Is Filipino Street Art Dead?




Under the sweltering 32-degree sun, young Filipino artists are unleashing their inner Picassos on the walls of the most unglamorous places – the slums.


The Philippines is best known for its sinfully delectable beaches and third-world country woes. What you may not be familiar with is the hidden talents arising from every corner of the street while you’re perpetually stuck in traffic (again).


In fact, there are probably more slums than there are pristine resorts.


It’s a glaring contrast: richly painted walls full of talent and screaming colorful stories, with dirty barefoot man, child, and woman opening their palms for coins.

Which begs the question – is Filipino street art dead?


Photo by Streetkonect 


Street art is political.


Mural against BongBong Marcos, son of a Filipino dictator currently running for Vice-President, by Streetkonect https://www.facebook.com/streetkonect/


And if not, it’s simply absolutely beautiful.


“The Queen” of Sinulog at Jones, Cebu by Basic Lee and Janot 


It’s not just random blobs of paint put on by bored “punks” nor is it spray-paintings of generic names and male genitalia. Often, street art tells a story and in this instance with the rogue nationwide artists of Streetkonect, the story is one of hope, however futile.


“Fighter” in the slums 


Unfortunately this often gets lost in translation. Majority of the government and society in general still undermine the impact of this down-to-earth art form, with many dismissing the murals as vandalism.


Feminist piece in Cebu – “Hey, pig!” 


The people of StreetKonect are trying to change that view, one brush stroke at a time. Will it work? Will their message be seen? Will Philippine street art finally be appreciated, not just by the middle class in their air-conditioned cars, but also by the impoverished masses?


The answers remain to be seen.


Urban art is a mode of expression that needs to gain more recognition and has yet to receive the respect it rightfully deserves. Nine times out of ten, street artists convey their talents without commission and that deserves as much praise as a seasoned painter gaining $100,000 per frame. It takes a certain kind of panache and swagger to be a street artist, especially when you’re main goal is trying to connect with the poorest of the poor.


MacArthur Highway, Valenzuela 


A message is still a message, a masterpiece still a masterpiece whether you’re birthing it on an oil canvas in the middle of The Louvre, or on the pavements while you’re shirtless next to nanay selling her banana cues.


Heck, it doesn’t even need to be on an actual façade. Some Filipinos make art on things as simple as their trisikads.


In Taft Avenue, Manila: 

taft avenue


If you’re a Filipino reading this, I pose to you this question: how do wall murals make you feel? What stories do they whisper to you from beneath the concrete-canvases? Or do you even have any impact on you at all?


I’ll leave you with this quote by Raffi Khatchadourian: Once you are attuned to street art—its hidden codes and unexpected placements — you start habitually looking for it.


Cebuano graffiti artists L to R: Nark, WR, KDLT, Soika 




Sade Andria Zabala is a twenty-five year old Filipina surfer sometimes living in Denmark. She is the author of poetry books War Songs and Coffee and Cigarettes. Her work has appeared on places such as Literary Orphans, The Thought Catalog, The Rising Phoenix Review, Hooligan Magazine, Germ Magazine, and more. In her spare time she likes to eat words and drink sunlight. You can purchase her books here. 

Read all from this author