It’s been over a week already since The Firestarter Workshop, and I’m still at a loss for words. There’s just so much I want to say, I don’t know where to begin. Jeff and I are self-confessed introverts. We’re great at relating with clients because, well, that’s a big part of what we do. But on regular days, we are most comfortable when it’s just us, with our son, or by our respective selves. I can go for days without talking to other people, to be honest. So days before each Firestarter, I always get stressed, and I wonder why we inflict these public speaking anxieties upon ourselves when we can just choose not to. And both times, we were met with an incredible bunch of students, and I am reminded of every single reason why we do this.
Most of our students have already shared their work online. I’ve already shared some of their work over at our Facebook page. A lot of them are professional wedding photographers already. Some are just starting out, and some are just in it for fun. Enshong Miranda came all the way from Mindanao. He decided to quit professional photography last month. My heart is happy that we were able to change his mind. Eric Santos of Caslow Photography was one of the first to email us after the first Firestarter, asking when the next one was going to be. I read his blog post in the car, on the way to a shoot, and cried. Burtz Rolian flew in from Cebu. He’s one of the funniest people I have ever met, and I always smile when I see his name. Lianne Bacorro is a lawyer who loves music and traveling, and she ran her first half-marathon that same weekend, too. Kate dela Cruz is a news executive who calls herself the bridesmaid with a camera. April Cabigao-Pulido was a W@Wie who recently got married and is starting to shoot weddings with her husband. Rich Martinez traveled all the way from Baguio to join us, and he wrote about Firestarter as his very first blog post. Lloyed Valenzuela also flew in from Cebu. He has left comments on this blog a couple of times before so I was already familiar with his work. It was great to finally meet him in person. Nikk and Aia were the first couple to join Firestarter. Aia was the very first one to openly cry at our workshop. I couldn’t look at her directly because I would’ve cried, too. It would’ve taken forever for me to stop if I started.
They’ve all said so many wonderful, heartwarming things even before the workshop ended, and reading about their experiences has been like this massive giant group hug. It’s so much feel-good, I don’t know what to do with myself. Thank you for coming and being a part of our stories, our lives.
We had Jason Magbanua join us again as a guest speaker on branding. There was a general feeling of awe amongst the students. So many pictures were taken. I have to say it’s pretty awesome watching him command an entire room. Benz Co-Rana of Weddings@Work spoke about what brides these days are looking for and how to make a brand that will stand the test of time. I know she was nervous about giving a talk, which makes it even more special that she did it, and like I knew it would be, it was perfect. Weddings@Work has played such a big role in our lives, and it will continue to do so for many, many more. Nelwin Uy gave a talk on destination weddings and shared so much more than we had hoped for. He’s having his second XOXO wedding photography workshop this July, and I’m excited for our students who will be joining him then, too. We’ve learned a lot from these three people over the years, and it was really, really great to have them there with us.
The dress was custom-made by Veluz. I love Veluz’s work for many, many reasons. She has a distinct voice that is all her own. When I see a dress of hers, I know it’s hers right away. She designs so many dresses for so many brides, but they suit each bride’s personality perfectly. Her craftsmanship is impeccable; the fit and attention to detail always blows me away. And above all that, so much love and so much of her goes into her work. This is what resonates with me the most. That is also what Jeff and I try to do with ours. Even for a little workshop like ours, she makes sure that everything is perfect. And being who she is, and knowing how much I love her, she still cares enough to ask if I liked the dress. Oh my god, I LOVE the dress. That dress was so beautiful, I seriously did not want to stop shooting.
Paolo and Katrina were our models for the shoot. They’re a real couple, and they’re getting married this December. We met them just a couple of days before the weekend. Kat is a full-time pastry chef, and Paolo is in IT. They’re young enough that they don’t know who Basti of Wolfgang is. I like to think Jeff and I are still young, but that made us feel rather old. Haha. Anyway, they’re adorable together. Veluz has been dressing Kat since she was 12. Her mom was one of Veluz’s very first clients. I love that story. I love the history there. Kat’s no stranger to modeling, having modeled for Veluz’s RTW line already, but Paolo was a little bit shy. I appreciated that he was all in anyway. And I noticed how he was only visibly nervous when they were being shot separately, but when we put them back together, I could literally see him relax and actually enjoy himself. And I, being the sap that I am, filed that away as one of my favorite memories from that shoot. Paolo and Kat, it was a treat shooting you! Kat, you are an incredibly sweet bride, and I apologize for the many hugs. Haha. I am so, so happy for you both.
Fozzy Castro-Dayrit designed the new Firestarter logo, and I am just so in love with it, it’s unreal. I wanted to stamp everything with it. She designed the certificates and wrote everyone’s names in exquisite calligraphy. Dylan Gozum of Vatel Manila made the beautiful cascade bouquet, which remained unnamed this time around. (The last one was nicknamed “Bob” by Fozzy, who was the first Firestarter bride.) Kat loved it and said she was having something like it for their wedding. Dylan was the very first person I pitched the idea of Firestarter to, way back in July or August last year. Chichi Sotomil did Kat’s lovely hair and makeup. Her schedule freed up just a week or two before, thankfully, and she was able to join us again. The pretty red shoes were from Sugarfree Shoes. We had a bit of a suit crisis days before the workshop, and Feliz of Lifestyle by Feliz came to our rescue. Even her husband, photographer Jayjay Lucas, helped us look for a suit. And we had the workshop again at the Rizal Boardroom of The Peninsula Manila. Stepping back into the boardroom last March 15 felt like coming home.
Jeff and I made some things to give away to our students. Here are some photos from my Instagram feed. We love, love, love handmade things. I’ve gotten a bit into crafting, although I haven’t had much time for it since wedding season happened. And I have an Etsy “habit”. That’s where I got the wooden tags from. We packaged our collateral in burlap sacks, twine, parchment paper, and lace. Most of it was printed on cotton paper. We got some kraft notebooks for them to write notes on. We also made postcards out of a series of photos that we especially love and printed them on fine art paper which I personally cut myself.
So much love goes into Firestarter. Not just ours, but everybody who has so generously given themselves to this. That’s what everything boils down to, really. Why we do the work we do, why we teach, why we do everything in our lives… very simply, we do it for the sheer love of it and the meaning we find in it. Who Jeff and I are, what we love, and what we do are inseparable. This is how we distinguish between merely making a living and building a life.
At the workshop, we say, ‘Put what you love out there, so what you love will find you.’ In the process of teaching these two batches of Firestarter, we have shared our stories and our lives. We have managed to put something out there that was borne out of love, a little dream, a lot of courage, and a bit of luck. And in doing this, we have gotten so much more in return: a deeper appreciation for the work that we do and this little life we have made for ourselves, the fulfillment we have found in sharing what we know, and being surrounded by all these unbelievably amazing people. Thank you to everyone who helped, attended, and shared in our joy. You inspire us.
Here are some of our photos from the shoot that weekend. Have a blessed Easter, everyone.