Paalam to NatGeo’s YourShot

The word paalam in Filipino has two meanings: to ask permission or to say good-bye. The original definition is to ask permission (mag paalam), and how the word evolved into farewell lies in the cultural nuance of Filipinos to ask permission to leave the home from the parents. As is our custom, Filipino children never do anything without the knowledge or permission of our parents / grandparent / elders, to the extent that even speaking at the table during meals entailed asking for permission in some families.

Paalam also goes back to the time when animism ruled the villages instead of Christianity. Permission was asked of the spirits for farming, planting or harvesting, for embarking on a journey, or even greeting visitors. The belief is that when two people face each other and begin to interact, there is a bond established by the spirits. If you have ever been in Asia, particularly Southeast Asia, you will have noticed how some people will bow down with their hand outstretched before them while walking between two people. This is because they are about to break the bond between the two and need to apologise to the spirits.

The Lotus Farmer ©FrogDiva Photography
originally published on NatGeo’s YourShot
Awarded publication in the October 2014 magazine

I joined National Geographic’s YourShot in June 2013, taking a gamble on a public photo sharing community for the first time ever. Up until that point, photography had been a very private thing for me, sharing mostly with friends and families, and even that was restricted to the print versions. As the digital age took over, platforms like flickr and mugshot emerged, followed by so many others. I learned a lot and was inspired my many photographers there, especially the National Geographic pros whom I looked up to. It had always been my dream to become a NatGeo photographer on assignment, roaming the world with my camera and spending hours up on a tree waiting for a pride of lions, or in the jungles of South America chasing obscure villages. Sadly, that never came to pass, and I resigned myself to pursuing a different career path altogether. On October 31, 2019 YourShot is shutting down and moving to Instagram. Not only is this an abomination, but I consider this to be a major downgrade and am saddened by the fact, but it can no longer be undone.

The proverbial golden carrot dangled in front of all YourShot members was to be selected for the Daily Dozen, photographs which in turn ended up in the monthly magazine. So you can imagine what an honour it was if to be chosen for the Daily Dozen among the millions of photos uploaded every day! The photograph above was shot in Samut Prakan, Thailand, in a lotus farm I visited with my college buddies MLTU and SG. We took a agro-tourism trip out to the countryside that day, the lotus farm being among the many stops. Little did I know that this shot would end up in the Daily Dozen!

Six years after joining YourShot, I bow out with first public milestone that affirmed my direction of documentary photography. Strangely enough, October brings to a close many other things established in 2013. The losses are to be mourned, but I must move on.

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