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The beauty of Aliwan Fiesta

Aliwan Beauty in black and white

In April 2008, I had my Aliwan shoot debut.  I was then still using "P" mode.  It was the best decision to make since there was barely enough time to do manual.  Besides, I was still a newbie in photography then, and I was still trying to learn how to use my Olympus E-510 dSLR. There were a lot to shoot despite the looming rain. Street dancers were out in the open practicing their dance routines, while beauties roamed around or were on their floats waiting to be photographed.

This is a photo of one of the Reyna ng Aliwan contestants, which I decided to convert into black and white.  For a newbie, I was happy with the result.


In 2009, I was late so I was not able to shoot the participants while waiting for the grand parade.  In 2010, I just lost track of it or I was out of town, perhaps,--I am not sure. This year, I made it a point to attend again because no one can deny, Aliwan Fiesta is a photographer's event of the year.

This year, however, was too humid.  The scorching heat of the sun prevented the dancers to rehearse in the open field.  They were huddled up under the shades of the trees lining up the garden of the Quirino grandstand.  The garden was jam packed with photographers inching their way into the crowd competing against each other to get a good view of the street dancers while the latter were protecting their make-up and their costumes.

Everything seems to be in disarray.  It felt uncomfortable.  Shooting under the trees did not augur well for good lighting.  The number of photographers, which has increased than the previous years, added to the hullabaloo.

One can no longer get that unique photo opportunity.  Imagine one beautiful participant being photographed by scores of photographers. Imagine, too, that as one sets up an individual or a group of participants, other photographers were already aiming at the subjects at his back.   This led one photographer to silently complain (which I heard as he moves away from the group of photographers) that it was his idea to set up the shoot but other wannabe and disrespecting photographers have already stolen his idea.  He could do nothing but shake his head in exasperation. 

I did try to capture some portraits.  But I did not find their costumes exciting. Either their colors were drab or was just lacking that "Aliwan spirit" I witnessed in 2008.  Signs of lack of funding by their local governments? Maybe.  It was noticeable too, that there were few contingents from the Visayas.  Understandably, come provinces in the Visayas were badly hit by La Niña.

This is the reason why I aimed for unique action photos instead--which was hard to shoot. The photographers' area infront of the grandstand was too limiting. It was surrounded by a grilled fence taller than me.  Save for the wide spaces between bars where you can insert your lenses.  Also, some photographers were just so rude that even if you were already in a good spot, they would push and nudge just so they can  get the shot they want.  Irritated, we decided to just move out and wait for the performers as they exit from the performance grounds and follow them to Rajah Sulayman Park where they would have their short performance.  Perhaps the organizers could think of putting up bleachers so that photographers can have a good view of the performances.  They are sponsoring a photo contest, anyway.

Anyway, enough of this rant.  But one thing for sure, I miss the 2008 Aliwan when there were more participant-festivals, more colorful costumes and floats, and when participants made use of the open field to rehearse that made photographing easier.

With all these issues, Aliwan is still one of the best festivals that the Philippines has ever staged--gathering all major festivals in the country in one venue.  Having been disappointed again with my poor photos, will I still go to 2012 Aliwan Fiesta? Definitely.  But I hope there would still be Aliwan Fiesta in 2012.



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MONO-LOGUES--Bereft of colors, black and white photos amaze me as a photography hobbyist. Concepts of highlight and shadow detail, image contrast, exposure latitude and tonal range are all best understood through the black-and-white images.

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