Protest graffiti is about disturbing the silence | Inquirer Opinion

Protest graffiti is about disturbing the silence

04:00 AM November 29, 2019

This is a response to Winna Vista’s letter, “Vandalism wastes gov’t money” (11/20/19).

In her letter, Vista expressed agreement with Manila Mayor Isko Moreno, who threatened to make the members of the cultural youth group Panday Sining lick their graffiti on the walls of the Lagusnilad underpass and other public spaces “because it costs a lot of money to clean and repaint those areas.”


Strangely enough, some of our countrymen—especially the middle class—see the costs of repainting walls but not the human costs of the government’s war on drugs and crackdown against unarmed activists. What is the good of being decent when we see only what we want to see, or hear what we only want to hear? People are getting killed without due process and workers are being jailed for merely asserting their rights, while the Duterte administration is selling out the country’s sovereignty to China. Yet we choose to focus our attention on Panday Sining’s graffiti act itself, rather than the message it is trying to convey? Why can we tolerate spray-painted signs like “bawal ang umihi dito” but not political slogans that expose government injustice?

“Will it be acceptable if people spray-paint the walls in UP (University of the Philippines)? Will it be the right thing?” asked Vista. I did not study at UP, but I don’t think its administration would react in the same manner that Moreno did, but would rather respond accordingly. Besides, UP is no stranger to “vandalism.” Last March, UP Cebu’s facade was spray-painted with the words “SALOT” and “CPP-NPA,” obviously Red-tagging the UP community. Not only was such graffiti malicious, it also endangered the university constituents by making them target of harassment or persecution. Unfortunately, the incident did not attract much media attention.


True, spraying paint on walls is not the answer to change, but it sure is an effective way to register protest, especially when the democratic spaces are being compromised by the state. We should not be fooled by the rhetoric of traditional politicians and bureaucrats equating blind obedience with good citizenship. In fact, we should be grateful to the progressive youth artists for—in the words of Paul Simon— daring to “disturb the sound of silence.”

DANIEL ALOC, [email protected]

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TAGS: Manila Mayor Isko Moreno, Panday Sining, Protest graffiti
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