Mural by Sim Tolentino (left) and Dee Jae Paeste (right)
If ever you’re headed to the province of Kalinga soon, expect to see the village of Buscalan artistically swept from head to toe. Led by artist Archie Oclos, a community of street artists, cultural workers, and art practitioners banded together to proudly present the artistic prowess of Filipinos in presenting community culture and contemporary art.
The team was composed of Archie Oclos, Kris Abrigo, Bvdot, Jenn Ban, Doktor Karayom, Ralph Eya, Ilona Fiddy, Dee Jae Paeste, Kookoo Ramos, and Sim Tolentino who all went on a four-day immersive experience in the community of Buscalan Village. There, they painted striking murals in various locations of the village.
On his own creative mural, Oclos had this to share, “I based my piece on the stories of the indigenous group and the local homeowners, about how they bring in commercial products up there in the mountains. The people know that they need those products to sustain their living, but in the process, they also recognize that they too, become dependent of the existing system of commerce. They also need to somehow go with the flow of modern times.”
Muralist Kookoo Ramos, on the other hand, sought to merge the insights she gained from the community immersion with the sensibilities of a female artist. “As a woman, it felt right to illustrate a female portrait wearing a skull headpiece that would symbolize men’s work which can also be done by any woman. But from what I saw in Buscalan village, the role of women seemed simple, but it is definitely relevant for them. ‘Tunay silang Ilaw ng Tahanan’, and there was no need for me to exaggerate, twist, or create a more ‘aesthetically appealing’ statement piece. Because I found value in that simplicity,” Ramos explained.
Through this cultural initiative, these artists also send a message of how social involvement and purposeful action for societal progress can be done in more ways than one. The group of artists hope that Filipinos will be able to see that art, specifically community art, is also a form of activism which sparks emotions and conversations we ought to pay attention to. Art practitioner Ralph Eya also shared, “In the context of our nation’s ‘ongoing divisiveness’, I think this poses a significant challenge for all of us – how do we really work together to innovate ways and bring about ‘real’ change in our communities and our country? With an existing threat to our cultural identity, how do we continue to uphold, defend, and protect each other’s right to freely express our culture and our identity?”
The passionate efforts of Oclos and his group in Buscalan Village challenge Filipinos to rise as a community and contribute in every possible way in sustaining the cultural identity of our people, regardless of how diverse our roots may be. They also prove that art is a consistently powerful tool in sending impactful messages, especially when artists themselves work as one community. They plan to continue this socially-engaged art project in the years to come. Hopefully they do, because from the looks of it, people are soon going to flock to Buscalan Village for much needed artistic and cultural inspiration.
Information and photos extracted from press releases issued by Commune Artists.