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Hidden Treasures

Photographer of the Week: Cocoy Ponce

Published

By Maan D’ Asis Pamaran

It was love for traveling that awakened his passion for photography. Cyril Curtis “Cocoy” Ponce started exploring the country to find local hidden gems and to discover how Filipinos face life in their own ways.

  • Yi Peng Lantern Festival in Chiang Mai

    Yi Peng Lantern Festival in Chiang Mai

  • Tarsier in Bohol (Cocoy Ponce)

    Tarsier in Bohol (Cocoy Ponce)

  • Sunset in Apo Reef, Sablayan, Occidental Mindoro (Cocoy Ponce)

    Sunset in Apo Reef, Sablayan, Occidental Mindoro (Cocoy Ponce)

  • Rice fields in Buskalan (Cocoy Ponce)

    Rice fields in Buskalan (Cocoy Ponce)

  • Portrait of a local woman in Buskalan (Cocoy Ponce)

    Portrait of a local woman in Buskalan (Cocoy Ponce)

  • Morning in Sa Pa, Vietnam (Cocoy Ponce)

    Morning in Sa Pa, Vietnam (Cocoy Ponce)

  • Kids selling bamboo stick in Mount Pinatubo (Cocoy Ponce)

    Kids selling bamboo stick in Mount Pinatubo (Cocoy Ponce)

  • Kids of Buskalan (Cocoy Ponce)

    Kids of Buskalan (Cocoy Ponce)

  • Food Photography Salad (Cocoy Ponce)

    Food Photography Salad (Cocoy Ponce)

  • Food Photography Popcorn And Chocolate (Cocoy Ponce)

    Food Photography Popcorn And Chocolate (Cocoy Ponce)

  • Food Photography Sample (Cocoy Ponce)

    Food Photography Sample (Cocoy Ponce)

  • Boat exiting from Baraccuda Lake in Coron (Cocoy Ponce)

    Boat exiting from Baraccuda Lake in Coron (Cocoy Ponce)

  • Banig weaver of Basiao, Basey, Samar (Cocoy Ponce)

    Banig weaver of Basiao, Basey, Samar (Cocoy Ponce)

  • Apo Whang Od (Cocoy Ponce)

    Apo Whang Od (Cocoy Ponce)

  • An old woman In Banaue (Cocoy Ponce)

    An old woman In Banaue (Cocoy Ponce)

  • Abra De Ilog, Occidental Mindoro (Cocoy Ponce)

    Abra De Ilog, Occidental Mindoro (Cocoy Ponce)

  • A surfer In Siargao (Cocoy Ponce)

    A surfer In Siargao (Cocoy Ponce)

  • A kid poses for a photo in Buskalan (Cocoy Ponce)

    A kid poses for a photo in Buskalan (Cocoy Ponce)

  • A kid in Alibijaban Island (Cocoy Ponce)

    A kid in Alibijaban Island (Cocoy Ponce)

  • A heart-shaped island in Surigao del Sur (Cocoy Ponce)

    A heart-shaped island in Surigao del Sur (Cocoy Ponce)

  • Mount Pinatubo farmers (Cocoy Ponce)

    Mount Pinatubo farmers (Cocoy Ponce)

    “At first, I would take photos just for the fun of it but then later on, when something caught my attention, getting my camera and capturing that moment would feel like reflex,” he explains.

    His first tool for the job was the Canon 40D with its kit lens. To learn how to wield it, he decided to enroll at the Federation of Philippine Photographer’s Foundation (FPPF) in Intramuros more than 10 years ago. “I would regularly join monthly photo competitions and tag along my photographer friends to different events and photowalks,” he recalls fondly.

    Sadly, he and his camera were fated to part ways. “When my daughter got sick, I needed to sell my camera to pay for her hospital bills. It’s really true that photography is an expensive hobby, because after that it took me a while to buy a new one, my Lumix LX5, which is a bit more basic than the first camera.”

    Armed with new gear, he would go on to shoot landscapes, cityscapes, street, and many more. “When I was hired for sideline gigs, I would borrow cameras and equipment from my friends. I didn’t really care much about the pay because I was happy with what I was doing, and my clients were happy with my photos. It took me a decade to realize that this is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. So, I quit my corporate job to pursue my passion.”

    He has this advice for newbies who want to strike out on their own: “The most basic and most important principle as a lensman, especially in today’s digital age, is to never sell yourself short and never be discouraged simply because you don’t have the fanciest equipment. Always remember that the camera is just an instrument, a tool to help you share to others what you have seen and experienced. In the end, the story and the talent will always be coming from you.”

    Now, he specializes in travel and lifestyle photography. “When I was a kid, we lived in Misamis Oriental but we would always travel to Cebu to visit our relatives there. I think that was how I knew my way around riding boats, commuting, and talking with people of different backgrounds and personalities. Over the years, I have come to realize about that experience and this is why I love shooting travel and people.”

    In recent years, he has engaged in other fields like product and food—not for the purpose of specializing in them, he explains, but mainly to know the proper process behind them. “I have also constantly delved in video as a challenge and a reminder to myself that I have so much more to learn in my craft.”

    He likes shooting sunrises and sunsets, checking in advance what time these would arrive in the day. “I would always scout great areas where I can shoot. Those are my definitions of ‘pamamasyal.’ When I was younger I traveled as a turista; but now I always talk with the locals. I explore holes in the wall and I acknowledge the story that’s there. I think the best thing about being a photographer is to do things out of my comfort zone—traveling to different places, experiencing diverse cultures in and out of the country, and just doing things for the first time. Those places that I only see in post cards before, I get to experience in real life now.”

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