Beverly Tanedo: Slow living with art and dogs in Cebu, Philippines

Beverly Tanedo: Slow living with art and dogs in Cebu, Philippines

Beverly Tañedo is not one of many things if one at all. She writes, takes photos, and makes films while focusing on slow living in sunny Cebu, Philippines. I got to know Beverly when I was working on my film Queen Raquela back in 2006 in the Philippines. She recently celebrated a photography exhibition themed with portraits of native dogs.

(Olaf de Fleur) Question: What is your morning routine?

Slow and quiet mornings are a must for me. I find that a mindfulness practice early in the morning dictates how my day unfolds. To start with, I try to wake up naturally and not rely on alarm clocks for most of my mornings.

As soon as I wake up, I drink a glass of lukewarm ACV / lemon-ginger water and put my headphones on to listen to positive affirmations while still in bed. I follow this program that teaches meditation while in a sleep-wake state. Studies have shown that this dreamlike state, the state of not being fully awake yet called the threshold of consciousness is where we open possibilities in our lives through our subconscious mind. Listening to something at this time and consistently doing it for some time can lead to benefits in health, creativity, and manifesting the life you envision. It has helped me so much. I highly recommend it.

When fully awake, I do some leg exercises recommended by my yoga mentor. I do the stretches first while on the floor, followed by simple breathing exercises. Inhale the good, exhale worry and say thank you for yet another day. Then I do the standing stretches last. In this way, I get up slowly, prep my mind and body, and practice naturally waking up.

As soon as I have that morning start for myself, the rest of the morning revolves around my dogs. I start my active day with a good walk with my dogs, Stipe and Buddy. They provide balance to my day.

"There is magic in slowness if we learn the art of it.

After our morning walk, I would do some of my simple morning rituals like oil-pulling, neck exercises and energy tapping while preparing my dogs’ meals. Even this is a form of mindfulness as there is something meditative with chopping up veggies and prepping their broth. Then I sit for a few minutes with myself and enjoy my morning cup. Lots of pauses and just being present.

Then I let the external world in and check my phone. I try not to before 8 am and have that kind of discipline. When I have ongoing projects, I am on my phone early. So I recover and pull back my attention when I don't have much going on.

Essentially, the morning routine is for my dogs because it's the same day in and day out with them. I consider mine more of a little solemn ritual for myself. Routines put me on a rut if it is too repetitive. So I switch it up from time to time. I would start my day a bit later on easy days and heat a leftover pizza for breakfast while cuddling with my dogs but still with my headphones on listening to positive affirmations.

Q: How did you find photography, or did photography find you?

A little bit of both. My father gave me a film camera when I was 10 years old. We also had a big polaroid camera that I remember playing with. That was a lot of fun. My mom also had a penchant for buying disposable ones when we traveled. They were more for documenting our trips rather than serious photography.

My love for photography sparked when I had my dogs, Ego and Id. From dog portraits at home to concept photoshoots with them and photo diaries of our road trips, I was obsessed with my life with them and would snap away. It gave me pure joy being with them and taking photographs of our time together. It inspired me how they are present and so engaged in living life. They have rekindled my zest for life and brought back my other passions like travel, wellness, and storytelling.

My dogs helped me clear my lens at looking at life. Photography just somehow helped me capture that.
Ego and Id were the original inspiration behind her pet photography. (Photo by: Mai Pages)

I was particularly interested in travel and animals as subjects. About two years before I launched my pet photography, I traveled to attend a film festival in Greece. I was surprised there were stray dogs in Greece and I took more photos of the strays than the event I went there for. Eventually, this helped me carve a new path as I had intended to transition to a slower-paced life than when I was still into filmmaking. I could still tell stories like in film but in a different, quieter format. I could still do meaningful collaborations. It opened a whole new way of storytelling for me.

Q: Where does Your passion for dogs come from?

My love for dogs most definitely came from my parents. My mum loves dogs. We always had quite a few growing up. I remember my dad brought home a dog given to him by his boss. This dog had to travel from far up North. We named him Muttley after a dog character from a Hanna-Barbera cartoon series. He was the first family dog that I felt an intense connection with together with my first dog, Mazzy. I remember skipping work and crying endlessly when they died.

I must add that my love for animals, in general, came from my grandparents on both sides. My grandfather (mum’s side) had many different animals. He was particularly fond of horses and roosters. My love for horses came from riding his horses when we were young. My grandmother (dad’s side), on the other hand, gave each of her grandchildren their cows. So I had a cow when I was growing up. I would look forward to visiting them because it also means I can see my cow.

Q: What was the experience of setting up the photo exhibition on native dogs?

Exhilarating! This exhibit was supposedly for later this year. It was such a pleasant surprise that I got an invite earlier than expected, and added a bit of pressure to my preparation. I experimented with smaller size prints this time with the intention for the viewers to have a closer look. I wanted to draw them in. I saw it to be the same as encouraging people to take a closer look at our native dogs.

When I saw my photos hung, the small prints drowned in the setup. The space swallowed them. So I decided to add bigger prints at the last minute. When you pass by the exhibit area, the bigger prints tied it all together.

With that said, this is still my favorite of all my exhibits. I've been meaning to showcase our native Philippine dogs or Aspins for a long time and do it in black and white. The timing couldn’t be any more perfect. I feel like responding to a call and not just displaying my photographs. The one important thing for me for this body of work is to capture it as it is - the life on the streets, unglorified and real. I wanted to show the value of our native dogs as they are, even if they live far from the ideal.

When people stop to tell me stories of their dogs, those who have rescued stray dogs, or those who prefer to have our Philippine native dogs, that make it all worthwhile.   I loved meeting wonderful new people who share the same passion for dogs.  My favorite part of the whole experience though would have to be bringing my dog Buddy and seeing how much he enjoyed meeting people and vice versa. He, too, was a street dog once.

Q: I've heard that you are working on a book, and even a film about dogs in Cebu, Philippines?

Yes, I’m writing my first book. This is the reason why I went on board your online writing group a while back. Life with Dogs is a phrase that holds deep meaning in my life. This is the central theme of the book. I wanted to incorporate the art of slow living and mindfully creating a life that is well-lived alongside these wonderful creatures. Whatever life lessons we need, dogs can be the best teachers. I will be sharing excerpts of it later in the year.

Making a film about dogs has always been on my list. I was talking about this to an investor many years ago but it never materialized. I’m relentless with ticking things on my list but I am detached from the time and outcome. So for now, I’ll leave it open until the Universe picks it up and aligns me with the right people to collaborate with.

"Dogs are the best and they don’t even try.

Q: How would you describe your relationship with your dogs and dogs in general?

I love my life with my dogs. Since my dogs Ego and Id passed on, I had a couple of years off without a dog. I welcomed the change but I felt like a fish out of water. I love having dogs as companions. They always remind me to honor the present moment and take care of myself more. It's unimaginable to go through life, especially with what is going on in the world in the last two years, without my dogs.  Dogs are the best and they don’t even try.

I wanted a simple life that included them in most aspects and not just devoted my weekends to them. I always say that my life has gone to the dogs in the best way possible and it’s true. Dogs (cats + animals) are central to my work now. I meet new people mostly because of them. Most projects I undertake always have a dog story angle to them. I tread life much lighter and with ease because of them.

"It’s amazing how things unfold so easily when you write it down.

Q: What about journaling and writing?

Journaling is easily my no. 1 refuge in keeping aspirations and deeply held thoughts --- Thoughts that are not for public consumption like social media. It’s also helped me a lot in manifesting the life I want. All my projects and ideas I have written down at some point before it has become a reality. The more I got into journaling, the more clarity I have. It’s amazing how things unfold so easily when you write it down and you pinpoint exactly your relationship to your current state of consciousness. I have read somewhere “it’s not your thoughts that make or break your life, it’s your relationship with those thoughts."  

What works for me are journal prompts and brief points instead of going all out and dumping thoughts. On some days, I mostly just do a gratitude list – a simple list of 3 things I am grateful for each day. It works wonders for me. Overall it has helped me to be intentional with my life in general. I stopped questioning and trust that only the best outcome can come out of situations. I observe a heightened intuitive flow and a strong sense of self-connection that can result from the practice.

Writing (a book), on the other hand, is such a solitary endeavor. It’s like scooping out your soul and giving it form in words and paragraphs. I’m surprised though that when I try to schedule a “writing trip” I mostly end up not writing at all but tend to be so full in the experience and write after. So it’s not as easy as ‘let’s sit and write today.’ I’m still getting to that kind of writing discipline.

Q: Are you planning to make films/documentaries in the future? Are any other projects in the works?

I intend to go back to doing a film / documentary again. I may have to figure out a way where I can bring my dogs on set. I did that before. It distracted everyone! But it also gave them a good cheer. :) There’s a minefield of stories down here waiting to be told. Of course, the right partnerships would have to be considered. I’m certainly open to collaborations.

At the moment I am working on my next series of photos.  This is a special collection that I will reveal in good time.  Having an online exhibit might be a good idea as I am nearing the launch of my website. I want to have an international photo exhibit one day as well and get invited by Filipino organizations abroad that may want to collaborate with my advocacy.  When I choose to authentically follow what lights me up inside, ideas never cease to flow.  For now, let's do one idea at a time. :)

"I stopped ‘glorifying busy-ness’ altogether.

Q: Can you share your experience on slowness and mindful creating?

For more than a decade now, I have transitioned to slowness and infusing more mindfulness into my work. This has affected all areas of my life so positively. I wanted to design a gentle lifestyle that doesn't attach my worth to productivity. I stopped ‘glorifying busy-ness’ altogether and truly embrace a balance of being and doing. Of course, there are still full days but no more prolonged busy days where one is always drowning with things to do. Less cortisol and happier all-around. I truly wanted something different - a life that honored my need for beautiful pauses and intentional slowness. The Italians call it a dolce far niente quality in life.

With this, I’ve been toying with the idea of starting a podcast in praise of slowness. It’s not really about going slow all the time but dictating your speed as need be. It’s going inward and giving yourself more time than you’ve allowed yourself to have.

There is magic in slowness if we learn the art of it.