This is a post mortem tribute to master photographer brother of ours, the late Fray Noel Paulo Zaragoza aka Leon Paulo Zaragoza. He is one of the many brothers we’ve lost during this COVID-19 pandemic. I don’t know if Fray Noel did succumb to the virus. We know many others did.
At one of the Messenger’s chat rooms, Fray Noel resurfaced after a long absence. Prior to this contact, our last meeting was when we were postulants in Manaoag, almost four and half decades ago. I have no recollection of him. He described himself as a shy person then. While I concentrated on sports, he was into art. He said he painted Our Lady of Manaoag and left it in the convent. He moaned the fact that he cannot get that painting back.
I cannot recall whether he was into photography back then. I can only remember one brother having a camera at that time. It was the late Fray Louie Chris Miyagi Ballon and his Olympus. Unfortunately, like Fray Noel, we’ve also lost him this year.
When I befriended Fray Noel in Facebook, I became an instant fan of his photography. His proteges refer to him as master photographer. After seeing some of his works, it was easy to understand why.
We have been fortunate to discover some of his photographs and paintings which he willingly shared with us at the last issue of our Epistoliorum. There are some photographs he sent us which were not published yet. We are Including some of them in this issue.
Last August 21, Fray Noel published an ominous status update in Facebook. It read “I will not be available in social media. Hope to get back soonest.” So many comments of “Get well soon” were added to that update. That was the last time I’ve heard about him.
Prior to his passing, I was fortunate to have chatted with him on Messenger. I was interested in how he became an excellent photographer. In his previous job he related that he was lucky to be mentored by two master photographers. It was easy for him to learn from them the basics of composition and lighting because of his background in art.
When I asked him about his gear, he said “Don’t worry about equipment. Just use the ones you have. The most important thing on photography is lighting. Focus on it.”, he urged. That’s the secret of great photography, he confided. He asked me to shoot him some of the photos I’ve taken. He gave me some pointers on how to make them better.
He was very encouraging. He said, “You’ll get better.” We promised to see each other one of these days. I was eager to learn from the feet of a master photographer. Alas, it won’t be possible anymore in this life. Though he is gone, the master photographer is not forgotten.
Our common faith gives us hope – the hope of one day we will be reunited with the ones we love. May we meet Fray Noel again, with all the brothers who have gone before and after him, somewhere – where no eyes have seen, nor ears have heard. So long as we abide in Love, we’ll meet with them there.
P.S. Please say a little prayer for the author who deem himself not worthy in the company of these brothers in Heaven. Thank you.