Artista.Bayan.Laban | Reliving the lives of artists and how they fought the dictatorship


MANILA – “As we honor them, we carry on the fight.”

This is what Lisa Ito-Tapang, secretary-general of the Concerned Artist of the Philippines (CAP) told Bulatlat as they honor artists, their works, and their contributions to the society this National Arts month.

Dubbed as Artista. Laban. Bayan, CAP’s effort to look back on the contributions of artists is a continuing commemoration of the 36th year since Filipinos toppled a dictator.

Censorship and other forms of political repressions are among the lessons of Filipino artists and cultural workers from the Marcos dictatorship. CAP, however, said that these continue now in the form of red-tagging, disinformation, historical revisionism, among others.

“The emphasis of this series is about the struggle for genuine change,” added Ito-Tapang.

Attacks and resistance

While the 1987 Constitution guarantees freedom of expression, the conditions today show that true exercise of this guaranteed right becomes challenging.

“It is precisely why there is Artista.Bayan.Laban. A lot of cultural workers during those times, or even before martial law, have directed their arts to serving the people and to use them as powerful tool or weapon, or medium of progressive consciousness,” said Ito-Tapang.

Red-tagging of artists and cultural workers, including the likes of Angel Locsin, Liza Soberano, Catriona Gray, has intensified with the forming of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) through an executive order. This, CAP said, has resulted in chilling effect among artists who want to use their voices and platforms for the marginalized.

“It is one way of trying to intimidate the public whoever you are, even if you are a celebrity. They are sending the message that you are not spared from red-tagging especially when you are exposing government flaws. In practice, it kills freedom of expression,” said Ito-Tapang.

A number of cultural workers under the Duterte administration were either threatened, red-tagged, arrested, or killed. In the first weeks of Enhanced Community Quarantine in 2020, Marlon Madlos was killed in broad daylight after being red-tagged.

Alvin Fortaliza and Amanda Echanis, on the other hand, were arrested due to trumped-up charges and remain behind bars.

Amid these attacks, artists and cultural workers are also bearing the brunt of economic pressures as government assistance has been hardly felt, said CAP.

“We cannot deny that what you want to express is also calibrated by what you are free to do,” according to Ito-Tapang.

Possibility of Marcos presidency

Filipino artists and cultural workers are also concerned over the possible return of the Marcoses to power, with the son and namesake of the late dictator still leading surveys a few weeks into the elections.

But for Ito-Tapang, CAP’s initiative to honor the contributions of artists to society is also part of reliving the lessons that must be learned from the dark years of martial law.

“We are worried but we fear nothing whatever happens. History of our organization and our people during martial have taught us valuable lessons. No matter how seemingly powerful or dominant a regime is, or no matter how long it stays in power, it won’t remain there forever,” said Ito-Tapang. (JJE, RVO) (

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