September 2022

Finding Peace At The Vogue Philippines Maiden Issue Ocular

Vogue Philippines‘ fashion associate Renee De Guzman on traveling to some of the country’s most isolated islands in preparation for the maiden issue cover shoot.

It was the end of May. The nascent Vogue Philippines team had high hopes for the cover story—shooting in Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. In the weeks leading up to it, the dream felt like a long shot, especially since it required traversing through some of the most remote places around the country. It was tough, we learned, but not impossible.

Several conversations later, I found myself on a sunrise flight with my teammate and, immediately after, on a boat to the first of many shoot locations: down south at Bucas Grande, Socorro. It was an ocular, to be sure, but it marked the beginning of a nerve-wracking month-long countdown towards the actual shoot. As an avid traveler who has often celebrated the beauty of the Philippines, I didn’t expect to still be stunned by the location. But as we discovered this untouched gem in the south, the crystal waters and limestone islets were just incredible. We explored every possible location in the area from the Tojoman Lagoon, the deepest lake in the archipelago, to the Sohoton Caves. We even mingled with the stingless jellyfishes. 

The fashion stylist in me, however, was all business. I visualized everything and always had lingering questions. Where do I bring the team? Is this a good location for the maiden issue? Which clothes would work best here? Though I tried my best to have fun, my brain was always piecing together which look worked with which backdrop.

Back at the lodging, there was a corner filled with stones of different shapes and sizes. It was a favorite location of mine—overlooking the horizon and the Bucas Grande scenery. Little did I know that a month later, it would become the same backdrop of Vogue Philippines’ debut cover. 

A day later, we made our way up to Visayas by land and sea. A 21-hour long journey to be exact. We rode almost every mode of transportation: boat, van, tricycle, ferry, bus, car, and habal-habal.

At around 3 A.M., I recall making a quick stop to have some noodles and warm coffee. Before dawn hit, we were greeted by the Milky Way seen with our naked eye. Seeing shooting stars and being one with nature, I knew for a fact we were on the right path. I felt a sense of comfort knowing that the stars were aligning—both literally and figuratively. I was able to breathe a little bit deeper. 

Arriving at our destined location, Biri Island was another visual treat. It felt like I was in a different principality because the landscapes were completely different from what we Filipinos have been used to. Everything was breathtaking—the mangrove forests, varied rock formations, and the hues of the Pacific Ocean glistening in the sun. On the way back, we finally called it a day, grabbed our buko juice, indulged in some filipino food, and basked in our nervous excitement for when we’d return for the cover shoot. 

With everything set in stone and the ocular finished, including which areas I thought were best for our cover star Chloe Magno to take photographs at, all that was left was to bring the whole team on this amazing adventure of cuisine, landscapes, the Filipino spirit, and a celebration of fashion—all of these for the maiden issue. Below, my quiet and secret journey in some of the most remote islands of the country in a series of photographs.

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