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From the Flow to the Fringes

Group of men pushing a bamboo raft through the river

Three years ago, I received an Artivism sticker from a friend and colleague. I found it quite cool! Didn’t know much about the organization until I went back to Iloilo. That was also the same time when I realized that an old college friend, Tin, is one of the people behind the idea. We started getting in touch and began sharing conversations like our family lineage, college days, the complexities of living in a modern world, and our visions. A connection was re-established and we continued to bask in each other’s energies up to this moment.

Fast forward to 2022. Two years after the world was put into a stupor by the pandemic – I know, everyone is sick of hearing about it because we’re tired of it, yada-yada, but yes, I said it. Anyway. I was back in town and had the chance to catch up with Tin and finally met her other artistic half, Marrz. It was the same time that I learned about Ilig Tubtub sa Sidsid.

children enjoying the flow of the river

Ilig Tubtub sa Sidsid is a Hiligaynon phrase that directly translates into – “to flow up to the fringe”. The whole concept was anchored on the value of community, inclusion, and empowering the people of the town by having them take ownership over their resources and local heritage.

“Our concept-inspiration is the river that flows through and through our town…how it touches even the fringes of our local earth. And I realized that as we strive for progress, it must be holistic in such a way that no one or nothing is left behind – even our natural resources and our grassroots communities”.

~ Kristine Buenavista, Program Designer and Artivism Iloilo Co-founder

Barotac Viejo is a laid-back town with so much potential. You will notice it through their lush fields of rice, abundant waters, indigenous knowledge, local talents, as well as the amusing collection of flora and fauna found on its shores, rivers, and hills. Being born and raised in a neighboring town a few kilometers away, I admit that Barotac Viejo was not always present on my radar.

The more I learn about the project, the more I became impressed. I was particularly amazed by the extent of dedication not only by those who came up with the project but also by the entire community of volunteers from different sectors including the public servants in the locality. This is one of the best examples of how much can be accomplished if the local citizens and the government work together on a common goal.

“The week-long mural event affirmed my belief in putting people at the heart of decision-making that can benefit the community. Every day, I witnessed how people wanted to take part and speak out whether they were part of the fraternities and sororities helping the lead artists or thrilled residents offering us free food. The energy was river-like as all of us worked towards one direction despite our differences.”

~ Marrz Capanang, Project Lead and Artivism Iloilo Co-founder

“It was the first time for me to take part in a big mural project, and I was so surprised that I can paint from scratch. So, to me, it was a discovery of something I never thought I had. The way different people in the community offered their best for the success of the project also inspired me. I believe that it was not just an event, but a gathering that strengthened the real soul of Barotac Viejo – its history, culture, and authentic beauty. “

~ Kyla Buenavista, Lead Artist

“Even though there were a few hitches, Ilig tub-tub sa sidsid was exciting and enjoyable since the community worked together to make it a success. It's been a pleasant experience for me because I've seen the community rejoice and I met some artists who have now become my friends. It's a huge chance for all the lead artists, especially for me, because I'm still trying to figure out where I belong, and it's challenging, but we're still giving it our all. And it's a privilege since it has boosted my confidence and provided us with more opportunities, for which we're grateful.”

~ Rafael Jester Indicio, Lead Artist

I watched by the sidelines as things progressed and came up with an observation. Do you know that feeling of being in a place for a very long time? You were born there, your parents settled there, and you tread on the same soil that your ancestors tilled, long before they even thought about the possibility that you will be around. We get to the point that we become too used to what we have. We see the same things every day. Sit on the exact same spot on lazy afternoons waiting for the local “manug libod” to bring our favorite selection of goodies and snacks. The everyday people we interact with on the street. Those who we knew very well and things become so common that we get used to them. We seldom realize that those days by day simplicity becomes our way of life that we become oblivious to its potential - our potential. That is one of the many aspects that Ilig Tubtub sa Sidsid wanted to bring out to our consciousness.

“Through this project, we’ve learned that by giving locals the right avenue and opportunity, we can help them showcase their talents to a wider audience. This will help them thrive and continue to inspire future generations of artists who will support and preserve our local culture.”

~ Hon. Nielo “Bongbong” Tupas, Municipal Mayor

Photography by Paul Lorica
The murals provided a unique experience of telling our story through the arts which became an important part of the town’s culture. It added color to the dike walls that had previously gone unnoticed. The collaborative efforts of the local government, Artivism, private individuals, the community, as well as the trusting relationship among the fraternities were the most admirable aspect of the project.”

~ Hanneh Karmela Banaynal, Tourism Officer

Murals and wall art have been a great part of human history and evolution. We see it in caves, rock phases, and now on empty spaces everywhere! We cannot go away from it. It is well imprinted in our collective psyche – it completes us as human beings. From a rather obscure artform to the point of even being considered vandalism, it has developed into a positive way of expression and a medium to communicate vital messages, ideas, and dreams. It turned out as a form of spiritual awakening and healing. A way of telling a story. It is a shared experience. It is a collection of colorful mental farts that if not being put into canvass will become useless and be carried by the wind into oblivion. Let’s not let a good fart be put to waste. There are hundreds of empty spaces all over the place that are just waiting to be filled with creativity!

I am writing this piece in a cafeteria called Forever Café. Cheesy name but it’s the only place serving ok coffee and with a decent internet connection in the town where I am now. An OPM song is blaring in the background. On one of its walls is a scribbling that says; “Live every moment - Laugh every day – Love beyond words.” Made me smile, and thought – cliché. But I think it’s the same thing people who were part and were reached by the project thought at some point. Or I am just being melodramatic. As I look at the murals and videos of the Ilig event on my screen, it felt like I am being transported into frames of moving snapshots of some sort. Each artwork and act are fragments of Barotac Viejo and the streets of Iloilo. It played with my senses. It brought to me the salty breeze of the sea, the inviting aroma of fresh ground coffee, and the warm vibe of the local market and its people. Ilig Tubtub sa Sidsid is the culmination of the spirit of oneness. It is a celebration of human connection throughout generations that will transcend throughout the years. It is a manifestation that we can and will do better.

Ilig Tubtob sa Sidsid Lead Artists

(left to right: Kyla Buenavista, Rafael Indicio, Khian Barniego. Litonin Bañaria, Matt Abela, and Bens Biong Not included in the picture: Hannah Vergara, Kristian Barniego and Jesson Boco)

Photography by Paul Lorica
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