I can still remember the first time we decided to shoot a Miss Cebu event. We knew we couldn’t compete with the professional photographers who camped in front of the stage. With their giant lenses and expensive cameras, they would literally take picture perfect shots of everything happening on the platform. All the beautiful dresses, the dances through the lights and the walks towards the crowd, they would capture all that. If we did the same thing and camped beside them, we wouldn’t be able to capture the same moments. Frankly, it wouldn’t be as fun too.
Somewhere along my photography education, I stumbled on to the work of Shawn Brackbill. His unique style in capturing events spoke to my sensibilities. I loved his work. When you look at his photos from events like New York Fashion Week, you get a sense that you were there beside him as he clicked the shutter. Although I’ll never be able to shoot like him, his style was worth emulating for Miss Cebu.
Since then, we decided to poke our heads backstage and take photos of what happens in the shadows. Behind the glamour, the dance numbers and the bright lights, there are plenty of moments that show the grit needed to join a prestigious pageant like Miss Cebu. Off stage, you get a sense of just how much pressure these girls have to endure. From getting rushed to the dressing room for a quick outfit change to the nervousness they endure from standing in front of hundreds of people, they have to do all this and look amazing at the same time.
Photography-wise, the stage setup this year was particularly difficult. Backstage is always dark. The challenge lies in finding the moments with just the right amount of light. Usually we can rely on a glint of light to hit certain spots backstage. This year, the light backstage was a dull hue. You could see fine, but the cameras struggled mightily to cope with the darkness. No hints of bright lights to help them capture photographs. This isn’t a dig against the production and the crew. They did a great job. They shouldn’t care about two backstage photographers. And that’s exactly how we like it.
The vibe backstage was tense, but the Miss Cebu 2016 contestants all had a good sense of comradery. Right before the pageant started, they huddled together, pumping each other up and giving each other encouragement. The Miss Cebu 2016 winner Gabriele Raine Baljak was one of the nicest contestants. I felt like she went out of her way to make sure she was accommodating to everyone backstage. In a sense, she was “on” throughout the whole pageant. Off stage and on stage, she was on top of her game. A truly deserving win.
Miss Cebu 2016 results:
Winner – Gabriele Raine Baljak
1st runner-up Tracy Maureen Perez
2nd runner-up Shaila Mae Rebortera
3rd runner-up Merl Gayo
4th runner-up Felina Joyce Lim
Behind the scene photos:
*Photos by Jason Almendras and Carlo Villarica