The drone lady - SunStar

The drone lady

Feature story: Abigail Aquino


IF YOU asked me a year ago if I could see myself working with drones today, I would have asked you what a drone was.

My name is Abigail Aquino and this all started when I booked a last-minute ticket to Hong Kong in October 2017, when my best friend mentioned that she bought herself a drone and to be honest, I didn’t care for it much, at that time, drones weren’t as popular last year compared to today. All I knew was that it was a flying camera. What’s the big deal, right?

“So, my advice to everyone is to dream big.
Take the leap.”

When I arrived in Hong Kong, to be honest, I wasn’t psyched, I was there often but for transit flights, so I only booked five-days expecting to do the typical tourist things like Hong Kong Disneyland or Hollywood road, but I was wrong. We ended up doing the least touristy things and started traveling like locals. We hiked mountains and sought beaches, which were very unusual for a country that is known to be a concrete jungle. On the hikes, like any other travel, we took pictures but I wasn’t impressed by a flying camera until I saw the results. My jaw dropped. The five-day trip ended up becoming two weeks of self-discovery and finding passions.

I came back to Cebu with a heavy heart. I knew I wanted one but how much did I actually want it? Was this a phase or do I want it enough? After six months, I finally bought one. I bought the smallest one, the kind most drone owners would think laughable. My first few pictures weren’t impressive, I wasn’t happy with the results and I didn’t know what I was missing. Was it my venue, where I was flying? I traveled to nice locations such as beaches and mountains, but I was still unhappy.

It took a while but I realized it wasn’t the location but my perspective. I realized it’s the same with my perspective in life. What does not look good to you now or if it doesn’t seem like life is not going well, at some different angle, it probably is. Because the only thing you can control is perspective. Soon after, I slowly discovered my style and what I like shooting. Ironically, one of the reasons I bought a drone was so I can take pictures of myself without having to ask someone to take it for me, but I ended up realizing how conceited I was compared to the beginning of the year.

A couple of months passed and I was getting better and better with each flight, I posted on more of my feed on social media and people started reaching out for collaborations and features. Two months after I started this little hobby, the Philippine Star newspaper reached out and asked me if they could feature the photo on its social media sites, I thought that was a pretty big deal and accepted. A week later, the same newspaper e-mailed me if they could use it for their newspaper, but still had to be approved with the editors. I accepted without knowing what they would use it for, what article, or where in the newspaper, I was just happy it was on the newspaper. Then a few days later, my parents received a call from their friend from Manila that my photo was half of the front page of the newspaper. I was ecstatic!

Then it hit me, this is not only an artistic way of expression but it could be so much more, so I thought why don’t I dream big! I sent e-mails to the big guys, Discovery Channel, Lonely Planet, National Geographic, you name it. A couple of days passed and I received an email from National Geographic that my photo was one of the most popular photos on their website. I couldn’t believe it from a small island girl’s hobby to the front page of the second largest national newspaper and then National Geographic. It had opened doors, I was receiving more inquiries from social media, I was getting paid to do something I loved doing.

So, my advice to everyone is to dream big. Take the leap. What started out as a holiday to a city I wasn’t keen on going to initially then later fell in love with became a journey of self-discovery and introspection. I discovered not only my passions but that I was not bound by any limitations whether I was a working student or not because everyone has so much potential and capability. Now the world of drones not only has changed my life but my perspective of the good and bad encounters. That if you love life enough, it will love you back and that the smallest change in perspective can transform a life. Perspective is not only what you look at, but also where you look from.

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