Preparing to Get Wet

Journal Entry 001 for the course Diploma in Visual Journalism

A rafting guide looks straight ahead to find the best course to take while navigating a rapid along the Cagayan de Oro River. Rafting guides or river guides, having extensive knowledge of the river and its rapids ensure that rafting clients get a safe and enjoyable rafting experience. File Photo. March 2009

This is it! I’m going river rafting! Not primarily to have a good time but going river rafting has to be done as it is central to the completion of the story I have decided to work on.

The time for theory and academics is almost over and now we start to get our hands and feet dirty, and in my case, wet. The Diploma in Visual Journalism course of the Asian Center for Journalism (ACFJ) in the Ateneo de Manila University requires every student to finish a final project composed of three sub-projects. The first is a photo essay on “identity”. The second is to produce a multi-media presentation. The third is a body of single photos taken during the duration of the course. For the “Identity” and Multi-media presentation, I proposed (and the proposal was approved) to do a story about the river rafting guides or river guides.

River guides or Rafting guides from the Kagay Whitewater Rafting Adventures take a break after successfully navigating through a couple of Level 4 & 5 rapids along the Cagayan de Oro River. File Photo. March 2009

I would entitle my work “Timon”. Timon is a Filipino term that means helm, rudder, beam, or a steering wheel. The term is normally used to describe the person who holds the control of a ship or boat. In the context of a small boat or canoe (banca) or raft, “timon” refers to the person who paddles at the stern or the one that holds the power to steer the boat in a direction it chooses.

My topic will be an exploration of the life and times of whitewater rafting guides, the men who steer the rafts that passes through the rapids of the Cagayan de Oro river. Whitewater rafting is a big tourism attraction in Cagayan de Oro but little is known about the rafting guides. Who are they? Where do they come from? Why are they passionate about river rafting? How has river rafting influence or impacted their lives, their thoughts, their outlook? River rafting is nothing without a river with rapids. How or to what extend are they conscious about climate change and how this phenomenon can impact their passion or livelihood? These are some of the questions this project intends to ask and hopefully get answered.

Whitewater rafting is big business for tourism in my city of Cagayan de Oro. The rafting experience and the services that the various rafting operators provide to tourist and locals are known and well established. What is not obvious however or little attention is given to the significant people behind the whitewater rafting industry — — the rafting guides. They are the ones that knows every nook and cranny of the river. They ensure that the rafting experience of guest will not only be enjoyable and memorable but equally important, they make sure the rafting experience is safe. They are the first to notice slight or big changes that happen along the river course.

By documenting their story, by drawing out their story, it is hoped that this will not only contribute towards a holistic look at the whitewater rafting industry in the city but will also showcase what the almost invisible protagonist (i.e. the river/rafting guides) offer more than steering a raft amidst the rapids of the Cagayan de Oro river.

After a good run shooting the rapids of the Cagayan de Oro River, State of the Art Rafts (SOTAR) are attached to the roof of a jeepney for transport back to its storage area. File Photo. March 2009

This is my first go at visual storytelling. I am both excited to see how this will turn out and at the same time I am also a bit anxious. I will definitely need all the help I can get from this experience. This is my first journal entry and more journal entries documenting this exciting journey of mine in the coming months. Please do share your comments, thoughts, and/or suggestions, recommendations, and tips. These will be highly appreciated.

Wish me luck! I hope to steer (Timon) this project in the right direction.