Without the mentorship, master classes, encouragement, support, love and friendship of Manny Goloyugo there would be no FrogDiva Photography today. My beloved mentor, friend and stand-by-Dad passed away on May 15, 2021 and I join my fellow Filipino photographers and photojournalists in paying tribute to man who taught me everything I know about ethical photojournalism, street photography and a host of other things.
Tito Manny (Tito is a respectful term for Uncle in the Philippines) was the strong silent type who needed no ostentatious or flamboyant celebrations or tributes. His life and work were all about the essence and soul of the story, bringing the people and elements to the foreground, surrounding them with respect and dignity, and honouring their cultural values by any means. His lessons and words of wisdom are so deeply ingrained in me that when I go out with the camera to cover something or put a story together, his voice hovers over my camera with his classic five-second rule: don’t think, just feel the composition, spot the story, frame it, and walk away.
My journey with Tito Manny did not begin with photography but with the love and friendship of my soul sister, Sylvia, his daughter. Whatever scrapes we might have gotten ourselves into during University days at the Ateneo de Manila, Tito Manny was there to fish us out by any means. There was not a single incidence that I ever witnessed him lose his cool, even when I had my first major driving accident. It was late on a fateful Saturday night and I was the designated driver for the officers of the Pre-Law Organisation that weekend. I had just dropped off one of my passengers when I pulled out onto the main road along Katipunan Avenue behind a truck that had just passed by. What I didn’t see was the stinky sewage tanker it was pulling that had no taillights. One of the spokes latched onto the the side of my car right above the wheel and tore open the side including ripping off the bumper. Having just come from the last job of the day, the tanker was literally full of shit, but thankfully it didn’t spill over! This was back in 1989, long before mobile phones were in fashion. Sylvia and I took turns in running to the nearest phone to call home and report the incident to our parents. Tito Manny and his dear wife Tita Sylvia were on the scene within minutes, with camera in tow as well. Did he give me a scolding? No, on the contrary, he snickered and said, “This will make a good story in years to come” and turned a loving eye to his wife standing beside him who was so upset by the news that she jumped into the car with her black negligee and a hastily thrown-on shirt. It was a long and bizarre night, but all’s well that ends well.
Tito Manny remained incredibly supportive of the different stages of my life, always ready with advice on cameras, composition, and lighting. Most importantly, he got me into back-and-white photography and watched with a keen eye as I stumbled through my progress over the years. When I finally decided to create FrogDiva Photography and take it to another level, Tito Manny was there to offer his Master Classes and fine tune my weak spots, e.g. night photography, cloud photography, and of course photojournalism. He taught me how to shoot damn good shots without a tripod, how to make the most of whatever is around you to prop the camera, and never to flinch if you are going to attempt a bizarrely crazy shot.
Don’t be bogged down by a tripod, he told me, use the fence, the wall, or if all else fails, someone’s shoulder.
Never let the equipment and technicality get in the way of a good shot. Just shoot.
One classic example was our Master Class on street photography in Quiapo. I was expecting a groovy, relaxed photowalk with him, meandering through the busy and fascinating alleys of Quiapo and Binondo. When I perched on a street lamp to gain some height, he photographed me with great amusement, not because of the ridiculous manner in which I was dangling from the lamp post with one leg and one arm, but because I didn’t care that this was right in front of the police station!
A few minutes later we came to a major thoroughfare and I waited to figure out how to cross the street without killing myself. Much to my horror Tito Manny said “Wait for the right moment, cross, stop in the middle of the road, turn and shoot the oncoming cars and then cross over to the other side, make sure to stay within the five second limit and don’t get run over.” I thought he was joking and laughed in response. He didn’t bat an eyelid and when he said “Go!’ I muttered what any other student would have “Holy Shit! He wasn’t kidding!”
When I launched the Photography and Stories project with chosen guest photographers, it was perfectly clear to me that this group had to include Tito Manny. Click HERE for the stories. I became the documentary photographer I am today because of Tito Manny, and my the love affair with clouds began in Calamba, until his gentle tutelage.
Thank you for the light and colour, the guiding hand towards the dream, and the precious five seconds.