March 1, 2024

You see their names in local and international exhibits, awarding ceremonies, several books and top magazines, newspapers, documentaries, the social media, workshops, the film industry, and special projects like autism, etc. Their names spell success, excellence, beauty, grace, culture, art, and humility. Some have transformed from film to digital photography. They have been in the photography business for the last 30 to 50 years, some since their teenage years. Each one has his or her own genre. Often they wear two to three hats; as a hobbyist, a singer, a cinematographer, as businessmen, and author. This group is composed of one lady and seven gentlemen. They are the top notch Baguio’s “Masters of photography.”
There are still others, the likes of the Baguio-Benguet Birders (who do micro photography and bird watching), the second generation masters, retired professionals and media men, but that is going to be on my next feature.
It’s amazing to meet these masters. Inspite of their popularity and status, they remain humble, approachable, and passionate about this art called photography. These gentlemen and lady are (I will name alphabetically. Should I say, “ladies come first.” As it is, her name is first in the list): Eliza “Elicon” Consul, Tommy Hafalla, Ric Maniquis, Mark Perez, Emmanuel “Mannix” Santos, Ompong Tan, Wig Tysmans, and Roberto “Boy” Yñiguez.
There are many reasons why people engage in photography, as Laura Lim points out: “to capture an amazing memory, emotion or adventure, to document your family or important events and people in your life or work, to mark history, to help people, to time travel, to see beauty and to share it, to make art as a creative outlet, to tell a story, to get a souvenir, or to remember an important occasion, whichever reason you have, photographsgive us lasting memories to cherish and remember.”
The reason I am writing about the “Masters of photography” in our midst, is for us to learn from them and to enjoy and appreciate their works. Let me get some excerpts from the writings of Erlyn Ruth Alcantara as we begin to know these people.
Elicon Consul. She is a Mass Communications graduate. According to Erlyn, she got interested in photography while taking up MassComm. “She became a dark room technician in Colorworld where she was exposed to light and filtration, tonality, contrast, color saturation, and portrait photography.”
She later transferred to Manila and became Bien Batista’s assistant photographer and darkroom technician. She also became a freelance advertising photographer in 1995 and managed her own photo studio in Vigan, Ilocos Sur in the succeeding years. In the year 2000, Elicon moved back to Baguio, as a graphic artist and photographer, again with Colorworld. She was contracted to do the photo documentation of the Bontoc Museum. In 2019, she went to the different museums in Germany to document the cultural artifacts of Northern Luzon commissioned by UP Baguio. She has her own studio called the ELX Photography and Studio 37 at #37 Session Road.If you see a beautiful lady going up and down Session Road documenting important events in Baguio with several cameras, that is probably Elicon.
Tommy Hafalla. Belongs to the first generation of Baguio group of artists. He ties his long hair into a ponytail. He can be seen doing blessings and rituals occasionally. He launched his book ILI at the Ayala Museum in 2017. The book can be found at a cozy bookshop at # 1 Yangco Road corner Brent Road called, Mt. Cloud Bookshop owned by sisters Feliz and Padma Perez. You can also order the book at Mapabooks.com. Padma writes, “ILI , the first book of Tommy Hafalla, beautifully documents the life and rituals of the ethnolinguistic groups of the Northern Philippine Cordillera.Ili translates literally as “home village”. It is a word used widely in the Cordillera region to refer to one’s place of origin. As a member of an ili, one holds particular rights and is bound to certain responsibilities, including ritual obligations.”
Tommy’s beautiful photography contained in the book ILI was described by Professor June Prill- Brett as “sterling.”
Ric Maniquis. He is photographer and musician. He has been a photographer since 1978. Ric has a soft spot for graceful dance and sceneries. Looking at his Facebook account, you can see beautiful photos and images of ballerinas in different scenarios doing their magical lifts. Erlyn Alcantara writes, “Ric likens his photography to performing jazz. A musician’s improvisations on the chord progressions. In photography, Ric finds subjects that tell a story, occasionally revealing beauty or hidden poetry. The artistic context in which he expresses himself reflects the fusion of all his experiences.” He plays the guitar and sings. You can listen to him with the Fusion Band at the Piano Bar of the Manor at Camp John Hay during Mondays, Tuesdays, and Saturdays, at 9:00 p.m. He plays with Teddy Liberato-pianist, Egay Buning – bass guitar, Ar. Jonnie Abubo – saxophone, Pia Trinidad, and Zoella Starr Cabuco – vocals.
Mark Perez. Former owner of Mandarin Restaurant which closed in 2015 after 39 years also manages Photo Techniques, found on top of Antipolo building. According to an account of journalist Dexter See, “the stiff competition of global food chains mushrooming along Session Road in recent years and the entry of malls nearby has siphoned off the loyal customers of the restaurant through the years”. He is a third generation of pre-war Chinese families that migrated and set-up businesses in the city. Mandarin was famous for their crispy pancit canton, stuffed tofu and fried chicken. Mark suggested for city officials to listen to the plight of old-time businesses, by giving them incentives instead of opportunities given to bigtime international businesses.” This is a sentiment expressed by other home-grown businesses in Baguio as well.
Emmanuel Mannix Santos is based in Australia. He used to be a folk singer, turned photographer.
Ompong Tan. An Engineering graduate and the amiable manager and owner of Colorworld. Also, a computer graphic artist, he offers all kinds of printing services. Ompong’s first encounter with photography started when he was 14 years old. He traded his bike to buy his first camera and learned to develop his own negatives. Erlyn expresses, “His experience with B & W photograph and darkroom has given him the insight to use the camera as a creative tool, also the work ethic. He now puts innovations in digital photography with his trusty digital camera. His darkroom days are a distant memory.”
Ompong usually post on social media beautiful photographs of many activities in Baguio like the annual Panagbenga, the Chinese New Year, the activities during the closure of half of Session Road, the Christmas lantern parade, and many more. Many social media aficionados wait for his photos. He is a fast worker and delivers on time, one very important qualification of digital printers. He takes beautiful photographs and his prices are affordable. He partners annually with the Autism Society of the Philippines together with other volunteer photographers to produce an annual workshop for autistic children and puts up an exhibit called “Colors of the A Spectrum.” He has done this for the last 10 years and has exhibited at SM Baguio and Porta Vaga.
Wig Tysmans. A famous photographer whose images of the most powerful and influential people of the Philippine society have graced the covers and spreads of top magazines, newspapers and books about Philippine culture. According to the blurb on We are what we think, “Tysmans is one of the Filipino photographers who can make a President feels like a model; a model acts like a queen; and the boring, a point of interest. The images he creates are timeless and inspirational. He has exhibited his works at the different established museums in Manila and abroad. He also sat as the chairman of the board of judges of the Art Petron/ Vision competitions for 17 years.”
Wig has done the portraits of the late Narda Capuyan and her family.
Robeto “Boy” Yniguez is a cinematographer par excellence and photographer. He is a member of the Baguio-Benguet Birders and photographs people who photograph. He is a multi-awarded and an architecture graduate of the University of the Philippines. He was employed by the DAP as an artist photographer, his first job. He has done hundreds of TV commercials and won several awards as a cinematographer. Together with wife Mitos, they manage and own the Hill Station chain of restaurants.His advice to aspiring cinematographers is to stay grounded and humble. He is happy with the advent of digital photography and independent films as it democratizes the film industry. You can visit his Facebook page to see his photographs and XIXLIXTA in You Tube to see his commercials.
Other names to look for as masters of photography are Lito Tesoro, Benjie Pineda, Dave Leprozo, Dr. Edwin Cosalan, Dr. Ronnie Paraan, Edgar de Guia and son Edgar Benedick, Pete Siapno, Kidlat de Guia (the son), JT Gonzales, Rudy Mamaril, Harley Palangchao, Ofelia Empian, JJ landingin, and Dr. Brenda Villanueva. (photos by Mark Perez)