Major changes to the site are afoot!

I’ve revamped the http://momatoes.com and it is now cleaner, sleeker, and hopefully nicer to behold! Each link goes to a dedicated page that exhibits all of my artworks for that category. Have a look and let me know what you think.

In line with this, I’ll be putting a damper on posting blogs entries, as I will now be placing them directly into the category pages as opposed to making individual posts. Refresh and revisit the site regularly to get your fresh dose of illustration, photography, and design.

The Secret Life of Moss at Gioji

Back in my Japan trip, I took a detour into a small and tucked-away shrine in the western district of Arashiyama in Kyoto. And was I glad to have been there. In its tiny confines was a whole universe of verdant greenery, abundantly expressed through various species of moss. Layers of it hugged the ground, creating a symphony of texture and life.

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Amidst these little wonders, I felt the joy of photography, feeling as I if I had a private audience with nature’s tiny secret miracles.

Photos were taken September 2015 on a well-loved and much-battered Canon EOS 550D.

 

 

Mindanao Trust Fund Collateral

Last year, I had the honor of working with the Mindanao Trust Fund, a World Bank project that enables Bangsamoro institutions to uplift the region via livelihood and other programs. They’ve done great, amazing work, improving the lives of tens of thousands of people in a traditionally conflict-afflicted area of the Philippines.

My own contribution to the MTF’s mission was humble: I was there to design collateral materials ranging from ecobags to annual reports to stickers.

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What made this freelance work so fulfilling, however, was actually seeing these tiny pieces of work being shared and used in the furtherance of development work. I felt proud knowing that however small my contribution was, it was of help to the MTF’s mission.

Penitensya

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Penitent men in procession

As a sign of contrition and repentance, Filipino volunteers engage in the yearly tradition of Penitensya. An ancient and bloody tradition, Penitensya pits man’s flesh against self-inflicted wounds, exemplifying Catholic piety and devotion in one of the holiest days of the year: Good Friday.

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A volunteer clasping his hand in prayer as he is cut for the first time

Volunteers would kneel down, while assistants would run a blade down their backs to open up small wounds throughout the surface of their flesh.

Wooden clogs would then be tied together and attached to the end of a short, stiff rope. This would be smacked to the person’s back, agitating the cuts, on and on until the blood runs down and soaks every pore in his body.

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The wooden clogs turn red with the blood of its wielder

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Sweat and blood would soar in the air with every strike of their implement

Men who undergo this rigorous exercise drink copious alcohol beforehand to help numb the pain of the coming ordeal. Despite the blood and the agony, however, it is said to leave little scar but the memory of pain.

With Penitensya, men render flesh and in so doing, render service to their God.

The photos above were taken in Perez, Quezon, during Holy Week celebrations.

 

Wet Market Photography

I decided to head to the Munoz wet market early in the morning (6 am!) to capture a few quick snaps. Even this early, the market was already bustling with activity.

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Inside, it was chaos. Hundreds of people jammed together in a tight space, all looking for the best deals on meats, vegetables, and other goods.

Hawkers called out to buyers, offering their plum wares. An array of goods were spread out on worn and creaking tables, ready for the picking.

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The vendors were curious to see me with my camera. “What are you taking pictures for? Could you take a picture of my wares? Do I smile?” Several were unresponsive or were actively shy at the sight of me pointing my lens to their face. One man even confronted me and asked me to delete his picture.

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This man, though, was different. His smile was as generous as his personality was. “You take pictures well,” he said. “You’re a natural at taking people’s photos!”

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Inwardly, I smiled. If only he knew how nervous I actually felt, taking all of these pictures! Despite all my recent efforts, I still felt like an impostor photographer. I still feel the limits of my abilities.

Taking photographs at the market showed me, in fact, how far I have to go.The chaos and the tight confines of the market corridors were a challenge that I could not fully overcome. But despite that, it warmed my heart that a stranger decided to take confidence in me. It was a rare and beautiful thing to hear.

Testing out a new lens part II: Metro Manila

I decided to do a more thorough test of the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8, and the results simply wow me. I may just use this as my daily driver for real.

Here are some photos I took of Metro Manila — the beautiful, the crowded, the vivid. A bustling metropolitan area with over 12 million souls, it offered me the perfect opportunity to capture a few snapshots of its people and its places.

Parks dot the urban centers of the Metro. The balete tree, closeup shown in the bottom picture, is prominent in Philippine culture. It is often said that pale ghosts would be drawn to the balete; stories warn travelers to be respectful of the tree and to refrain from causing it any harm.

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The crowded waiting areas for transport buses. Cubao, where this picture was taken, is known as a nexus for commuters. The location services dozens of routes across different means of transportation: the local buses, jeepneys, FX, and even tricycles that make their way through the arteries of the metropolis.

The life of a commuter can be harsh. A recent Waze survey made headlines when the results proclaimed that Manila has the worst traffic in the world. Poor travellers often have to squeeze in with other fellow passengers just to fit their way into the rare bus. I myself have had to literally rub arms and elbows with my bus seatmate just so I could stay upright.

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Despite all this, though, Metro Manila is a beautiful, wonderful place. My photos haven’t even scratched the surface yet. I’ll dedicate separate photoshoots for other locations in the Metro, but for now, here is a parting shot of a sari-sari store. Sari-sari literally means ‘variety’ in English, and no where can this be seen more clearly than in the dazzling array of food and snack items that this particular shop offers, and in the colorful character that Metro Manila displays to the world.

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Testing out a new lens

I bit the bullet and bought the second ever lens for my camera! It’s a fairly basic Canon EF 50mm f/1.8, but I’m still amazed at how sharp and how much depth of field it can generate. Here are a few test shots I took on my commute to and back from work.

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Pretty neat! Still debating whether I should use it as my daily driver — while the quality of photos is ridiculously higher than the kit lens that I use, the fixed focal length is definitely a huge challenge. I find myself having to step back really far in order to capture the subject that I want to take. Argh!

Bad Timing

This was a fun layout project! In collaboration with game designer Tobie Abad, I crafted illustrations and graphic design work for Bad Timing, a sweet and simple Romantic Comedy playset that runs on the Fiasco gaming system. The Fiasco gaming system is an engine for building collaborative stories using nothing but a couple of 6-sided die. Download Bad Timing at DriveThru RPG!

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Tokyo Sumo Bout

There was excitement and anticipation in the air, when, two years ago, I walked the periphery of the Ryogoku Stadium to watch the September 2015 tournament bout.

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Colorful banners waved in the air, cheerfully showcasing the names of the dozens of wrestlers I would be seeing today. Each one of them would only have one match today. With most matches lasting only less than 10 seconds, for each  wrestler, it was a do-or-die situation in a timespan of less than a minute.

I’d arrived just before they introduced the makuuchi-rank wrestlers. Sumo has six divisions, and Makuuchi are the cream of the crop, who are proven veterans and winners of the sport. I watched as they circled the ring, clasp then raise their hands to the air.

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Matches were short, but intense. At the shout of the referee, each wrestler would run towards one another with great energy, and attempt any one of the many maneuvers that could land their opponent out of the ring or onto the floor.

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There were several ways they could do it. In the following picture, the wrestler on the left attempts to control his opponent by grabbing on the the waistband of the loincloth, or mawashi. His opponent pivots fiercely to the right to the avoid him.

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In the same match, the tides change as the opponent outmaneuvers and successfully pushes the wrestler down the ground and out the ring. It’s a resounding win for the sumo in the dark blue mawashi, and a cunning one that showcases not only the brawn, but also the brains of the sport.

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In some cases, the climax of the match would get so heated that both wrestlers would tumble out of the ring, making the front-row audience suffer a minor panic at the thought of 300-pound wrestlers squashing them.

The bout ended with a brief ceremony by the highest-ranking sumo wrestler present. Facing the crowd, he danced, as he held and twirled a bow longer than his own height. The ceremonies highlighted one key thing: the immensely long history and culture behind a sport that started out as a ritual.

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Photos were taken September 2015 on a well-loved and much-battered Canon EOS 550D.

Check out my Patreon page!

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Hi everyone! A brief announcement: I finally bit the bullet and set up a tiny Patreon site! If you like my artwork, head on there and check it out. With Patreon, you can get advanced access to some of the artwork I’ve lined up in the coming month, and perks such as GIFs, layered files, and even physical postcards.

Any form of support goes a long way. Whether you decide to pledge or not, thank you! You have my appreciation and gratitude.

Pansol Pottery

My friends and I had the pleasure of visiting the Pettyjohn Household in Pansol, Laguna.

Jon and Tessy Pettyjohn are renowned globally for their pioneering work in ceramics and pottery, so it was an honor to not only stay at their house, but also to be surrounded by incredible works of art.

It was also good chance for me to test out my newly-acquired yet secondhand Canon EOS 80D. It was such a challenge trying to get photos that showed the characteristic look of Jon and Tessy Pettyjohn’s artstyle. I took hundreds of photos, but I never could quite get that perfect shot!

While I’m not too happy with how the pictures turned out, it’s a useful metric for me to gauge future (and hopefully much better) photos against.

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Epefania’s Heartbreak

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An illustration of one of my favorite quotes from Philippine speculative short fiction.

“Epefania, who had only her heartbreaks to talk about, eventually ran out of willing ears to share her romantic commiserations: in the end, she only had the sun, moon, and stars to turn to for company.”

The Sugilanon of Epefania’s Heartbreak
by Ian Rosales Casocot