If Art is a Hammer: Pounding on Duterte’s tyranny

For members of the Concerned Artists of the Philippines, art is a weapon against tyrants.


MANILA — Photography. Documentary theater. Music video.

Several artists utilized these forms in exposing and opposing Duterte’s attacks against the civil, political, economic, and sovereign rights of the Filipino people in a gathering dubbed as If Art is a Hammer, Sept. 17 at the Conspiracy Bar and Cafe.

Photojournalist Ezra Acayan used his still images to tell stories of victims of Duterte’s unrelenting war on drugs. Acayan has captured the gore, the grief, the fear and the initial efforts at fighting for justice. Each frame is accompanied by an anecdote, humanizing each victim, in contrast to the cold statistics presented by authorities.

Acayan, like the other night crawlers persistent in documenting the war on drugs, hopes that their work would one day be helpful in seeking justice for the victims.

Following Acayan’s presentation was an excerpt of the documentary theatre “Sa Digma ng Halimaw” (Monster’s War) by Tanghalang Mulong Sandoval, SIKAD’s performance program. The “testimonial theater” approach used in the play tells the stories of families of tokhang victims in their own words. Director Edwin Quinsayas and writer Terence Krishna Lopez along with other SIKAD members have been working closely with families of the victims of the carnage that is the war on drug in conceptualizing, script development and overall design of the performances. The collaboration is facilitated by Rise Up for Life and for Rights, a church-based organization of families of the victims of Tokhang.

Cristina Ponce plays Kim Ugadora, a daughter who lost both her parents to the war on drugs at the same day while Jane Biton played Nanette Castillo, a mother whose only son was peppered with bullets by men wearing ski masks. Ryan Murillo SIKAD member and the show’s production manager acted as a policeman echoing hate words against the victims and then as President Duterte, who was gagged and defeated by the mothers of the victims toward the end of the performance.

Quinsayas said the play aims to empower the families of victims as they continue to demand accountability.

The last part of the program was the launch of a music video titled ‘Magliliyab.’ Written by Cabring Cabrera with music by Mark Estandarte, the song was first performed while protesters set in flames the effigy of President Duterte at the United People’s SONA.

MAGLILIYAB from pulang_langgam on Vimeo.

The music video opens with Duterte’s most hateful statements then segues to images and lyrics rebuking all that is wrong in the Duterte administration — from the bloody campaign against illegal drugs, anti-tambay operations, attacks on Church people and indigenous people’s communities, violations of the rights of workers, peasants, fisherfolk up to the selling out of the nation’s patrimony and sovereignty to U.S. and China. Its power lies in its music and lyrics reminding people that amid the darkness, collective action is the flame that will end the people’s sufferings.

‘Magliliyab’ is in itself an expression of unity of various artists against Duterte’s rising tyranny. Performers include Chikoy Pura of The Jerks, Bobby Balingit of The Wuds, rapper BLKD, bands such as Tubaw, The General Strike, Plagpul, Pasada, among others.

The activity organized by the Concerned Artists of the Philippines coincided with the opening of the International People’s Tribunal being held in Brussels, Belgium. The IPT is hearing cases of human rights violations committed by the Duterte regime.

On the same day, Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan Jr. was found guilty by a Bulacan court for charges of kidnapping and serious illegal detention for the enforced disappearance of UP students Karen Empeno and Sherlyn Cadapan.

JL Burgos, director of ‘Magliliyab’ music video, said the conviction of Palparan proves that the people’s collective action leads to victory. “This is why we are indicting Duterte at the IPT,” (International People’s Tribunal) he said in Filipino.

CAP is inviting artists to join the Sept. 21 United People’s Action against tyranny. (https://www.bulatlat.com)

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