The way to our shoot at El Gawel Falls was paved by a spur of the moment push in Cotabato City. We were exchanging small talk with Mr. Benjie Abarca, Cotabato’s CTO (City Tourism Officer, not Color Temperature Orange) while taking the required shots of the city landmarks, when he mentioned that he also managed a cultural dance troupe. I’m afraid I was all over the poor fellow at once. Can we shoot them? Please? (Only if there’s time and it’s not too much trouble, of course, but we’d really really like to …). It wasn’t on the itinerary, though, so he’d have been well within his rights to refuse. Well, the gentle pressure worked, and that evening we raced the clock from our timelapse shoot at the Grand Mosque to get to our rendezvouz in time.
I would have to improvise though. We had no venue to shoot in, so we just decided to use the city’s plaza park, where I could just let the background go black by stopping down. Lights would be our two speedlights, and since there’d been no room to pack even an umbrella, the only light modifiers would be a pair of plastic diffuser caps and our 5-in-1 disk reflector used as a gobo when needed. (I’d also learned that using umbrellas outdoors when short of crew is a risky business!)
The shoot turned out quite well, and our client Kate Rosal, representing the Region XII Department of Tourism, now altered our upcoming sked in South Cotabato so we’d be able to shoot the famed Hinugyaw troupe also. There, Cathy and I again pushed the client’s envelope; in a meeting with the Hinugyaw choreographers, we agreed on a shoot at the El Gawel Falls, and a call time of 5 a.m. Our guide wanted it later, but we insisted – have to catch the light! That shoot turned out very well too. Lesson taken to heart – sometimes the client doesn’t think of everything, and sometimes opportunity just knocks because you found out something interesting by chance. And the worst that can happen is the person you ask says No.
I visited Cotabato City again last week to pick up our check. I was hoping to run into Benjie, meaning to let him know we’d just put up our studio in Davao City and to offer a portfolio shoot to his dance troupe anytime they wanted. To my shock, Kate told me Mr. Abarca had just passed away. His remains were being sent to Davao for cremation that very afternoon. Dang. Cotabato lost a great asset to its tourism there – Benjie was a real living repository of artistic, historical and cultural lore, and was good at talking about it too, a rare gift. RIP Mr. Abarca.