Melvyn Calderon, 70

Photo from Melvyn Calderon’s Facebook

PHOTOJOURNALIST MELVYN Calderon, fondly called the “Panginoon” (God) of Philippine photojournalism, passed away at the age of 70 after a lingering illness on August 13, Saturday. 

In Calderon’s over thirty-year-long career as a photojournalist, his work was featured in many publications. Locally, these were the magazines Philippine Signs, Midweek, and Mr. and Ms. Outside the country, the renowned photojournalist’s work landed on the pages of Time Magazine and Fortune

Rappler recalled that Calderon was among the members of the “mosquito press” at the time of Martial Law and was later subject to warrantless arrest and political imprisonment. Filipino journalist Jamela Alindogan described Calderon as more than a photojournalist: “He was a political prisoner, an activist, a rebel, a photographer and to a great extent – an artist. He was a mentor and a dear friend.”  

Calderon’s colleagues and friends posted tributes on social media and recalled their experiences with Calderon. Manny Mogato, award-winning journalist, longtime friend, and recently co-host of Calderon on One PH’s “Wag Po!remembered Calderon’s fearless dedication to the craft: “While reporters can stay from a safe distance, photojournalists have to be in the thick of a violent demonstration or armed conflict. Melvyn was in the front seat of history but he was generous and brotherly (and) caring.”  

Melinda de Jesus, CMFR executive director, recalled getting to know him in the early eighties, his frequent visits to the newsroom of Veritas NewsWeekly, always sharing “action” stories from the field, spiced with jokes in a running commentary. It was typical of the warm comradeship he shared with journalists everywhere, a genuine sense of solidarity and comradeship with co-workers in the press. 

Journalists Ed Lingao and Howie Severino, and writer-activist Jose Dalisay were also among those who shared tributes in Calderon’s memory. Fellow photojournalist Joe Galvez described Calderon as a “legend” among photographers whose work earned reverence and respect.

In “Birds of Tubbataha”, a collaborative project between Calderon and artist Ben Cabrera, Calderon shared that he was led to photography by pure coincidence: “He [Calderon] remembers, though, his sister receiving a camera as a birthday gift from their father, the architect Mel V. Calderon. Not knowing how to use a camera, his sister had sought her brother’s advice. And the rest, as we say, is history…”

Calderon was laid to rest on August 16, Tuesday, in Quezon City’s Divine Word Columbary in Christ the King church.