Over a week ago, I saw this post in Instagram from the BJ Pascual promoting “Stories Under The Tree”. I got curious and checked what it was, and I learned that it is a small gathering of like-minded people, who wants to be inspired, hosted by the Ito Kish! Yes, emphasis on “the” since these people are established and respected in their fields, and of course, I’m a fan of BJ, so I was really interested in joining.
To be a part of it, you had to post a picture of yourself under a tree with a brief story about yourself in the caption, thus “Stories Under The Tree”, a bit cheeky, but hey, it’s a great idea! I was excited, scheduled a “photoshoot” in my university and composed a short but heartwarming caption so I can catch the attention of the organizers, so I can join. And alas, I received a notification, meaning it is one step closer in meeting BJ and Ito. Plus, I got to drag my cousin with me so I wouldn’t be alone, someone to accompany me and take my pictures. *wink*
So the glorious day has come, September 17, and I had to miss my mom’s birthday just to be in this once in a lifetime event! Haha! I live in Caloocan and the event is in Ito Kish’s showroom in Makati. I was expecting a travel time of about an hour, yet I was all wrong and we were so late we missed Ito’s talk and BJ was already starting. Plus I left my ID at home so I had this dilemma if I was gonna be allowed inside. I thought my heart was gonna break but the kind-hearted personnel in the showroom let me in, it was a relief. I was thankful!
Inside the showroom of Ito Kish, was a huge wonder! Amazing furniture, decors
and art! I wanted to be lost in amazement as I followed the trail to BJ Pascual’s voice, but I remembered I had to focus. And then, I saw Ito Kish and BJ Pascual. Sir Ito was sitting and listening to BJ and he offered me his chair. I was kinda shy, but he insisted me to sit down, he was really nice and hospitable. So then my gaze went to BJ and I was really starstruck. He was wearing a blue top, which looks good on him, he also constantly fixes his hair, and he can be seen under a “tree”-like plant, telling a “story under a tree”. It was all mixed emotions, I was late then Ito Kish gave me his seat and I’m listening now to BJ Pascual. It was surreal. People may say I’m overreacting, but in the state of my life, this rarely happens, and I was very excited. I see people recording videos, taking pictures of BJ, I see people listening attentively and nodding, and I see myself lost in this awesomeness happening in just a small amount of time. But then I had to focus and remember why I came, to be inspired.
I’ll be honest, I wasn’t really able to get much details since we were late, but I remember BJ saying he started as a stylist and he worked first in Meg Magazine. I hope I’m right in this. He then told us that his works as a photographer started small, literally small pictures in a magazine, and that his grandparents would mock him why his part is so small. He’s cool, it was nice how he could laugh at his beginnings, makes me feel that he’s not ashamed that he started small. He then started telling us about the time he studied in New York, then went back to the Philippines to pursue his career. He said that he didn’t have a job and thought that he would have since he studied abroad, which one listener mentioned that it is a common misconception that it’s an advantage when you study abroad. Well yes it is, but it doesn’t determine that if you did study abroad it equates to success. International experiences are an edge, but aren’t a determinant of success.
When he was trying to look for work, BJ said that his motto was “kailangan magpatunay“, that we all have to constantly prove ourselves. With this mantra, he started being referred to different publications and assisting other photographers. He had a sturdy background, but along the way, he was still learning, and this became a good foundation for him, endless learning. Then he said that his big break was the series of small steps he had, it wasn’t easy for him but his small successes mattered for him, as if each of them was really his big break. These small steps defined him, molded him and made him the BJ Pascual he is today.
To end his talk, he told us “…if an opportunity is given , even if you are not ready, make yourself ready”. It struck me a lot. I feel that this year is a year of endless opportunities, and yes there are times that I feel that I am not ready or that it might not be for me, but I learned that I should just grab opportunities as much as I can because you will never know what you’re missing until you try. BJ was driven, he had a goal, small goals actually. And when he will look back, he will see that those small goals helped him achieve big. So in conclusion, he said 2 important things in being driven, start with small goals and have pessimistic grandparents, they will definitely drive you to be in greater things.
After his talk, we were given a chance to ask questions. I was rattled because I wanted to ask a lot but we have so little time. I forgot to listen to the first guy who asked since I am busy composing a question, where I can really benefit a lot. They were saying complex and technical stuff that I am not familiar. When it was my chance, I raised my hand. I told BJ “hello”, and I smiled at him, he smiled back. I told him I came to be inspired, so I asked him, when was the last time he felt that he wanted to give up. Well, it seems I caught him off guard and he though “wow”, and everyone laughed, as BJ was surprised and thinking hard. But he mentioned that the first time was when he came back from New York and he didn’t have a job, then it fueled him to do better, but he doesn’t really remember the last time he wanted to give up, but he normally thinks of it especially when he’s working on something really hard where he doesn’t get enough sleep. He said his friends keep him motivated and accompanies him while working, which is something similar with me I guess. Haha. He also said that at the point of giving up, he just thinks of people who sees him as an inspiration and gives him the drive to strive harder. Then I asked a follow-up just to make the most of the time I have with him. I asked him, “which would you prefer, stress or pressure?”, he then told me , with a smile, that I can be a showbiz reporter with my questions (haha), and everybody laughed. He answered “pressure with stress”, getting more laughs from the crowd, he said that he works under pressure but with stress added, he works the best! I was amazed actually because I would just prefer stress, but with this guy with a lot of experience, this is definitely an eye-opener.
He also discussed issues with using photoshop, that it is a common misconception that photo editing is a taboo. But he intelligently answered that photo editing is more than just removing flaws, rather it is for photo enhancement, lighting and coloring, and that he makes most of the edits in his camera. He was also asked who does he wanna work with to say that he finally made it, that he can say “This is it!”. He excitedly answered Vogue, may it be Vogue Korea or Vogue Brazil. He said that it is his dream, or every photographer’s dream. I’d be looking forward to that, and with the path he’s taking, I’m sure it’s gonna happen real real soon.
As much as I want it to last forever, the talk ended and sir Ito Kish gave us a chance to have a photo-op with him. People were rushing to him asking to take pictures and sign their magazines. It was a bummer I didn’t bring anything to have it signed by BJ. People were energetic and excited to get a close interaction with him, I was, too. I see he’s already tired but he’s still eager to accommodate everyone. Grace under pressure (with stress) I suppose. When it was my chance, we shook hands and I introduced myself hoping he would remember me (I wish he did), with a lasting impression. We took full body pictures and selfies, with him maneuvering my phone. I also got a chance to have him make a video greeting for my mom’s birthday (so I can make it up to my mom for being absent haha). I also had the chance to take a picture with Ito Kish, he was really kind and gentle.
It was heartbreaking to leave the showroom. I met amazing people, heard inspiring stories and made memories I won’t forget. I’m looking forward for a second part, I will make sure that I will make it and I’ll be on time. I’m also hoping BJ Pascual would remember me, in spite of meting a lot of people everyday, and of course Mr. Ito Kish. And yes, I also look forward to use the knowledge I acquired to be successful just like them, that in any bumps in life I shouldn’t give up easily, rather I should find that driving force, the core that will support and inspire me up to my last breath, so that I could then tell my story under the tree.