(This 2014, we'll be having monthly features about Focus Bulacan and photography in general. To start off, here's an introduction to the officers of Focus.)
It’s a typical get-together of friends : share some laughs, stories, and food. Only this group is a little different. They’re photography enthusiasts who also happen to be dedicated officers of a fledgling photography organization in Bulacan.
On this Sunday, the first of 2014, they meet again to discuss activities and plans for Focus Bulacan, a half-year-old group that aims to take photographic passion to the next level. These officers trade opinions, agree and disagree on some matters, but ultimately compromise to set what’s best for Focus. They are an eclectic mix of individuals brought together by a common pursuit.
Kath Cruz is a nurse by profession, shuttling between Sta. Maria and Manila, where her work is based. Travel and adventure are her favourite getaway, and needless to say she always packs her camera on her sojourns. Kat Centeno (nicknamed Katcen) works as a powerplant design engineer for a Japanese industrial company, one of the biggest in the world. Although busy with her workload, she finds time for photography to be her other creative outlet. Mhoie (pronounced Moy) Mendoza, a telecom engineer who handles corporate clients at the Philippines’ biggest telco, also makes it a point to shoot when he has free time, venturing into different photography genres as much as he could. Kath, Kat, and Mhoie, all working in the metro but bona fide Bulakenyos, look forward to going home on weekends to be with family and also to see fellow photographers in Focus, as they head the Activities Committee tasked with setting and overseeing PhotoMeets and events of the group.
Meanwhile, Jinn Figueroa, a technical supervisor at the government’s public works agency, handles Focus Bulacan’s funds as Finance Committee officer. Collection and reports are his routine, and being in public service for 10 years has made handling a photography club’s finances much easier.
Competition Committee officer Jer Sandel, who hails from Pandi, divides his time between working as operations manager of his family’s furniture manufacturing business and being dad to a toddler son. Aside from organizing and supervising photocontests, he’s also Focus Bulacan’s online moderator and content creator.
Computer expert and technician Noel Crisostomo is Focus Bulacan’s Membership Committee officer who keeps track of members’ participation and applicants’ evaluation. He’s also probably the group’s main recruiter, as his friendly ways have made it possible for many acquaintances to join the group.
Michael John Cruz, simply called MJ, serves as External Committee officer. He uses his network of friends and funny charm whenever he has to represent the group in talks with officials of other organizations. A Malolenyo like Kat, Mhoie, Noel, and Jinn, MJ is at the forefront as Focus looks to make connections.
Focus Bulacan has progressed from being a start-up group to establishing itself as one of the biggest photography clubs in Bulacan. It has overcome its share of initial struggles and detractors, and is now all-set for a big 2014. As the officers plan for the year ahead, we wanted to know their thoughts about being officers of the group.
We asked the officers five questions relating to Focus. Here's how they answered :
1. What's the biggest challenge in being an officer? And what do you think is the biggest challenge for the group?
Mhoie : Para sa akin ang biggest challenge sa pagiging officer ng Activities Comittee ay 'yung pag-iisip ng susunod na posibleng shoot, 'yung tipong dapat 3 months ahead may idea ka na para sa activity. Ang hirap! Pero sulit naman pagdating ng PhotoMeet at naging successful siya. By the way mga ka-Focus tumatanggap po kami ng suggestions, hehe. As for the group.. hmmm... Commitment, patunayan natin na hindi lang tayo sa umpisa magaling. Go, Focus Bulacan!
Jer : For me, it's how to keep the members motivated to participate in activities. They always need something to look forward to, dapat excited sila. Kung gaano ka-active o kasaya ang group, sa officers magsisimula 'yun. We're in position for a reason, and that is to lead the group, not to wait and see kung anong mangyayari. We have to act, we have to make it happen. As for the group, I think the biggest challenge is how to stay united and how to stay focused on our objectives, projects, and activities.
Kath : Sa position ko as activity coordinator, medyo mahirap siya kasi kailangan ng malawak na connections para dito. And ang big challenge dito is kung magugustuhan ba ng members at marami bang sasama sa in-organize na activity.
Katcen : At first, akala ko ang challenge lang as event officer ay 'yung mag-isip and mag-organize ng official activity ng grupo, pero dahil I work and stay in Manila, nahirapan ako makipag-communicate with co-officers dahil sa limited internet access especially at work. So naging challenge sakin kung paano ako makakatulong at magampanan 'yung responsibilities ko as officer without sacrificing anything.
MJ : Biggest challenge for me ang maging seryoso, hahaha, makulit kasi ako at mapag-patawa. Lagi na lang ako nagbibiro, lahat ginagawa kong biro, so bilang officer dapat mag-seryoso din ako. Biggest challnge for the group, makilala siguro hindi lang sa Bulacan kundi sa buong Pilipinas gaya ng ibang camera club, para magawa 'to siguro biggest challenge din sa group 'yung coordination, cooperation at dedication!
Noel : Ang biggest challenge para sa akin mapadami, mapanatiling masaya at buo 'yung group. Sa group naman manatili tayong kalmado sa mga paninira at batikos na dadating sa atin at sama-sama nating harapin 'yung mga problema sa maayos na paraan.
Jinn : The biggest challenge for me as an officer is to be able to influence and motivate others to be responsible and dedicated members of the group. To set a good example by being effective and trustworthy. Biggest challenge for the group? Maintain camaraderie and cooperation despite different views, values, skills and ways of communicating.
2. What do you think is the key to being a leader?
Kath : To be a good leader, kailangan good follower at listener ka din!
Mhoie : Sabi nga nila, "He who would learn to lead must learn to obey." Hindi ka magiging magaling na leader kung ikaw mismo sa sarili mo hindi mo kayang sumunod, dahil kung alam mo kung ano saloobin ng mga members eh magagampanan mo nang maayos ang part mo sa pagiging leader.
Jinn : The key to being a leader is to be a role model, provide the group with clear vision and direction. Command respect yet remain approachable.
Katcen : Before you become a good leader, dapat good follower din muna tayo, and dapat tandaan natin na minsan din tayo naging member, dapat maging sensitive tayo sa needs ng group and ng bawat isa. Remember how you react sa leader mo noong ikaw eh member pa lang niya, dahil for sure ganoon din 'yung reaction ng members once ikaw na ang leader nila. You cannot please them everytime but at least do your best to be responsible and be a good example to them and to your successors.
MJ : Nasabi na nila lahat. Para maging isang leader eh dapat maging good example ako!
Jer : You have to put the group first, always think what's best for the whole. Dapat nakikinig ka sa kanila. Dapat active ka, you can't be a good leader if you're always absent and all you do is delegate. You have to stay in touch with the members. You have to lead by doing on your own, hindi puro utos. That's the best example you can set.
Noel : For me the key to being a leader, 'yung marunong kang makinig sa sinasabi ng members na pinamumunuan mo, nararamdaman mo at nakikita mo 'yung pangangailangan nila upang maging maayos at matatag 'yung group.
3. How do you respond to criticism about forming a new group?
Mhoie : Chill lang. Cool lang tayo, I bet they see the potential of this group kaya ganoon din sila mag-react.
Noel : I take it as a big challenge na lang.
Kath : Kailangan lang naman d'yan is makinig ng reasons kung bakit nabuo ang group eh.
Jer : Couldn't care less. We expected violent reactions from our former group, actually 'yan 'yung drawback in forming a new group. Meron talagang hindi makakaintindi, lalo na 'yung mga hindi naman alam ang buong istorya. 'Yung mga hindi naman alam ang nangyayari. In the end, we thought if that's the sacrifice we have to make, then we were more than willing to do it, because we know we're doing it for a very good reason and purpose. If people can't respect our decision, then that's not our fault. We move on, we're doing fine. And we're happy.
Katcen : Sa una parang nakakalungkot na malaman mo ang reactions ng iba't ibang tao, kasi 'di naman lahat ay nakakaalam ng whole story kung bakit nabuo ang group, kahit siguro ako 'pag member ng isang group and makita mo na 'yung mga friends mo eh gumawa ng new group, malulungkot din. Pero siyempre as individuals, we still have to respect kung ano man ang desisyon nila, lalo na kung ginawa nila for a better objective.
MJ : 'Wag na lang pansinin, take it as a challenge.
Jinn : I respond to criticism by not saying anything at all. Instead of being defensive and getting affected, let's just focus our attention on our group and get busy with activities.
4. What's your personal vision for Focus Bulacan?
Jinn : My vision for Focus is for the group to share and promote the art of photography not just to Bulakenyos but also in other parts of the country. To gain trust and respect of the local government when it comes to promoting tourism and the province of Bulacan as a whole.
Jer : For every Focus Bulacan member to improve in photography and be better persons. For the group to spread goodwill through photography. And for Focus to be instrumental in making photography be considered a field where Bulakenyos excel at.
Kath : 'Yung maipakilala ang Bulacan sa pamamagitan ng mga litrato na kuha ng bawat miyembro.
Noel : To be the most friendly and best-organized photography group in Bulacan.
MJ : Madagdagan ng members, thousands! Hahaha, sana! At makilala sa buong Pilipinas.
Katcen : I can foresee na magiging successful and Focus Bulacan sa objective ng group with regards to photography, maybe in a year or two makikilala na din ang group and 'yung mga members niya sa iba't ibang lugar as long as 'yung members and leaders eh magiging cooperative, dedicated and passionate all throughout.
Mhoie : I want Focus Bulacan to be recognized as one of the best photography group in Bulacan, 'yung tipong 'pag nalaman na Focus Bulacan member ka eh alam agad na magaling ka.
5. What would you like to tell Focus members and applicants?
MJ : Sa mga members, tratuhin natin ang isa't isa na matagal nang magkakaibigan, walang payabangan at walang inggitan, 'yan kasi napansin ko sa unang grupong sinalihan ko hahaha. Sa mga applicants, alam ko ang nararamdaman n'yo sa unang pagsama n'yo sa grupo, nahihiya, naiilang, ganyan din ako noong una. Basta lagi n'yo lang tandaan wala sa camera 'yan at wala din sa lente 'yan.
Mhoie : Welcome po kayong lahat sa Focus Bulacan! Wala sa amin 'yung kesyo newbie ka, amateur o professional. Lahat tayo dito barkada, lahat masaya, magtulungan tayo mag-improve ang bawat isa.
Jinn : First and foremost, I'd like to thank each and everyone for all your support and cooperation for the past 6 months. Your commitment and eagerness to make things work have inspired us to think of ways to improve the group. Cheers to all of our efforts and may this year be more fun and fruitful! To new members, welcome! Please don't hesitate to ask questions, we'd be happy to help.
Katcen : Para sa mga interested applicants and Focus members, basa lang tayo sa website kung ano 'yung requirements, duties and responsibilities ng Focus members. Remember to always read before you react, comment or ask anything. Tulong-tulong tayo para maging successful ang grupo and para maging beneficial tayo sa isa't isa.Give and take tayo lagi para masaya. Focus Bulacan is not just a group, it's also a family.
Noel : Focus Bulacan is not just a photography club, it is one big happy family. Pantay-pantay tayong lahat ng members para lahat tayo masaya.
Kath : Hi sa inyong lahat! Dito sa Focus Bulacan, ine-encourage ang bawat isa na matuto, mag-share ng knowledge at ipakita ang talento ng bawat isa. Open 'to sa lahat, para sa gusto pang mas matuto, at gusto pa lang matuto.
Jer : To Focus members, thank you for your cooperation and for making the group fun. We're doing our best to lead the group, but we know kung wala naman kayo, hindi rin magiging successful and ginagawa namin. The success of the group depends on both the leaders and members. We are happy to serve you. Tulungan lang tayo. For applicants and those who are thinking of joining Focus, you are all welcome. If you think you can be responsible members, we are more than happy to have you. And we hope to be your photography buddies. We're a happy family in Focus Bulacan.
After the short interview, the officers buckled down to business of planning and finalizing Focus Bulacan's activities. Together with the members, the group is definitely looking forward to a bigger and brighter 2014. Or, as they always like to say it...
Clearer. Sharper. Better.
Every month, we have a feature on our members, our photography idols, and other photography issues we feel deserve a heads-up.