Posted by: nastypen | November 12, 2008

“Dangerous to Society”

Going around Cebu city made me see certain strides locals made towards the arts and culture.  I am quite impressed by the new Museo sa Sugbo; a facility to promote Cebu history and culture housed in a late 19th century penal colony.  And I see new avenues for art popping up.  Case in point, the vivid street art of Cebu. 

But first an authoritarian reminder:


Ah well….I love the “evil” sticker!  I can’t tell if that’s President Gloria Makapala Arayko or the vainglorious Cebu’s first lady and most photographed governor Gwen Garcia.  Ah well, these two women are loved by Cebuanos.  But I love the street art infinitely more. 

Now, if you are based in Manila, you might have seen the MMDA Art; pink and blue geometric shapes painted on walls or the cement relief structures of government ideals to alleviate the metro from its dour mood.  I cannot help but wonder how much is the budget for such “art” has been allotted.  That money could have used for useful things like perhaps improvement of certain classrooms.

But no, the MMDA has made it a point to tell the general public what their notion of art is.  I am sure not a lot of people go to art exhibits, so the streets are prime locations for such art to be introduced to the general public.

I am glad that certain Cebuano graffiti artists and stencil artists make it a point to show vibrancy on the streets.  I am more at awe that the Cebuano government has not really whitewashed anything.  I was told that during the Sinulog on January, such art will be deemed inappropriate thus a fresh coat of white paint covers them up.

I remember MMDA Chairperson Bayani Fernando being interviewed by TV reporters that these graffiti and street art are “dangerous to society.”  He has not elaborated how these can be a danger.  But perhaps it is all about perception that a society lax on “vandalism” is a society lax on security and order, a society lax on security and order means open season for criminal activity. 

This sort of fascist point of view tries to mould how art must be projected “for the greater good.”  

If you ask me, Bayani Fernando’s small banners in Boracay, or at the outskirts of Cebu and some parts of Negros are scary.  It features his face looking serious and blunt.  The tagline goes “Ang may political will ay BAYANI.” (A Bayani “Hero” has political will)  These tiny banners have been set up months ago.  Isn’t electioneering illegal and dangerous to society?  I saw some banners nailed on trees.  Now, that, Bayani, IS vandalism.

What Bayani dismisses as “ugly” and “dangerous”, at least in some streets in Cebu, are substantial and dynamic.  Something I cannot really say for shrill delusional political  banners.

I am quite surprised by these street art.  It is like a breath of fresh air in conservative cosmopolitan Cebu.  Cebu is more known for its economic pragmatism rather than its drive for the arts….much more for street art that is generally seen as indecent and as vandalism.  So, imagine my delight when I saw these great art works:


The graffiti has been tagged as a symbol of urban decay and blight.  But last time I checked, Cebu has one of the lowest crime rates in ASIA.  furthermore, Cebu is the most progressive province of Cebu in terms of business and tourism.  Now, i hear that Cebu is going to boost further its already-thriving cultural and art scenes.    See pictures I took of some of Cebu’s street art.

I understand that taste is relative.  I find these street art as wonderful while some look it as a major blemish.  I do not take it against people whose idea of art is a framed canvas with giant flowers conveying nothing but mainstream beauty.  what I do stand for is to allow such art work to flourish.  If the owner of the walls agree to such art on their property, then so be it.

Perhaps I am just naive and cynicism is at the back of my head.  Perhaps these artworks will be eventually whitewashed by some narrow-minded authority figure.  But this sort of art does not dwell on permanence and immortality.  Its beauty lies on when they will pop up next and what will they have to say this time.

Visit the UBEC’s (the art group responsible for these street art) website.

I do feel that these art work will be used as a scapegoat in the future by authoritarian figures in need of a bogeyman.  I guess it is too easy to blame art for society’s ills.  Check out National Museum’s John Silva‘s thoughts on the proposed anti-obscenity bill.

I am glad that this street art is permitted or at least tolerated for now.  Because, these are not the usual “Punk is not dead” scribbles on walls.  These are great works by individuals producing a seemingly organic art; organic because it seems to grow with addenda and appropriations.  These street arts are no mere random scrawls but a valid art produced by a group with vision they refuse to articulate for it might diminish their drive.

Ultimately, I like that Cebuanos gawk at such artwork.  One gentleman paused to read and decipher the artwork.

For most Cebuanos who do not go to art exhibits, the street art offers a glimpse on their culture’s drive to dynamism melded in a visual language akin to the big street cultures of New York, Rio, etc.  I await for the new Bisdak tagging language will unfurl itself to the traffic of Cebu.  At least this art is good to look at rather than pink urinals.


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