Having finished two major projects in the last quarter of 2020, I began planning for a new one at the beginning of this year. There is a story. There are stories.

The past six years I’ve spent meandering, half-focused, in figuring out what I wanted to do with my writing—knowing that I was serious about it, though whether I could make a living off of it was another question I now think of close to answering—- and preparing to plunge without fear of drowning.

I have to laugh at myself, because I sound so self-serious talking about myself as a writer. “Preparing to plunge without fear of drowning” was mostly reading books mentioned by friends who studied (and are now teaching) Comparative Literature, copying other writers and artists styles (and feeling terrible upon knowing that it didn’t suit me), and wandering around my city until 3 am. It was plenty of anxiety before finding confidence; poor choices before making excellent ones.

These days I feel more comfortable with myself. In turn, I feel more comfortable with my voice.

I want to set the story, which is likely to become a book, in Manila and Quezon City; perhaps an element of Bangkok, Baguio City, Dumaguete… So, in researching and reminding myself more vividly of this combination of settings, I began to look at old pictures I took of my cities and felt homesick. I cried a little then told M about it when he came home from work.

He thought about it for a while, then asked me if it would help if he gave me prompts for photographs around our neighborhood. “Just one word, kind of like improv. It’s up to you what to make of it.” One of them was Green.

I think of taking pictures as a way for me to develop an attachment for a subject, often a place or an object. I take pictures of strangers but rarely. The ones I have were still from the Philippines.

In graduate school, I don’t recall photographs and photography being referred as an act of developing affection. It was mostly concepts which I consider “hard” in texture like violence (as in, ‘shooting a subject’ or ‘shooting a photograph’; ‘taking’; ‘capturing’; there may have been an instance when somebody relates the camera to a gun), conflict (Roland Barthes’s studium and punctum; sometimes literally, like the Tiananmen Masssacre, war in West Asia, surveillance), and memory in the historical sense. Even what seemed personal was anchored in a grandiose narrative.

I want to look at the third space between the Personal and Historical, Individual and Collective. A third space that rises when one looks without projecting an ego. I’m able to do that by making a set of images I selected by chance and choice. I walk around until I find something suitable to the prompt given to me.

It’s incredible. M’s idea worked and I feel so much better.

A good friend told me that it is all about intention. It’s important to know what it is that I want to put out. Green to me is forthcoming and patience, a good omen as well as well wishes, a soothing gesture of love.

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