“Visual progressive art is important in protest actions like these. It expresses more clearly our calls.”
By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA — From jellyfish to fishing boats to a real-life Ursula, protesters squeezed their creative juices at an entirely new level at this year’s United People’s SONA as they came up with props thar reflect their calls.
“Visual progressive art is important in protest actions like these. It expresses more clearly our calls,” Opeh Rico of Sining Obrero – Southern Mindanao Region told Bulatlat.
Their group is behind the “evil fish” they dubbed as “China-ng ina.” Their work is just one of the many notable protest art during the march, along with the centerpiece of today’s protest by Ugatlahi. Its effigy depicted Duterte as a mythical sea creature known to Filipinos as “syokoy.”
Many props and placards also used the “sea” theme, taking after the issue of the West Philippine Sea and President Duterte’s apparent subservience to the China government. This, it appears, united many groups from a broad political spectrum.
Most protesters also wore blue shirts, which, from afar, looked as if they were a “sea of protest.”
“What are they fighting for? Land, not cha-cha?” asked a bystander, “There is no more land here in the Philippines that does not belong to China. Even the seas were reclaimed. What will be left for us? That pot of soil.”
Early today, protesters sought refuge at nearby trees in front of the Commission on Human Rights as progressives held a separate, short program.
As they marched along Commonwealth, however, heavy rains poured.
They continued their fiery chants, even as they were drenched from head to toe. Some opted for a more playful chant (makibaka, wag ma-shokot!) to keep their spirits high.
Protesters used their placards and tarpaulins to shield themselves from the downpour. Some placards and props, however, were not able to withstand the thunderstorm.
Any gloom left disappeared in an instant, as they were greeted with an upbeat music that went, “Atin ang Pinas, China layas!”‘
Torching of effigy
All eyes and cameras were on the “syokoy” effigy’s turn to be torched.
Photojournalists and nearly everyone with a camera phone gathered around it as they await the flame to engulf the effigy.
— Bulatlat (@bulatlat) July 22, 2019
Protesters chanted and cheered loudly each time the effigy would burst into flames. The energy was so infectious that when the ashes rained on protesters, one journalist said, “uy, may snow!”
While the protest art brought a festive mood at the United People’s SONA, there were some that depicted serious concerns.
Farmers and fisherfolk wore during the protest a hat adorned with calls for Duterte’s ouster.
Human rights workers, on the other hand, invited model Em Nunez to portray “Ursula,” whose tentacles were painted with words such as sovereignty, red-tagging, extrajudicial killings, to name a few.
Still, Leeroy New of artist group Resbak said their coffin-shaped boats depict that killing of fisherfolk livelihoods as China’s intrusion continues in the disputed waters.
In today’s People’s SONA, artist groups launched “Artists Fight Back,” as they assailed the attacks against the rights and welfare of the people.
They said, “at a time when the government is actively enlisting and deploying its supporters and machinery to project, beautify, and whitewash its dubious gains from the people, all the more there is a need for art and culture that will reflect and amplify the Filipino people’s struggle against another dictator, tyrant, and traitor in the making.”