Day 206/365: Graffiti Art in Manila

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July 25, 2011

For most people, graffiti is nothing more than petty vandalism. But call it what you want, youth culture defenders will never file this art form under senseless delinquency.

Graffiti art first mushroomed in Philadelphia in the early ‘60s and made its way to New York. By the 70s, wildstyle graffiti became prevalent, a style that rendered words so abstractly that it became [almost] unreadable to the untrained eye.

Considered as one of the elements of the hip-hop way of life, graffiti became a vehicle for the underdogs of society to voice out their desire for liberty, free expression and brotherly ties. But some groups became too territorial and resorted to violence to settle disputes, thus creating the hoodlum or gangster image that graffiti writers are forced to live with now.


Graffiti originated in ancient Italy as inscriptions and drawings on sculptures and walls. In fact, graffiti was found in 1851 in the ruins of Pompeii. Painting on sidewalks, and other forms of graffiti, is still common in Rome today. Whereas Romans consider graffiti as a form of urban art, many westerners consider it vandalism unless property owners give consent to the graffiti artists. Graffiti may include drawing, painting, and writing, or a combination of the three.

Tagging is a form of graffiti used to put a ‘name tag’ on public areas and is thought to be used by some gangs to mark territory. The origin of tagging goes back to the 1970s when a mail carrier in New York made a goal to ride every bus and subway in New York. He wrote his name and courier identification number, Vic 156, to mark each bus and subway he took. Others began to follow Vic’s example and tags grew more prevalent, larger, and much more elaborate. Tagging as graffiti moved from buses and subways to walls and all types of outdoor areas.

Day 206/365: Graffiti Art in Manila

Graffiti, Pinoy style (by By ALYOSHA J. ROBILLOS, University of Sto. Tomas August 17, 2011, 4:23am Manila Bulletin)

At present, since graffiti and street art are relatively young art movements here in the Philippines, most groups called “crews” are forced to remain underground. Although more and more graffiti and street art are cropping up in the metropolis, the stigma that comes with being a graffiti writer or street artist has not been totally eradicated.

Amid the bustle and grit of the Malate district in Manila are two enormous walls on the corner of San Marcelino and Malvar streets. More than 12-feet high, these walls are the repository of the “productions’’ (projects) of “wall lords’’ (established graffiti writers) and “toys’’ (newbie artists).

“Productions on this wall started more than a year ago. We wanted to create presentable productions for both artists and viewers while establishing a system for the participating artists and writers,” said Nyce, the 29-year-old graffiti writer and student who has been in charge of the Malvar-San Marcelino wall since it became a venue for various crews’ productions. It was Nyce who secured permits from both the caretaker of the property and the barangay hall.

Expressive productions

According to Nyce, doing productions on this particular wall helps foster respect and unity among artists as they follow certain graffiti rules that are also observed abroad.

A two-year and three-month system also keeps the artists in line, depending on where the artist or writer places his or her piece. Productions on the Malvar stretch are on view for two years while those on the San Marcelino wall stay untouched for three months after being finished. This is where the “wall lords’’ are able to share their expertise with the “toys.’’

Nyce explained that this system aids the artists to avoid overlapping of works and trains ‘’toys’’ to work harmoniously with others, reminding everyone that street and Pgraffiti art are all about “one love and no beef” and not about whose name makes the most noise.

The wall is also an effort to show everyone that people who are in the street art and graffiti scene are not delinquents, but artists who share the same advocacies and paradigms.

“They (officials, police and security personnel) associate crews and graffiti with gangs, when they’re not the same at all,” Nyce said.

Meanwhile, a production for the two-year wall is currently ongoing and will showcase collaborations of different graffiti writers and street artists such as KooKoo, Egg Fiasco, and Sink.

Anti-Asbetos campaign turns to graffiti

While the Malvar-San Marcelino walls serve as a venue for artist interaction and diplomatic collaboration, Wall Lords Philippines 2011, titled “Sulat Kamay” is currently running the theme, “Asbestos kills people.” It is a countrywide graffiti competition that serves as the elimination round to qualify for Wall Lords Asia, the biggest graffiti contest in Asia.

The theme was provided by one of Wall Lords Philippines 2011’s sponsors, the Institute for Occupational Health and Safety and Development (IOHSAD) to underscore that the mineral asbestos, which is used in fireproof materials, causes permanent or fatal damage to the lungs. Despite this knowledge, many companies still manufacture products that contain asbestos.

Wall Lords Philippines recently conducted the first elimination round in Intramuros, Manila as artists and writers from the West chapter faced one another to gain slots in the finals. The East division eliminations were held in Paliparan, Marikina. Reigning crews in the West wing are GAK and AFK, while crews FTC and DNB dominated the East.

“Whether reactions to street art and graffiti are negative or positive, the important thing is that people get affected by our works. For me, one of the purposes of street art is to stir or ignite something in a person,” said FTC crewmember and college student Geloy Concepcion (“Pisi”).

Competitions like these help lift the face of graffiti and street art in the Philippines as they establish camaraderie between crews and give people outside the graffiti and street art circle the chance to appreciate a wide array of productions. “Winners in the finals will be sent to represent the Philippines in Wall Lords Asia, which will be held in Taiwan this year,” said Lia Javellana, one of the organizers of Wall Lords Philippines.

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