Flash[back] Photography (Second of Two Parts)

by Rene Villaroman/AJPress

Joe Cobilla, Larry Pelayo and Sid Guerrero Come Together

During the mid-1990s, more community newspapers were being published, adding to an already burgeoning list of FilAm publications. Aside from the weekly California Examiner, Asian Journal, Philippines News, TM Herald, and TM Herald’s Weekend Magazine, Balita (originally owned by former Malacañang photographer Jolly Riofrir) and the monthly Manila-US Times, owned and edited by Johnny Pecayo, were also in the mix. Joe Cobilla, who was shooting part time for some of these publications, got together with Larry Pelayo, then the editor of Los Angeles Monitor. They met regularly at Sun Fah Restaurant on Sunset Blvd., in LA’s Echo Park section. To the strain of karaoke songs, the two hatched a press photographers group in anticipation of the Fil-Am community’s upcoming participation in the Tournament of Roses Parade. Joe reasoned that it was time to organize a press photographers’ organization in order beef up the coverage of the annual parade. In a few days, a third co-founder, Sid Guerrero, an avid amateur photographer and a prodigious collector of photographic equipment, would join Cobilla and Pelayo. In short order, the Philippine Press Photographers (PPP) was born. Joe claimed the title of founder and president, but on registering the PPP as a non-profit organization, it was Guerrero’s name that was listed as agent-in-process. So, technically, Guerrero “owned” the corporation. Joe had been fighting to regain rightful ownership of the PPP name, as well as the Miss PPP franchise. But so far, he had been unsuccessful in wresting the ownership from Guerrero. The PPP is still operating without a constitution and by-laws, more than a decade after it was founded.

The PPP forged ahead, picking up members days after it was organized. Scorpio was invited to join in 1997, in time to cover the PPP’s first Miss Press Photography Pageant held in the Bonaventure Hotel in L.A.that year. Cobilla was president, and because the club did not have a constitution and by-laws, he continued to serve in that position for five years. That tradition would be continued by Guerrero, who took over the helm of the PPP from Cobilla. He too would reign for five years. Scorpio, meanwhile, had been elected a second vice president, together with Dan Baltazar, a former Malacanang Palace Press Office cameraman, and presently a practicing commercial photographer, who was elected first vice president.

Scorpio, then already an experienced journalist and photographer, ascended to the presidency of PPP in October 2005, beating rival Baltazar by a large margin.

Historically, that election was a break in tradition, having been the first ever held in its almost ten-year existence. In September 2007, after nearly two years of a tumultuous administration, Scorpio announced that he would not seek another term, giving Baltazar an unimpeded quest for the presidency.

After irreconciliable differences with other PPP members, Scorpio decided to leave the PPP for good. When he asked Lamdagan his thoughts on how to stop the persistent mutation of FilAm photography clubs, he said: “I think – in my own personal perspective – there should be always a core, almost like the apostles. They will always be there. The second tier of membership – they are mostly going in and out, but the core group must stick to the mission,’ Lamdagan said. “If the organization knows clearly what its mission is; what we are meeting for here as colleagues; if we stick with that, then we will remain together,” Lamdagan said. “When we start deviating; that’s not our mission; that’s not why we get together,” Lamdagan added.

As recent as two weeks ago, there were overtures from PPP members to try to repair the split between the PPP and Photo-Reporters Guild, Inc., the organization founded by Scorpio at a historic meeting held at Tribal Café on December 29, 2007. Scorpio had informed the PPP leadership that his organization was willing to co-exist with the PPP and put a stop to the rivalry. “We are for reconciliation, but you can’t expect us to rejoin PPP,” Scorpio told PPP member Jimmy Hernandez and FAMEGATE Publisher and editor Thelma Calabio, who called a peace powwow the other week to try to patch things up between the two clubs.


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