Beyond protest art

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News of the hostile situation between the ongoing protesters of Hongkong and their police force prompted the Filipinos who frequent social media to be sympathetic. With the cases of damage to pro-China establishments and other scattered instances of violence, they had also expressed admiration for the Hong Kong protesters for standing up for their rights. When an incident in Manila reported that Filipino youth cultural group Panday Sining had sprayed “Digmaang bayan sagot sa martial law” and “Atin ang Pinas! US-China layas!” as protest art on the walls of the Lagusnilad underpass, the government, and citizens alike, condemned the act and called it vandalism.

Metro Manila’s Mayor, Francisco “Isko” Moreno Domagoso, had been receptive to counteract Panday Sining’s stunt. Since July, he has advocated for the city’s unclean areas’ revamp. Moreno slams the liable youth with, “Kapag nahuli ko kayo, ipadidila ko sa inyo ito… it took 15 years for that underpass to be attended. Kayo ang nambababoy eh. Hindi makatwiran ‘yan. We don’t deserve this. The people of Manila don’t deserve this.” 

In return, Panday Sining made their statement, “To the public: sorry for the inconvenience, but the matter and issues at hand are urgent. Left and right, ordinary people are being killed or jailed for criticizing this corrupt and fascist government.” They insist there are no other means that would make their cause effective as “the space for peaceful and democratic speech is already being compromised by the regime as it pushes to criminalize dissent.”

Anti-Crime and Terrorism Community Involvement and Support Partylist (ACT-CIS) Rep. Niña Taduran asserted that “If they claim that they merely wanted to attract attention to their cause of opposing martial law in Mindanao, they could have done that without committing vandalism.” On social media, the citizens raise the concern that these protesters are insensitive to the efforts of the government to make Manila beautiful again. 

What exactly is the appropriate action to take when the oppression of one’s right to call out the incapabilities of the government is evident? So much that it puts us in our own little box of silence? Should organizations that wish to advocate for change conform to the suggestions of presenting their sentiments through song and dance? If putting on a show was enough to gather a following for a petition for reform, surely it would have already worked? What sense is a beautiful city if the country is regressing?

The years have shown that the Philippines is facing many crucial issues that determine the future of the country. We are well-informed of the news on the alarming corruption, extra-judicial killings, continuous rise of drug-use and poverty, congested traffic, and others. More than ever, information is presented to us explicitly. We have that capacity to see the aspects wherein we can fight for change, if we do so with the power of the people. Why are we enlightened by the movements of activism by the people of other countries, but quick to berate when it is done by our own?

It is not that we commend the act of defacing the walls of public spaces. What Panday Sining has stirred within the Filipinos is the approach to be noticed, to which they found through art. Although criticized, especially by the publicized operations of the Manila mayor, it succeeds in bringing light to a group of people passionate enough to counter the means of censorship imposed by the government. We, as a youth, have that power too. It is through our collective participation that we can attain reform if we have a strong sense of activism within us.C

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