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HONORING MY MOTHER | Crowd watcher

By Icoy San Pedro

I REMEMBER one lesson taught by a former office-mate and mentor, the late Rene Lumawag. He once said, one trick to human interest photography is getting lost in a crowd of people and knowing deep inside that each person has a story. All one has to do is discover whatever story unfolds before you. I remember that particular moment as though it was yesterday. During the early 80s, I was with him, then working at an advertising company and incidentally, on that day, he was teaching me how to handle my first Nikon. Since then and through the years, whenever I witnessed any large mass of humanity, be it in musical concerts and performances, political rallies or when I’m just watching people who watch parades, that lesson had stuck with me: never forget, everyone has a story.

Last Sunday, like many Dabawenyos, I witnessed the oath-taking ceremony of our outgoing city mayor as she was inaugurated as the newly-elected vice-president of the country. As was the usual, the ceremony, as witnessed by thousands live and many more online, had the trimmings of a who’s-who affair, with all the onlookers seemingly in awe of the many political and entertainment personalities who were on hand to witness the affair. As one would have guessed, not the usual petrol that runs my car; I was more interested in the watchers watching the watched. Theirs were the more interesting stories.

For one, the actual programme may have started at around half past four in the afternoon, but as early as eight in the morning, people were already starting to fill up the plaza near the cathedral and the city hall. Even as a kid, this was of extreme interest to me, what drives one to go out of their way to witness spectacle. In the same breath, what drives another to simply pass them by? Was it perhaps because as tots, we’ve been programmed to these by our parents and elders? 

As I have written a long time ago, “everybody loves a show. That is why the thrill of witnessing a parade is, almost always, not lost in both the young and the old alike. Some may of course disagree and there are those with a natural aversion to crowds and those who believe they have better things to do.

Nevertheless, as everyone is by nature, an observer, anything within one’s peripheral vision is always subject to scrutiny. To prove this, when you’re among the crowd watching a parade, try to observe the passers-by who have chosen to go about their business. There will surely be moments when some would pause awhile and check on what is going on.”

Always on the lookout for a more interesting human angle. On second thought, I thought I might also prove to be a capable G-man, watching the crowds for possible snipers, as in the movies. Or a sniper even, but at that, they won’t accept anyone with poor eyesight. Bourne identity fail. 

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