Vogue Philippines’ Maiden Issue was the trip of a lifetime.
After a long day shooting the first cover of Vogue Philippines, Sharif Hamza and Chloe Magno found themselves reminiscing about their favorite Filipino desserts. While admiring their Visayan location, the two half-Filipino New Yorkers bonded over their love of halo-halo and banana cue.
Both Hamza and Magno, photographer and model respectively of the 34-page fashion spread, haven’t had the snack staples in quite some time. Thankfully, the tour guide assigned to the production crew, Nanay Mel, generously took it upon herself to make the sweet treats.
“[Nanay Mel] even brought it to the middle of our shoot to one of our layouts on a cliff. We [are] so far from the main camp and here she comes with halo-halo and banana cue,” fashion director Pam Quiñones recalls. “We were so happy.”
Thankfully, there were more than a handful pockets of kindness like this over the shooting week, bringing joy to the demanding feat of producing a historic cover to life. The idea was simple enough: showcase the natural beauty of the Philippines while accurately representing each region.“ What was really important was to be able to photograph the islands in Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao in one shoot, because I don’t think that’s ever been done before in a magazine,” Quiñones says. “That was a crazy first.”
The team went from Bucas Grande in Mindanao, Biri Island in Visayas, and Tinipak River in Luzon. Getting to each place took half a day, and included small planes, tiny boats, and physically-demanding landscapes. But with destinations tucked in the remotest of islands, what transpired was a physically and mentally rigorous excursion to get the shots. And, along with it, some of the most joyous and memorable moments for everyone.
“I have never gone on a shoot this long [nor] done a cover shoot for a magazine that spanned three different islands, where we had to wake up really early every day [at three or four in the morning] to catch the morning light,” Quiñones shares.
Transporting the clothes over land and sea also proved to be challenging, particularly because of the unpredictable weather. “In the first two locations, Pam and I were ready to get wet,” fashion associate Renee De Guzman says. “We were styling in the middle of [waist deep and sometimes deeper] water, making sure the dresses flowed properly.”
At one point, Magno had to swim to Biri’s imposing rock formations during high tide, gingerly climbing up the sharp, slippery terrain. (Of course, the crew made sure to keep the model safe.) The last location was especially taxing, and everyone had to go through a challenging trek to Tinipak River, lugging around heavy equipment and luggage.
Despite these hardships, the archipelago’s seemingly unending natural beauty provided a respite. From Biri, the perfect cone shape of the Mayon Volcano, almost 100 kilometers away, could be seen. At Bucas Grande’s secluded lagoon, the team was welcomed by a smack of stingless jellyfish, and even got to play with and hold them.
Apart from Nanay Mel, there were many other friendly faces and helping hands. “The people there really just wanted to help, especially us visitors. They treated us like friends or family and assisted us with whatever we needed,” producer Anz Hizon recalls. “It was those small things that made the experience more memorable.”
Vogue Philippines editor-in-chief Bea Valdes says that when they started, the whole idea was to lead with the title’s values of diversity, inclusivity, and sustainability, while championing craftsmanship. “We also wanted to invoke Bayanihan, malasakit,” she says. “And that was showered upon us by the locals.”
For example, when Hamza needed smoke for some of the layouts, the locals didn’t hesitate to help collect flammable items like coconut husks and leaves. “When we wanted the kids in the area [to participate], we’d ask their parents if it was okay, and they would be happy to join in,” Hizon adds. “In one area, we found a basketball court and asked if it was okay for us to shoot while [the locals] played, and they were game. Our work was so much easier because everyone was really friendly.”
At the end of each day, when the fading light prevented them from shooting any further, Quiñones says that the crew would come together like every other Filipino and every other corner of the country.
“The whole team would sit together with beer, sinigang, adobo, kinilaw, and just talk about the day, talk about life,” she says. “We were showcasing the beauty of the provinces but at the same time living it with the rest of the team every day.”
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