I distinctly recall the vested photographers roaming around Manila’s premiere park years back asking if we would like to have our photo taken and have it developed in less than an hour’s time. Film photography was coughing its last breaths then, the digital world was about to encroach on the decades old tradition of how pictures are being taken.
Fast forward to the twelfth year of the 21st century. After years and years, I was at last able to revisit Luneta. This time with the TGP Group, I was surprised at the changes not only with the park’s improved landscapes but with the photography old-timers as well. Gone were their heavy black film cameras, and in its place, shiny plasticky digital ones. Even if I’m not a film user, it saddened me a bit to see this bit of history pass on.
Interviewing one of the old-timers hanging around, I found that there were now a total of only three film photographers in the park, everyone’s gone digital. I hurriedly looked for these now almost extinct breed of photographers and finally found one. I chit-chatted with Manong a bit before asking if I can take a photo of him with his trusty Pentax film camera.
He willingly obliged, showing off his tool that must have seen history unfold through Rizal Park. I asked him his name as he was about to go off to a group of schoolchildren having their first taste of Luneta through a school fieldtrip, but he instead showed me his ID which I took a snap of. Unfortunately, after checking the photo, I found that his name was blocked by his hand.
I found it a bit ironic that these same individuals who had been capturing time through rolls and rolls film would just pass through the park's history with as much anonymity as the passing of their cameras in today’s digital-driven age. And with all probability, this would go on without so much as a single notice by today’s generation, never knowing that once, photographs were not instantaneous but were painstakingly made through the hands of Rizal Park’s film heroes.