Artist Toym Imao Jr. on the ‘Barikada’ installation at UP Diliman

Published January 26, 2021, 10:29 AM

by John Legaspi

Protest art rising

With the recent political events concerning the University of the Philippines (UP), various students and faculty members are finding ways to get their views heard and even seen. One of the ways they do it is through art. 

Art in protest has been present for many years not just in the Philippines, but all over the world, from rebellious graffitis to huge efigies. This time, UP Diliman is erecting art installations Barikada and Desaparecidos to convey stories of the past and that we should learn from it and never forget.

From top: Barikada and Desaparecidos

Through a series of Facebook posts, Filipino artist Toym Imao Jr. shares the inspiration behind the Barikada installation, in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the 1971 Diliman Commune. 

Just like in the musical Les Miserable, Barikada stands as a symbol of people standing up against oppression. The installation is a recreation of the barricade during the university’s years of uprising in the ‘70s. According to Toym, the towering wooden art is made of repurposed materials such as condemned university furniture and bamboo, and other materials used in past installations. He even got a little sarcastic in a post saying, “Hindi po siya gawa sa 50 million peso na kaldero, 389 million na dolomite, o mula sa 15 billion na pondo ng PhilHealth (ay nasali) [It’s not made from a P50-million budget, or P389-million dolomite, or from the P15 billion fund of PhilHealth].”

Barikada is tinted with the color red. As Toym described it, the hue can be a reflection of the red roses, or women’s lipstick, a fireman’s truck, the apple in a lechon’s mouth, or the forbidden fruit Adam and Eve consumed in the Garden of Eden.

May kalayaan po kayo gumawa ng sariling interpretasyon or conspiracy theory, nasa isang demokrasya po tayo (or at least yun ang alam namin),” the university professor posted. “Pero, kung kami ang inyong tatanungin, isa po itong paraang biswal ng paggunita sa isang makabuluhang yugto sa kasaysayan ng isang institusyon at ang kanyang komunidad na mulat at handang ipaglaban ang karapatan at tama laban sa isang diktadurya.”

[We have the freedom to create our own interpretation or conspiracy theory, we are living in a democracy [at least that’s what we know],” the university professor posted. “But if you’re going to ask us, this is a visual way to commemorate one of the most pivotal events in the history of an institution and its community who is ready to fight for their rights and against dictatorship.]

“Now, more than ever, we need to remember our history in light of the current attacks on our institution, organizations, faculty, and studentry,” Toym said.

Visit UP Diliman OICA Facebook page for more details.

Images from Toym Imao Jr. Facebook Page.