A few weeks ago, I took on an unusual personal photo project--the full image restoration of my maternal grandmother's studio portrait when she was a young lady getting her degree from the National Teacher's College in Manila, Philippines.
Inspired by the excellent result and favorable feedback of that restoration project, I decided to undertake yet another personal photo restoration project. This time, the restoration of the formal studio portrait of my mother's family taken on December 25, 1968, at the legendary Rialto Studio in Escolta, Manila. I just turned 5 years old when the photograph was taken.
What makes this portrait and this restoration project personally meaningful to me is the fact that, in this picture, my grandparents, along with my mother, my uncles and aunts, are all wearing their graduation attire. This symbolic photographic visualization is significant to our family because my grandparents have always inculcated in us the value of acquiring education by completing a degree and the deep love for life-long learning. The core belief is that education is a treasure and a gift that cannot be lost or stolen, and completing one's formal studies sets each of us on a path to a brighter future.
That core belief went on to be honored by my mother, making sure that my siblings and I got the best possible education she and my father can provide us. All of my cousins too went on to earn their degrees. Acquiring a formal education, culminating in a graduation ceremony, was considered an accomplishment and a stepping stone.
The copy of the photograph that I was restoring has been in my mother's possession, It is a framed sepia-toned silver gelatin print and was largely kept away from sunlight so the damage to the image itself appears to be minimal. However, upon close inspection during the restoration process, it became apparent that several large areas of the image surface were already in various stages of disintegration due to moisture and other harsh natural elements. Left alone, and in a short time, the condition of the print would disintegrate and the damage would be irreparable.
The restoration process took over a day to complete, with most time and effort spent on intensive digital clean-up and reconstruction. Once completed, I sent a restored digital file to my mother, and to my uncles and aunts, on their smartphones. This surprised them and I am glad this made them very happy.
I also showed the picture to my brother and my sisters (who, by the way, have gone on to obtain master's degrees and have undertaken continuing education on their own). And this tradition of valuing education is very much alive in my nephews and nieces who are all invested in obtaining education through their chosen field of studies (two of whom have already graduated).
While my family is aware that getting a degree is not a sure path and certainly not the only path to success, that we recognize there are many other valid avenues to achieving each one's definition of success in life, or even turning out to be a decent human being, we are grateful for the opportunity and the blessings, and have been very lucky that our grandparents and parents, and now my siblings, have valued and continue to value the gift of education.
And this personal photo restoration project? It's my little homage to our family value and tradition, and to the priceless, priceless gift that is education.