An Interview with Batang Polomolok

It’s a rare moment to meet a man like Steven Rae H. Banares or popularly known as Batang Polomolok. His work shows uniqueness and creativity that benefited many people in the Municipality of Polomolok. His love for his hometown speaks a lot about him.

I first heard about Batang Polomolok through Rommel Tesoro when we were working for a magazine last year. When he uttered that name, I got curious and excited to meet the guy that he always talks about. Until recently, I got the chance to meet him through Nanardxz. I did not regret it because I have enjoyed hanging out with him.
The author with Steven Rae BaƱares a.k.a Batang Polomolok
Steven graduated at the University of the East-Manila, with the degree of Bachelor of Science in Accountancy. Before he became a public servant and a photographer, he was an OFW working as an accountant in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. After four years of working aboard, he went back to the Philippines and work for another three years as senior accountant in a company based in Makati City.

Traveling helps him realize that he has a passion for photography. His experiences as an OFW led him to the idea of Batang Polomolok. So he went back to his hometown to pursue his passion.

When he was in Polomolok, he took photos of people, events and landmarks to promote the municipality and at the same time give updates to the OFWs whose hometown is Polomolok. 

“If taga Polomolok jud ka, taga-Polomolok jud ka”, as he said (If you’re from Polomolok, you’re really from Polomolok). 

He understands that if you’re an OFW, you will miss your country especially you’re hometown. Through his photography, he helps ease the loneliness of Filipinos working abroad.

On July 30, 2012, he created the Batang Polomolok Facebook Page. Through that Facebook page, Batang Polomolok became a brand that is recognizable not only to the OFWs but also to the people of SOCCSKSARGEN. 

“I got the inspiration of the title Batang Polomolok from a popular liquor (TV) commercial”, he said. 

“Rommel helped me design the logo, and then we launched it online. I made a gimmick to gain more likes. At first, there were only 100 likes and eventually it reached thousands,” he added.

Because of the popularity of his page Batang Polomolok became a “public figure”. “Before it is difficult to take photos from people because I am not known and they do not like the idea of it. Now those efforts have been recognized, they are now willing to be photographed and be featured in the Facebook page,” he said. His popularity leads him to become an endorser of local products and business establishments in Polomolok.

Steven is not merely a photographer. He is a photographer for a cause. He uses his photography to influence people to see things in a different perspective. For example, when he was invited in a Bikini Open, he took a photo of a child watching the said event. The photo sparked controversy because of the child involved in the photo. It caught the attention of the Municipal Social Welfare and Development (MSWD) Office of Polomolok. 

“The photo is not intended to condemn the event”, he said. 

“It was just that the event is not appropriate to be conducted in a highway. From the name itself, it is supposed to be conducted in an exclusive area like in a resort or beach. They should consider whether there is a minor watching. Moreover, the personnel who are responsible of releasing permits in this kind of show should consider this matter,” he added.

Aside from his advocacy photography, he is also into wedding photography. His dream is to do a wedding project in the Bahamas. When I asked him if his professional fee is higher, he only laughs and recounts the days when he was starting. 

“When I was starting as a photographer, I volunteer (and continuously doing) to document events and landmarks to help promote Polomolok. I did not mind any compensation because I am happy and willing to help the municipality,” he pointed out. 

Noel Nacion, Jommel Gregorio and Parc Cruz are his influences and at the same time his inspiration to do his craft effectively and passionately.

Currently, Steven is connected with the Local Government Unit of Polomolok. Because of his versatility, he is not only working for the Mayor’s office (under Hon. Honey Lumayag-Matti), but also for the town's Public Information Office (PIO) and Tourism Department. His love for Polomolok fuels his ideas to conceptualize more of tourism activities and other promotional initiatives.

Despite his success and achievements Batang Polomolok remains humble. With this status that he now reaches, it is expected that bashers and haters are ready to devour him. 

“You cannot please everyone. Some people are not fond of my photos. They are busy finding its flaws and not concentrating on its good contributions,” he said. 

"For me, there is no perfect picture. It depends on the eyes of the photographer and his/her emotion when he/she captures a moment. I ignore it, but sometimes when it gets too personal, I stand what’s right. So don’t easily get discourage by bashers,” he affirmed.

“Instead thank them because they are the one who motivates you to do well”, he pointed out. 

“Push lang ng push”. 

Furthermore, he uses his popularity to influence people. For example, he used his Facebook page to help gather donations for the victims of typhoon Yolanda last year. He did not expect that his Facebook shout out would gain more responses and donations.

I enjoyed chatting with Batang Polomolok, it was fun and refreshing. Our conversation ended up because my phone rang. That time I realized that I have a meeting to attend. When we separate ways, I still think of his words. His story still resonates in my mind. I admire his dedication to help his hometown. 

YADU KARU is a contributor at I Love South Cotabato. He is a freelance filmmaker and a photojournalist. He also blogs at YaduKaru.Com.
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