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Saving Grace


By Arlene Donaire

‘Photography has become my time machine, my constant reminder that life, in all its forms, is indeed beautiful.’ – Donie Cruz

For someone who was once confronted with a stern warning, an end-of-life sign of sorts during his prime years and has had to deal with a virtual race for time in the last few years, it is an immense blessing for Donie Cruz to be able to enjoy life to the fullest, in his own terms. His zest for life is reflected in the many roles he has taken for himself—an environmental chemist by profession, a choral singer in a multi-awarded ensemble, an impassioned travel photographer, and a dedicated cancer warrior. Most importantly, he considers himself as God’s work in progress.

Donie’s beginnings as a lensman happened while he was at work. He recalls: “While I was working in 2010 for a company based along Roxas Boulevard, I was moved by the beauty of the Manila Bay sunset and this inspired me to buy my first camera, a Nikon D3000. Because the purchase came with a one-year membership in the Nikon Club Philippines, I started taking daily sunset photos and attending workshops and trainings.”

  • Holy Sanctuary (Donie Cruz)

  • Callao Cave (Donie Cruz)

  • Tribal Lady (Donie Cruz)

  • Colors of Autumn (Donie Cruz)

  • Banaue (Donie Cruz)

  • Panglao Beach (Donie Cruz)

  • City Lights (Manila) (Donie Cruz)

  • Tarsier (Donie Cruz)

  • Puerto Princesa Underground River (Donie Cruz)

  • Marina Bay Sands, Singapore (Donie Cruz)

  • Setting Sun (Donie Cruz)

  • Breakwater (Donie Cruz)

  • Benguet (Donie Cruz)

    Clearly driven by his love of nature and the awe for man-made marvels, Donie has taken his desire and passion to capture each fascinating moment with his camera to many locales in the Philippines and several Asian countries. As a travel photographer, he is partial to shooting landscapes and architecture in places he visits while incorporating his favorite shooting technique—long exposure and cherished time of day, sunset.

    Donie reflects on his personal goal of mastering travel photography: “My self-challenge is to become more competent in the various facets of photography. Since I started shooting in 2010, I have been guided by the philosophy that an effective photo must convey the motivation for capturing it. When people see my photos and all they can think of is to pack up their bags and feel the excitement of traveling to that place, then I know that I have taken an effective image.”

    Back in 2012 when Donie was diagnosed with a kind of cancer so rare that it only affects less than 0.01 perecent of cancer patients, he used his downtime in the hospital to learn more about photography. Intent on honing himself, he made full use of online materials and eventually found himself richer in his appreciation of the craft.

    Photography became his saving grace, the medicine that allowed him to find meaning in each day that he surpassed the challenges of being a cancer patient. Soon after he had recovered from the sickness, he went full steam ahead on his photography projects. Driven by the will to make every moment count, Donie set out to accomplish quite a trailblazing lineup of photography-related laurels. Some of his works had been published in local and international magazines such as the Lonely Planet Magazine Philippines (2012) and the ASEAN Tripper Magazine (2013). He won in local competitions: Environment and Society, University of the Philippines Institute of Environmental Science and Meteorology (2015) and became the only Filipino to be included in the 2014 Urban Portraits — Public Spaces Photography Exhibit (2014) held in Palazzo Fandango Incontro, Rome, Italy of the works of selected photographers from all over the world.

    In 2014, Donie branched out into self-publishing, with a photo book series called In Focus, with Bohol as the initial feature. It was a tribute to the province’s beauty and charm, with all images taken before the 2015 magnitude 7.2 earthquake had struck the place. His next book, Singapore in Focus, was a collection of images of the city-state’s fascinating lights and urban wonders. His recent, The Philippines: A Photographic Journey Volume I, is a peek into his three-year journey throughout the Philippines.

    Inspired by an advocacy close to home, he also organized a couple of solo exhibits of his images to raise funds for the Philippine Cancer Society including Philippines in 360° and Travelling Through the Time of Cancer.

    Donie has not been able to pursue membership in any photography organization. Between practicing his profession and advocacies and undergoing medical treatments, he always had his family to keep him company during his travels. Not one to cower in fear and hopelessness, he remains positive, choosing to look past his medical condition. He wants to seize each day and worry not about things that he cannot control.

    After his surgery and therapy, Donie is intent on getting back on track, to accomplish his ultimate goal of traveling to the rest of the world, sharing more of his talent, using it to help others.

    “Life as it happens, such as a day’s work, can only be treasured if you have a tangible memory of it. A beautiful place, no matter how memorable, may still be forgotten if it is not captured in a photograph. Photography has become my time machine, my constant reminder that life, in all its forms, is indeed beautiful,” Donie concludes.

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    • Donie Cruz

      Special thanks to Ms. Arlene, sir Ronald and the rest of the Manila Bulletin Picture Perfect Team ☝

    • roanne bederico

      You’re such an inspiration Donie!

      • Donie Cruz

        Hey, maraming salamat Roanne! Specially sa lahat ng prayers and support :)