Pinoy tricycle roams the streets of California

Published April 8, 2021, 3:51 PM

by Noel Pabalate

And it will soon deliver interesting stories of Filipino immigrants in the US

A Philippine tricycle was spotted in the US recently, making history by becoming the first trike to cross the San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge along with 60 Filipino American motorcyclists. With its remarkable jeepney-like features and the built-in karaoke blasting OPM hits, the trike served as an accent to the iconic bridge that grabbed the attention of anyone who saw it.

Called “TNT Traysikel,” it is a San Francisco (SF) Arts Commission funded mobile public artwork by Fil-Am Mike Arcega and Paolo Asuncion. The trike functions as a “cultural marker” for SF’s SOMA (South of Market) Pilipinas, a cultural heritage district in San Francisco, California.

All smiles, Mike Arcega and Paolo Asuncion pose with their piece of art, ‘TNT Traysikel’

The moving art piece flaunts different Philippine cultural trademarks such as curtain tassels and neon blue yarn balls usually found in jeepneys, this time placed on the trike’s sidecar and rider’s roof; our flag’s three stars and the sun, drawn on its gas tank; and the word ‘Hoy,’ which Filipinos use to call someone’s attention, written on its windshield. 

Found on the sidecar’s front is the all caps TNT, meaning “Tago Ng Tago,” a code for undocumented Pinoy immigrants. Seen above is “por wan pibe” a play on the California police code 415 for “Disturbance.” With its boisterous sound trip and eye-catching design, the trike is without a doubt an artistic and cultural disruption.

On its back, the initials UFO is printed, which according to their Instagram post, means Unapologetic Filipino Object. Above the sidecar is a spoiler where words “alert” and “yerodynamic“ are printed. 

Inside, one would find witty phrases usually printed on jeepneys: “God Knows Hudas Not Pay” on the attachment steel bar and “Basta Driver Sweet Lover” on its ceiling. These were all hand-painted by sign artist Michelle ‘Meng’ Ngu Yen.

But there’s more than meets the eye. Mike and Paolo explained that “as a social sculpture, ‘TNT Traysikel’ was used as an aesthetic object, a protest tool, and symbol of solidarity with the Black community against Police brutality and delivery vehicles during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“It’s undeniably Filipino and is a catalyst for conversation. So we are collecting stories of the Filipino diaspora and making a documentary about Filipinos in America called ‘TNT in America’, a deep dive into the Filipino American history and a celebration of the Filipino’s presence in the USA,” Paolo told Manila Bulletin Lifestyle Online.

“On the lighter side but equally important, we’re also producing a YouTube series entitled “TNT SideCaraoke,” where we’ll give people rides while they sing karaoke and tell us their immigrant stories,” added Paolo. 

Fueled with a love for Filipino heritage and culture, this three-wheeled motorcycle will surely create noise we are looking forward to hearing.