He may just be a plain old man to you but to me, he will remind me of my elementary days in Balara. He was a photographer–and still is–taking pictures of special events, most especially graduation day. He just hangs around in schools around UP Campus.
It was last year, around October, when I saw him getting out from a jeepney along Commonwealth Avenue. I was in Grade 6 when I last saw him and he definitely doesn’t know me for I am just one of those kids that he photographs and I do remember this picture that he took of me upon my mother’s request, who was a teacher in Balara. I remember I was this awkward little girl, with a boy-cut hair, and wearing kung fu shoes in a photo he took. I still have it to this day. It’s in my photo album.
That’s why I will never forget this old man. So without thinking twice I called out his name, out loud– “Mang Per!”
Getting his attention, he welcomely said in Tagalog, “O, how are you?” as if he really do know me. I introduced myself and told him that I know him. Told him I was one of those elementary students he took pictures of in Balara and I said my mother was a teacher there.
“How’s your mother?” he asked. I said my mother passed away. Again, he was this cool guy pretending that he knows me, even my mother. I guess random strangers have approached him the way I did, you know, former children who are now adults who never forgotten about him. I mean, who can forget Mang Per? This was his same look more than 20 years ago, and yes, with that same hat (except that he aged, of course).
When I was younger, I thought he was tall. A lanky old man. And I remember him with his bike, which he would use to roam around UP Campus. That day that I saw him I realized he wasn’t such a tall man after all. I am one inch taller than him now.
“So how are you, are you now married?” he asked. I said I’m not. He said I should try not to end up like him, single for life. He said it was a sad life not to have been married. I said that’s a blessing in disguise. There are many who are married but are living miserably, only a cause of headache. I then asked him if he’s still active as photographer. He said, not anymore. There are so many competitions now, he said. Anyone who has DSLR and know how to point and shoot are now making professional photographers an endangered species. (He was still using film when digital photography became the “in” thing.)
Then I said goodbye. He was a gracious old man. So simple and kindhearted. Oh dear, I really wish him well. He is now in his 70s. May God continue to bless him. I learned from someone that Mang Per has gone back to photography. Somebody gave him–a random stranger who introduced himself as one of those kids he took pictures of–a DSLR.