One to follow: Russel Villena, photographer/Instagrammer


It all started on a rainy afternoon in a chilly room where junk crafted into art were up for exhibition. A photographer friend introduces a millennial artist on Instagram. I am not on Instagram like I am notorious for not owning a cellphone, but there’s a mutual interest that will make the self-confessed self-taught photographer and me oblivious to time. His unfeigned laughter calls out to be dissected.

Russel Villena, 22, says, “I shapeshift between mobile and DSLR photography. I’m a visual person, so photography holds a very special place in my heart. My camera phone which I use now is a prize from a Twitter caption making contest sponsored by Nokia (Microsoft). An average income family has other priorities. Baby steps are the hardest. I want to know and learn more, so that I could share more to people, but for me to do that, I need to be able to stand on my own first.”

photo by russel villenaphoto by russel villena


What is your occupation?
I am a nurse by profession. It might seem incongruent with photography, but I originally wanted to go to art school. Unfortunately my parents couldn’t send me, so I took nursing in my hopes I could earn and save money when I become a nurse, and I’ll be able to send myself again to school to take up what I really want. As of now, my degree can’t even financially secure me, not even enough to feed myself. But I needed to channel out my aspiration for art and creativity, hence the photos. Presently, I do volunteer nursing work at our Rural Health Unit in Batac. And every Saturday, along with other artists, we do an Art Show and Tell where I show some of my photos and encourage kids to grow their art especially to do mobile photography.

Yes, I think it’s true, once an artist, always an artist. I heard you have more than 10,000 followers on Instagram, congrats! What is on your feed?
Most of my photos are generally taken around my hometown [Batac] or during a bike ride. It focuses on everyday scenery and things that people usually neglect. In my own little way, I try to give life to them. I started my Instagram with my chasing the sun series. As I said in a previous Instagram post, “Anything fancy that fits in a square is in my gram. But most of the time the only thing fancy in our place is the sun and the sky.” As an aspiring artist, I always have the urge to grow and be diverse. And I usually don’t confine myself into a box or a style. And then the Double Exposure and Magnifying Glass photos came. On a side note, I don’t want people thinking that follower count or likes matter. What matters is that every artist should express himself.

Photo by Russel Villena (4)

What is it about the social network that you love?
It is a community. It’s supportive and evaluative, and the people are so encouraging. And uploading photos in the app doesn’t require much complexity and data usage. It only uploads a light file of the original resolution which fits well the budget because we didn’t have WiFi connection when I was new.

What is your most used app?
The Camera app. Being into mobile photography eats 80% of my battery. Next on the list is OneNote… Instagram.

What is inside your bag now?
This is my little bag [a crossbody bag] which I usually bring especially when I go out taking photos. Inside are 2 phones (but sometimes I have 3), a magnifying glass, a portable tripod, a water tumbler (so costly to buy and to reduce usage of plastic), an umbrella, a wallet for IDs, a coin purse, and headphones (just in case I’ll need my own space).

Photo by Russel Villena (6)

The outdoors or swanky rooms?
The outdoors please. I’m the person who is usually out and about itching for adventures. Some of my favorite hashtags include #NatureAddict #ExploreEverything #WildernessCulture. But I wouldn’t mind swanky rooms, hahaha, googling swanky. Hmm… if something requires being inside then why not.

Your best photography moment?
Being featured in your blog. That’s worthy of a mention. Mmmm, I guess other than that, I’ll always treasure what happened last year. I was given the opportunity to do a photo exhibit. The curator came to discover my Instagram account. As someone who doesn’t have the means to do an exhibit, I actually asked some of my Instagram friends for financial support. Did a crowdfunding campaign. It was overwhelming that people believed in me, my photos, my goals. These are people whom I’ve never met personally. Some were not able to help financially, but they helped with the campaign. It moved me as a person and as an artist.

Thank you. Do you get inspired by other photographers?
We are all influenced and inspired by a lot of things. And we are all products of it all. That actually explains my bio on Instagram, “Instagram taught, Internet raised.” I owe a lot of inspiration dusts to the creative people on Instagram. That’s why I’ve been sharing to everyone the app, so they could be inspired there the way I was. I also want to return the favor to my fellow people, perhaps inspire them, especially the youth and those who do not have access to the internet.

Photo by Russel Villena (5)Photo by Russel Villena (2)Photo by Russel Villena (7)

What hours of the day do you work best for your photography?
I prefer the early morning hours. I usually pretend I live somewhere else and there’s fog everywhere even if there’s none. But when it comes to brainstorming, sorting stuff out or getting things done, late afternoon and evening are usually the best.

The moment you click the shutter, you own copyright to your work, how do you protect your work?
Digital age has made everything faster, including stealing someone else’s work. Others might be able to steal, but it is the photographer who owns the essence of the work. I think creators and viewers alike should uplift a culture of respect among each other. People will only be able to understand if they put themselves in a situation where — you create something and another person takes the credit for it.

Where do you think creativity ends?
I think creativity ends when people become close-minded. When they start limiting themselves.

Photo by Russel Villena (8)

What’s the most outrageous thing you ever captured?
That’s a bit hard to answer. Can we revise the question to What’s the most outrageous thing I’ve ever done for a photo? Hahaha! There was this one themed photo project on Instagram and the theme that week was glitter. I glittered a lot of stuff from fruits, to my magnifying glass and even both of my hands. Transferring helium balloons all the way from Batac poblacion area to far farm areas with a Korean bike. Bringing a rubber ducky to Anuplig Falls, does that count?

Hahaha! What’s your dream project?
Oh, I think underwater photography with some models wearing fancy dresses would be so dope. Shoot something with a drone, shoot for a cover of a magazine or if not have my own little book with some of my photos and my thoughts on art and photography.

Photo by Russel Villena (3)Photo by Russel Villena

All images courtesy of Russel Andrew Villena @rahrarussel +63 926 9336868

© Blauearth™ All Rights Reserved 2009-2015

Edmaration vs BlauEarth | Make empanada, not war

Vigan Empanada

Opposite poles attract, I hit it off right away with Edmar Guquib, the blogger from Vigan, Ilocos Sur. We had the honor to tape (guest) for FoodPrints with Chef Sandy Daza in Ilocos Sur (still to be aired this May on the Lifestyle Network). Of course, an Ilocos Sur experience is not the same without the Vigan empanada, just like Ilocos Norte is not complete without the Batac, or Laoag, empanada. According to Bigueños, the yellow Vigan empanada traces its roots to tacos, introduced by the Mexicans during the Manila-Acapulco Galleon Trade, while the Batac empanada, according to Nana Glory Cocson of Glory’s Empanada, her very own empanada creation inspired all the other orange empanandas in Ilocos Norte. Edmar and I both agree, each empanada is different from the other.

FoodPrints Ilocos Sur BTS

BlauEarth deconstructs Edmar Guquib aka Edmaration.

What is Edmaration all about?
Edmaration is a fusion for Edmar and admiration, a name coined by an old friend of mine when I was in college. I thought the name is cool and unique, so I used it to watermark my then photos uploaded on the now defunct social networking site Friendster. College friends started to call me Edmaration. I also used it to name my first ever blog, Edmaration. No longer about my college life, the name Edmaration is all about my blog now. Everytime people call me Edmaration, they are referring to the blogger in me and the blog they read. Edmaration is a travel blog I created to pen down my first motorbike adventures with my brother. However, I discovered later on that travel is a very broad realm, so it was hard to ignore the other wonderful experiences traveling could give like culture, heritage, food and people to name a few. Through Edmaration, I am able to share my stories, insights and my take on anything related to traveling.

What do you do apart from blogging?
I am a full-time nurse assigned to the Emergency Room and Outpatient Department. I also work in the Operating Room though it is not a part of my official designation. If I’m not in the hospital, you’ll see me singing videoke, traveling leisurely or eating empanada in Plaza Burgos.

Vigan empanada and okoy

I’m also a nurse. You’re The Town Explorer, how many miles have you traveled on your bike?
I measure qualitatively how far I’ve traveled. The travel memorabilia and souvenir shirts in my closet, as well as the scars, sun burn and skin abrasions I’ve earned show how far I’ve traveled in the name of adventure. The countless memories and thousands of photographs I’ve taken remind me that I’ve walked, trekked, ran, hiked, flew, sailed and road-tripped far and beyond.

How often do you post?
I don’t maintain a regular set of posts within a time period. There were months that I can publish 13-16 entries in 4 weeks time. Sometimes I don’t write at all. October 2014 to February 2015 was a major blogging hiatus of mine when I didn’t publish new articles due to personal reasons. However, I’m more than happy that I’m back in the blogosphere and I am aiming to post a minimum of two articles weekly. So help me God.

FoodPrints Ilocos Sur BTSFoodPrints Ilocos Sur with Chef Sandy Daza (photo with Edmaration)

Travel or food?
I consider travel to be very broad, so it can be narrowed down to subcategories. I don’t find traveling complete without trying and discovering the local food. It can represent a culture, a group of people or the destination itself.

Describe your hometown of Vigan
My hometown is indescribable. Though not perfect, it is a place that nurtures its citizens through culture and heritage, both the seen and the unseen. We Bigueños take pride in our culture and heritage. It is also culture and heritage that binds as together. While trying to preserve our heritage, the city, in return, has given us the opportunity to live, grow and succeed in a peaceful, culturally-rich community that stays strong and intact. The well-preserved ancestral houses are living testimonies that the citizens of Vigan care so much of the wisdom of our ancestors and the good values they wanted us and the next generations to have.

What to you is the best part of blogging?
The best part of blogging is when one day you wake up and your family, friends and your community are already very proud of you, regardless of your social status, and they realize you are a kickass blogger using your influence to spread hope, inspiration and… wait, uhm, world peace!

Selfie with Edmaration (photo by Edmaration)Lampong (photo by Ali Co-CallejaAt Calle Crisologo with Edmaration

FoodPrints BTS photos by Edmar Guquib, Alina Co-Calleja, Melanie de Leon and BlauEarth
© Blauearth™ All Rights Reserved 2009-2015

On spotlight: Baby Pat ensaymadas like no other

Ensaymadas like no other!

Without doubt, Greater Manila is the ultimate melting pot of wonderful flavors. Part of the bests of the bests will remain secret to us in the provinces.


With all the stars brought down from heavenly kitchens to enliven Chef Sandy Daza’s table for the FoodPrints Christmas Special (airing soon), it was difficult to choose which star to reach for first.

Being the ensaymada junkie that I am (but who isn’t?), I put in a box the violet-covered ensaymada Pearl de Guzman asked me to have. And I politely asked permission from the FoodPrints family if it was okay to pick a couple more (I chose the brighter wrapped ones) and a cheese roll in exchange for other leftover goodies.


Back in Laoag, straight from the FoodPrints shoot in Manila, I opened the pink one. It had ham and salted duck egg. After examining closely the ensaymada, I went on with the silver-wrapped creamy, cheesy one with meaty bits that tasted like bacon. Thank you, Chef Sandy and FoodPrints! The ensaymadas of my dreams was just answered.

The three things I love about Baby Pat ensaymadas:

  • the neither compact nor too airy texture.
  • the clean aroma of the flour used.
  • the neat balance of flavors of all the add-ons.

Ensaimada by Baby Pat Bread and Pastries

Q&A with Pearl de Guzman

Pearl de Guzman, the driving force behind Baby Pat Breads and Pastries, where ensaymada is equivalent to heaven, answers what every ensaymada lover like me would want to know.

Tina Tan: What sets your ensaymada apart?
Pearl de Guzman: Oh, kindly refer to the reviews and comments of food writers as quoted in our Facebook About link. The ensaymada lovers are the best judge.

T: Do you bake them yourself?
P: Yes, I do.

T: Why are they wrapped in colored paper?
P: The color represents the ensaymada flavor. It is easier then to identify and sort the kind of ensaymada with the color of the wrapper.

T: What inspired you to start Baby Pat Breads and Pastries?
P: Through my mother, Mama Pat, I learned how to bake. I grew up helping tend the Pat’s bakeshop which she put up in Cavite City since the early 70s. I love my mom so much that I would like to continue her legacy after leaving us through Baby Pat Breads & Pastries.

T: Describe your typical day.
P: With four assistant bakers, I start baking at 6AM, while I send off my kids to school. My ensaymadas are special, they take a lot of hours to create. Packaging starts at 2PM. Dropping off packaged orders at LBC courier is around 5PM. Receiving orders by phone and internet is throughout the day and even night time.

T: Do you constantly experiment with new flavors?
P: Yes. Watch out for color green.

Baby Pat's Bread and Pastries

T: What are your other bestsellers?
P: For the ensaymadas, the so called ‘most wanted four’ as featured by Food Magazine; ‘7 wonders,’ and the savoury collections. Our classic and ube queso de bola cheeserolls are bestsellers, too. As for breads, dinner rolls and pandesal are most liked.

T: Where are your outlets?
P: BabyPat bakeshop is home-based. The only outlet aside from home is Manila Polo Club’s Manila’s Best Counter.

T: Do you deliver to non-Metro Manila residents like me?
P: Yes, via LBC door-to-door, next day delivery to anywhere in the Philippines.

T: If you were given a box of your own ensaymadas, what would  you pick first?
P: My favorites now are the tablea and nutella ensaymadas. As for my personal favorites with savoury —  majestic ham, Vigan longganisa and bacon.

Sandy, Patrice and PatrickPearl’s daughter Patrice and son Patrick  sit close to Chef Sandy Daza at the FoodPrints shoot for its Christmas Special, airing this Christmas season.

Baby Pat's specialty ensaymadas:
 Speculoos (Red)
 Nutella (Orange)
 Tablea Ensaymada (Brown)
 Ube Queso de Bola (Purple)
 Speculoos (Red)
 Nutella (Orange)
 Tablea (Brown)
 Ube Queso de Bola (Purple)
 Latik (Coco Jam) Queso de Bola (Yellow)
 Classic Queso de Bola (White)
 Speculoos (Red)
 Nutella (Orange)
 Tablea (Brown)
 Ube Queso de Bola (Purple)
 Latik (Coco Jam) Queso de Bola (Yellow)
 Classic Queso de Bola (White)
 Peanut Butter ChocNut (Mustard)
 Salted Caramel Queso de Bola(Cerulean)
 Vigan Longaniza (Indigo Blue)
 Bacon in Garlic-and-Herb Cream Cheese (Silver)
 Sweet Ham & Salted Egg (Pink)
 Majestic Chinese Ham (Gold)
 Spam (Royal Blue)
 Adobo (Manila Paper)
Baby Pat Breads and Pastries 124 Stockton Corner Palo Alto, Laguna Bel-Air Subdivision, 4026 Santa Rosa, Laguna, Philippines Phone Nos.: +63 923 9759777 ; 02 7751231 / 049.5760477

Photographed by Blauearth © Blauearth™ All Rights Reserved 2009-2014