What keychains hold

It interests me recently to take pictures of objects or events that has long been disregarded either simply by its size, by its purpose, or at least the saturation of these objects that certain persons or events itself can only manage to handle.

I have been to too many places even long before I decided to do photoblogging. Most of the time, I don’t have a camera with me besides that I already considered traveling as an ordinary activity that time.  Not to mention, I grew up in a household that traveling is both the bread-and-butter and a way to unwind whether during weekends or during most-awaited semestral, summer, and holiday breaks at school.  And as my memory only serves me a few notches down my age, traveling is part of me.  I can only recall that my usual apparel since 6 are shorts, sneakers, and rubber sandals; I learned to pack my own things at the age of 10; been carrying my own backpack or sling-bag by then; reminded to travel light since 12; sailed, flew, and land-crossed provinces in the beginning of my teenage years; lived miles from home for at least a year; stayed in communities and experienced cultures a bit different from mine as my school assignment; still did the same when I decided to do graduate studies; and still traveling to various places as part of my chosen career – development work.  This is besides the fact that I then managed to save-up for my travels with friends and colleagues whether the costs are under budget or leisure-packed.

Yet after all these years, I am grateful that I came to realize that traveling should not be taken for granted.  The experience must be cherished and remembered.  And nothing makes it more unforgettable than the little rarities such as the keychains that I managed to buy and others received as a token through friendships made during those times.
Why keychains? Historically known as a way for many to link a number of keys and other valuable items that they can carry around which are usually those who have been entrusted with high responsibilities in stewarding properties or even prisoners, keychains have then long been used as souvenir and advertising items.  Also called as key fobs, it functions to lessen our worries to lose those that are important to us.

But in this feature, keychains hold those that are more precious that what our eyes could see or our hands could feel.  Keychains cradle the very memory, even the inspiration brought by the place it represents.

So when you get hold of the keychain from any other place, always notice the material; the color and design ornate of the piece; and how it brings the character you will be missing, the moment you leave or when your travel or vacation ends.  In the Philippines, the most common material used is young wood (either of bamboo or those which are locally grown or available like coconuts and pine trees); and may be designed as a historical landmark, a food delicacy, or letterings of the name of the place, or an object or even an animal that may only be found there as well.  Meanwhile, those that I got from abroad usually took form of a religious or musical artifact which is very important in their cultural practices.

In doing these shots, the key is to play around the natural light that is available at certain points in time.  Photographers, specially fond of this field, often share that the best time to take pictures are either during sunrise or sunset. It is called the “golden hour”.  The rays of the sun cutting coarsely yet truthfully throughout different subjects can be just stunning.   But I say that there is no light difficult nor be labelled as “good” or “bad” when it comes to learning photography.  It is because the trick by the photographer can fall on placing your very artistic composition (whether incidental or controlled through your angles, shutterspeed, DOF (depth of field) , and white balance, combined with other items that can be partnered with your primary subject) on the space and opportunity that is made available for your lenses.

These shots were done very swiftly to catch up with the afternoon natural light that was rapidly disappearing since I only decided doing this at 5:30. I only had 15 minutes to shoot the whole set. At that hour on a January and in the Philippines, that time is already closing to an evening setup.  As the subjects hold much importance to me, I wanted to make sure to translate that value to the very photos that I hope to produce. I was aiming for medium contrast – warm colors on the subject. I thought that the more natural light, rough edges, shadows, and texture that will appear, the better.  I also chose to place a few more items like a tea candle and a stationery pad to add more feelings. It really felt like doing portrait photography – so much expression and emotions reaching through the lenses.

The photos below were combined throughout the course of my travels:

Grazing the Cordilleras

Grazing the Cordilleras. [From left] Going to Banaue, Ifugao; Baguio, Benguet; and Sagada, Bontoc were part of my community learning activities while I was in college and still while doing my graduate studies in development work.  These keychains always remind me of the high regard of the people of the Cordillera in preserving their cultural practices in agriculture, education, music and arts, and even in conflict resolution and community management.

[Banaue: f/5; 1/10; ISO-200; E0; 109 mm]

[Baguio: f/5; 1/10; ISO-400; E0; 116 mm]

[Sagada: f/5.6; 1/20; ISO-200; E0; 194 mm] – This item was shot in the morning of the next day hence gives a different lighting and contrast in the overall composition.


Bicol-at-best-back-to-back. Naga City and Caramoan Island, Camarines Sur is must-see places when it comes to beaches, food-tasting, extreme adventure, and spiritual pilgrimage.  I remember the devotees of Señora Peñafrancia as I walked through the aisle of Her great Church in Naga as well as the delicious yet considerably cheap toasted siopao.  Meanwhile Caramoan Island will forever boast its fresh seawater fishes with your choice of cooking; refined white sand trailing across if not almost around every islet; the breath-taking views from its hills and beaches; and having it as the venue of the famous US reality-TV show, Survivor.  Just 3 hours away from it, I can only remember the muscle pains due to the most-sought boards and excitement brought by my Camarines Sur Water Sports Complex (CWC) wakeboarding adventure and laing pizza taste-test.

[Naga City: f/5; 1/10; ISO-200; E0; 100 mm]

[Caramoan: f/5.6; 1/10; ISO-400; E0; 171 mm]

Always first on the Philippine travel checklist

Always first on the Philippine travel checklist. The Philippines is really famous for its beaches, the abundant wildlife, complemented by the generosity of the locals. No traveler misses an opportunity going to Boracay in Panay Island, Negros Occidental, and Tagbilaran, Bohol at least once (and in my case thrice). In this shot, the keychain from Bohol takes form of a renowned wildlife attraction – the Philippine Tarsier (dubbed as the “World’s Smallest Monkey”). And since this is a very famous tourist attraction, there are plenty package tours and options to choose from whether you travel as a group, family, or enjoys backpacking solo.

[Boracay: f/5; 1/10; ISO-400; E0; 116 mm]

[Bohol: f/5.6; 1/10; ISO-200; E0; 187 mm]

Way Up North

Way up North. Vigan City, referred to as a National Heritage site, tells the story especially during the Hispanic Philippines.  It boasts of the kalesa traversing along Kalye Crisologo; the cholesterol-induced yet mouthwatering fried pork called bagnet; the Ilocos empanada; Ilocos longganisa; chichacorn; also the growing popularity of pinakbet pizza and bagnet pizza of Café Leona; Gov. Chavit Singson’s Baluarte Zoo; as well as Vigan’s burnay and the rest of its pottery industry. But that was just half of the adventure. Further north, at roughly 3 hours by bus and jeepney, is Pagudpud.  I will always miss the clear waters and the cool breeze; my thirst for trekking to the Kabigan Falls (plus my leg cramps); and of course the Bangui Windmills and the Cape Bojeador Lighthouse.

[Vigan: f/5.6; 1/10; ISO-400; E0; 250 mm]

[Pagudpud: f/506; 1/10; ISO-400; E0; 187 mm]

Mixing business with pleasureMixing business and pleasure. I get to go to these also-sought places due to my work as a trainor, facilitator, and researcher.  I call this as the top perk of being a development worker. Davao will be remembered as being one of the country’s fruit basket, with the durian, marang, and pomelo as the top take-home gifts.  Coron in Palawan offers the Kayangan Lake, the Maquinit saltwater hotspring, and the view beside the gigantic cross from Mt. Tapyas. Puerto Princesa, Palawan boasts of its Subterranean River (or Underground River) which is recently referred as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  Lastly, Bacolod City, Negros Occidental will forever be treasured with the locals’ “malambing” (canorous or sweet in Filipino) nature; the famous chicken inasal (meat spiked in bamboo sticks then roasted over hot charcoal); the piaya (a flat unleavened bread filled with Muscovado sugar) as the perfect dessert to your inasal meal or as your afternoon snack; and the Masskara Festival held during October.

 [Davao: f/5; 1/10; ISO-200; E0; 109 mm]

[Coron: f/5; 1/10; ISO-800; E0; 100 mm]

[Puerto Princesa: f/5; 1/10; ISO-400; E0; 116 mm]

[Bacolod City: f/5; 1/10; ISO-400; E0; 116 mm]


Annyeong (“hello” in Hangul). Just a newbie in foreign travels, I can say that I really enjoyed my stay in Seoul, South Korea in 2011.  The food, fashion, history, and even the very experience of walking along its alleyways is just unforgettable. It was so unforgettable that I will be going back to Seoul this year.

[Seoul: f/5; 1/10; ISO-400; E0; 116 mm]

Next on my list

Next on my list. I got these keychains from friends and colleagues. Took it as a sign instead that I will be travelling in Legazpi in Albay and Zamboanga City in Mindanao (also famous Hispanic landmarks); and in the countries of Thailand and Cambodia.

[Legaspi: f/5.6; 1/10; ISO-400; E0; 171 mm]

[Thailand and Cambodia: f/5; 1/10; ISO-400; E0; 187 mm]

[Zamboanga City: f/5.6; 1/10; ISO-400; E0; 171 mm]

This shoot, though a brief one, taught me the value of appreciating even the littlest of things.  It was a very amusing experience to even remember the stories behind these keychains, especially the reason why I got them and still keeping them. Playing with your lenses while tackling natural light was a great opportunity to learn how to  maximize the beauty of the subject and the situation.  Photos may not come as perfect as we hope while peeking through the viewfinder but it will always be an abundant prospect for mastery.


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