[Father’s Day] Shutterbug ‘tatay’

Angelica Carballo
How does a freelance father take care of his family? A loving wife tells us.

A NORMAL ARRANGEMENT. Leica the baby and Leica the camera being carried by Buck. Photo from Angelica Caballo

MANILA, Philippines – While it is true that most fathers are interested in cameras, only a handful of children are lucky enough to have a professional photographer as father. 

My children are among those lucky handfuls. My husband Buck Pago is a freelance documentary photographer. He documents social ills and strengths, in the same way and with the same eye that he documents our family’s daily life.

Two births, no pictures

Ironically, both our children never had the privilege of having their first moments in this world documented.

With Leica, who we named after Buck’s cameras, I went to the hospital and gave birth alone. Two years later, hospital regulations did not permit him to go inside the delivery room and document Boris’ coming out party. Both kids’ first photos were taken by photographically-untrained nurses using mobile phone cameras.

CELLPHONE PHOTO BY WIFEY. Buck marvels at his new baby Boris. Photo by Angelica Caballo

But that was the only time my kids were free from their tatay’s (father’s) camera; not a day would pass that our kids will not be photographed.

Their first smiles, first tooth, first steps, first diaper changes… are all well documented. Part of our “assets” are terabytes of photos, both digital and scanned films, of our family — Yaya Gigie included.

Yes, my kids have a fighting chance to the “World’s Most Photographed Children” award, thanks to Buck.

Not enough but always enough

As with all freelancers, there are days of plenty and days of want. In our family’s case, both Buck and I are freelancers.

I’d like to believe that part of our success as a young family can be attributed to the fact that we accept this fact. At 3 years old, our daughter Leica knows that there are days when we can buy her toys and there are days when we can only serve her tuyo for dinner. There are times when she’d ask, “Mama, may pera ba tayo? (Mama, do we have money?)” before she asks us to buy her something. We also plan to have the same talks with our year-old son Boris.

In our 4 years together, Buck and I have already learned — even mastered — the art of ignoring the things we cannot have, at least for the moment that we cannot afford it.

Buck doesn’t smoke, and drinking beer is more of a gastronomic and social experience than a vice. All our income goes to household expenses, the education of our children (Leica is in nursery, while Boris is a Kindermusik scholar), bicycles (another hobby of his) and cameras.

BORIS, MEET THE MIRROR. Buck introduces Boris to himself. Photo by Angelica Caballo

Some wives may get angry at the sight of cameras and lenses scattered around the house. In my case, I have not only gotten used to it, but we even discuss what camera and lens to buy and, of course, if we have money to buy them. 

But this was not always so. During our first year together, I would often question why he needed to have this and that camera. But I have noticed in the years that we’ve been together that Boris has this strategy of letting me try his stuff and getting me hooked. 

After I gave birth to Leica, he gave me a camera and taught me how to take pictures. He taught me how to look at pictures and how to appreciate them, and how to celebrate the ecstasy of capturing a moment that is forever gone.

As a result, I am now also a photographer who has published and exhibited photos here and there.

But Buck still has the better portfolio, of course.

SHOOT LEICA WITH LEICA. Two-day-old Leica's diaper change, taken by Buck with his Leica camera

My missing piece

The fact that my father, who abandoned us when we were young, was also a photographer, made me realize the things I missed in my childhood. Watching Buck take photos of our family is like watching my father and the things he should have done.  

Both Buck and I come from broken families, and we know how difficult it is to be part of one. So we exert extra effort to make our children feel loved.

But for Leica, no other man will be greater than her father. A great meal can only be cooked by tatay, her toys and clothes could only have been bought by tatay, her bike could only have been fixed by tatay and no pictures can be better than the ones taken by tatay.

In short, Leica is your typical daddy’s girl. It was only when she turned two last year that I became visible to her, and I believe it was also the time she finally came to terms that I exist. 

Until now, Leica still sleeps beside her tatay, while I sleep on the other side of the bed. Leica wants to be a photographer, a biker, a cook, a musician, all because she sees her tatay do these things.

OFFICIAL FAMILY PHOTO taken by Candice Reyes

Buck might wear a hundred hats, from being a photographer to being bassist of the rock band The Woah Oh Woahs, from being a biker to being the best goddamn cook this side of the earth…

…but he is best when he is being a husband to me and a father to our children. – Rappler.com

(THANK YOU for all the Father’s Day blogs you have sent — and still continue to send — to us. While we may not be able to publish all of them tomorrow to make way for other Life & Style stories, please know that we will still publish stories until Father’s Day month ends. 

Please join us tomorrow, 3 PM, @rapplerdotcom #loveyoudad, and tell us about your Father’s Day lunch or your plans for Father’s Day dinner. Let’s celebrate together. Again, thank you for your support!)

Click on the links below for more Father’s Day stories.