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Fresh Take and that grad pic smile

Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion. Never Been Kissed. Mean Girls. Heck, even Back to the Future. What do these movies have in common? Well, besides the fact that they embody the trappings (and generation-defining qualities) of the teen movie genre, they also, at some point during their two-hour running times, touch upon a very vital element to every teenager’s life: the grad picture.

Remember when you had to have yours taken? Ugh. It was high school. I was in an all-boys school and we were required to get those 2x3 haircuts for CAT. The “white side wall” or the “clean shave” is what they called it, a.k.a. the embarrassment and social suicide. My hair in senior year was ugly for the most part — and when the time came for my grad pic to be taken, well, let’s just say there was little left to be desired about the final output, a picture that showcased the totality (read: widow’s peak totality) of my hairline, not to mention braces which had alternating color bands. I believe mine were red and green to complement the holiday season. Oh. Em.

And then, of course, there are those softly lit, black and white Chat Peypoch grad photos that my Assumptionista friends gave away like calling cards, and we, as high school boys, collected (and traded) like Magic: The Gathering (or Pokémon). It seemed my lady friends enjoyed their grad pic experience so much that they’d end up giving it away to their friends and/or soiree mates, then signing it for you in the back. Per usual. “Take care. God bless.” It really was the precursor to “xoxo” and writing testis on your Friendster wall.

Fact is: whether your grad pic experience was a win or bust, it was one of those things, like the senior ball and the countless soirees, that made your high school life totes memorable. What’s sad though is that a lot of kids are not able to afford to have their grad pics taken and walk away with (bend and) snaps for posterity. In fact, that we are able to afford a grad pic — heck, even take several options and have them printed out in varying sizes only to give away — is something we ourselves take for granted.

In a world where everything is fleeting, and memories seem best encapsulated in a still rather than one’s memory bank, sometimes a grad pic is the only evidence you have to come by. It’s the one thing that reminds you, “I endured four years of high school,” widow’s peak, multi-colored braces and all.

Take One

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Last Nov. 9, I was reminded of the excitement that came with this momentous occasion in every high schooler’s life when I dropped by the first of this year’s Fresh Take initiatives as organized by Rock Ed Philippines. This had been the third year in the row that the group, whose thrust is to provide venues and events for alternative education, had been doing it since they made the maiden voyage at the Krus na Ligas High School three years ago, on the outskirts of UP Diliman.

“We shot outside in the court. Not even in an air-conditioned room like this one,” recalls volunteer photographer Gabby Cantero who once celebrated her 20th birthday as the project head coordinator for the first ever Fresh Take. She was, that day, one of several shutterbugs slinging smiles on the students’ faces, all of which were from the Eulogio Rodriguez Jr. High School in Mayon Avenue, Quezon City. She adds, “It’s basically a photo fest celebrating high school graduates. For them, graduating high school is already an achievement. This is a token for their hard work.”

Take two

Founded by proprietor Gang Badoy of Rock Ed Philippines back in 2009 as a reaction to the group’s growing number of volunteer photographers, it has since serviced two high schools in providing photographs to a batch of graduating seniors. Gang says, “However way you see it, you finished high school. You stuck it out, made it to the finish line, and that’s worth celebrating.”

She has taken a liking to the project the most, amongst all of Rock Ed’s endeavors, for Fresh Take’s emphasis on interaction. “There is no ‘I have more and I’m just handing donations to you’ interaction. There is – however – a ‘wow ang galing mo, congratulations, let me take your portrait’ interaction.’” She says, “Here, (the students) are the stars. We take their portraits. Rock stars take their photos instead of the usual ‘them’ asking rock stars ‘pa-picture, kuya!’”

That day, a rock star was within the ranks of the volunteers — Itchyworms’ Kelvin Yu. “Tumutugtog yung banda ko for (Rock Ed’s) events parati. When Fresh Take started a few years ago, that time, kakabili ko pa lang ng mga photography stuff.” He has since joined Gang’s team in three of their four Fresh Take excursions.

Take three

Of course, a project such as this is not without its challenges. Gabby relates that the group, while replete with photographers, has a lack of makeup artists who have the equally important task of making the students aesthetically ready to face the camera. It’s a “do good, look good, feel good” type of situation (ugh, flashback to my braces and my 2x3) that completes the experiences. There is also the matter of logistics, the upkeep of operations, and the fact that the group is limited to simply uploading the photos online and not being able to produce an actual hard copy for the students to take home.

Also, Eulogio Rodriguez Jr. High School is but one of thousands of high schools in the Philippines that can benefit from something like Fresh Take. Gabby says, “Plans are underway to shoot in three or four more schools next year.” However, volunteer Gerhard Bandiola dispenses that it would be better if others spearheaded something similar in their own communities: “Nowadays everybody has a camera. You can start by putting together your own group and volunteer in your nearest public school. Do a makeshift studio. Put up fabric. Use the name Fresh Take. And start shooting.”

Gabby adds that you can shoot with one light, add a few reflectors and from sheer passion, take off with your own Fresh Take. “Of course, it’s all about making the kids smile!” True that.

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For more inquiries about Fresh Take, email or visit Rock Ed Philippines’ Facebook page.



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