‘Tumindig’ against ‘Duter-Tuko’: Protest art gets fresh verve
MANILA, Philippines — What began as online protest art became mobilized in the streets as President Rodrigo Duterte delivered his sixth and last State of the Nation Address (Sona) before members of the 18th Congress and other guests at the House of Representatives on Monday.
It was again raining on that very occasion, but the monsoon did not restrain the protesters as much as the police, which applied stricter enforcement of crowd control because of government restrictions to help contain the COVID-19 pandemic.
Still, the ralliers sought to match in the streets the vehemence of their opposition to Mr. Duterte online—as spurred by artists, many of them also taking to the streets on Monday.
The demonstrators began their protests that morning at the main road of the University of the Philippines (UP) which they turned into a sprawling museum, with various effigies depicting Mr. Duterte as a snake, a rat, or a severed nose with a backhoe for legs—all references to what they saw as the quality of his leadership as well as his priorities amid the pandemic.
A 2 meter-high work titled “Duter-Tuko” and painted by the group UgatLahi Collective depicted the President as a gecko to show the Duterte family’s “desperate hold [on] power,” said the group’s spokesperson Iris Molintas, who also noted that the President’s daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte Carpio, is now open about her presidential ambition.
Rights group Karapatan paraded its “Rodrigo Maligno” mascot, which showed the President in “chains” bearing the names of victims of extrajudicial killings (EJKs) — for Duterte’s critics, the hallmark of his drug war.
The Concerned Artists of the Philippines (CAP), meanwhile, lined President Carlos P. Garcia Avenue, adjacent to UP’s University Avenue, with dozens of comic book cover placards caricaturing what they saw as the President’s failed campaign promises.
The placards were carried by protesters wearing costumes of superheroes and supernatural characters.
According to the group’s secretary-general, Lisa Ito, the comic book covers were part of CAP’s “WakasAnthology” series, which she said aims to gather artists calling for a stop to EJKs and to attacks against activists and the media, as well as to Mr. Duterte’s policies on the pandemic and on China.
“This [series] is our verdict on the past five years of the Duterte administration,” Ito said. “This is also our duty as artists, because we are tasked to bear witness to the heart and soul of the nation to create art that can distill and reflect, amplify people’s calls.”
One work that stood out at the protest site was sculptor Toym Imao’s physical version of the “Tumindig” (stand up) drawing by artist Kevin Eric Raymundo, who also goes by the nom de guerre “Tarantadong Kalbo” (foolish baldy).
Raymundo’s drawing is of a fist figure lying prone, one of many in the same position of submission, suddenly standing up to become a raised clenched fist—thus transforming a gesture associated with Mr. Duterte into the classic symbol of protest and defiance.
“Tumindig” has gone viral online, and many, including Imao, see it as a catalyst in protest art, as this genre now confronts the Duterte milieu.
The drawing also continues to inspire different versions—including by other artists who have come up with their avatars to signify their dissent.
Imao said “Tumindig” has transformed from being a “meme of the moment” into a “historical representation … of how art can rouse people’s feelings.”
The beauty of Raymundo’s artwork is its “simplicity,” Imao said. “Because of this simple artwork, it gave many people, including those who were normally fence-sitters with regards to politics or Mr. Duterte’s governance—those who are not super critical or vocal—a chance to join the ‘Tumindig’ movement.”
“This is monumentalizing this particular symbol right now because it has galvanized and brought together more people, and that’s worth memorializing,” Imao said further.
He called his version of Raymundo’s drawing “my personal contribution and homage to the great artist who conceptualized it.”
Regarding the collective protest art at UP, Imao said “We cannot wait until the end of the Duterte administration because it’s a constant deterioration. There’s something that needs to be done now.”
Other protesters shared the same view. Robert Soliman, secretary general of the group Bunyog Pagkakaisa, said Mr. Duterte’s daughter “is going to be more vicious than her father … She’s a copycat of President Duterte, a replica. It is going to be like a deadly mutation of a virus.”
“We cannot expect someone from the ruling class to act differently if they were groomed to become part of a long-lasting political dynasty, which started in Davao,” said protester David Perez, a member of the League of Filipino Students.
—WITH A REPORT FROM MEG ADONIS
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