing from these numerous shots. In two months’ time, I was down with 600. Mid-June, I established link with the Development Communication Society officers and broached the idea to them. The Department liked the concept and immediately gave me a go signal. By mid-July, I was already with 300 shots. Talked with the assigned officer in Cagayan de Oro who will head the exhibit preparation. By the end of September, I already 175 photos. Kelly Ramos, a very good curator, suggested to even lower it down to 60 for the exhibit. I simply replied that I couldn’t do it anymore.

Why water? I don’t know how swim but I have always been fascinated with water. Water brings back special memories to my mind. We crossed a flooded river once when I was seven years old with my whole family. We went to the beach every weekend. We once stopped at an unknown white sand beach not knowing that someday it would become a great tourist destination. I love crossing the archipelago by boat. From mainland Mindanao to Camiguin Island. To Cebu. To Bohol. To Manila. From Batangas City to Calapan. Or stream up and down the rivers of Cagayan Valley and Cagayan de Oro. My university friends and I and our endless drinking spree in the beach. Photographing water as theme is a never-ending challenge. Just like the river streaming down to the open sea. Imagine St. Augustine and the boy in the beach. Endless. One ironic thing about my love for water is its running and waving sound but I hate water when it is falling from a broken faucet. The sound that it brings makes you conscious of time passing away. It’s like the ticking of the clock when you’re already counting sheeps over your head.

Surely my camera and monitory would miss seeing my face.Who needs to see my face when I have my pictures to show them. I told one of my former students, “I really don’t need to tell you everything that I have seen in my travels. Just look at those photographs.” But then again, we all need to travel sometime in our lives in order to see the real beauty within us. Camera or no camera.