Generally, graffiti are still taboo. Despite Filipinos being a creative race, we are still, surprisingly, not ready for street art — and, who can blame us? Those multi-eyed slugs… or those triangle-headed monsters… or those anthropomorphic phalluses are not exactly what we call — uhm — “cute”. For us, art is still a coat-and-tie thing. Street art is still too plebeian for our sophisticated eyes — or, at least, we’d like to think so.
Location: Gorordo Avenue
“Yes, graffiti are a tad eccentric. I can’t blame people for thinking it is a lower form of art. And, that is what we are trying to change,” he exclaimed while he neatly placed his spray cans in the bags. This twenty-something gentleman is one of Cebu’s aspiring graffiti artists, and he just “bombed” a wall near one of the universities in town. “It is easy to associate graffiti with gangs and thugs. Anywhere in the city, we can see scribbles of either gang names or some expletives on the fences and walls near our main thoroughfares. I don’t know, perhaps, it will take some time before people realize there is more to graffiti than fraternity acronyms and misspelled curses,” he added.
Location: N. Escario Street
Graffiti, some say, have been around since time immemorial. The paintings on cave walls, the encryption in tombs and temples, the sociopolitical drawings on the Berlin Wall, the bloodied doodles in ghettos and other war-torn neighborhoods, the colorful one-liners scribbled ubiquitously in the city selling us anything from shoes, to shirts, to anything that captures the fleeting fancy of the buying population — all these tell us how street art has borne witness to the changing landscape of our artistic, social and political history.
Location: Archbishop Reyes Avenue
The problem with graffiti — and with street art in general — is the seemingly faded and blurred boundaries between art and vandalism. While many street artists talk about the rush that comes with the “chase”, I personally think these artists choose to play tag with the police due to lack of purpose. When someone is bereft of a goal or objective, it is easy to justify an act with the thrill he claims to get out of it. And, that is sad. Art serves a higher purpose. History tells us that in so many times, art has been an effective means to expose what is behind the cover of the status quo. Art — including street art — is a visual criticism to what is conventional, a colorful challenge to accepted norms.
Location: Gov. M. J. Cuenco Avenue
Cebu has bred several talented street artists. In fact, UBEC — a half-palindrome for Cebu — has been painting the town red (and green… and yellow… and black… and gray) literally. Graffiti artists like Soika and Karingkay have afforded themselves a creative channel to express their freedom. These street artists are attracting quite a following despite their anonymity. There are those, however, who dismiss these drawings as eye sore. The question remains: Is Cebu ready for street art?
An interesting article by Cebu Daily News attempted to differentiate graffiti and murals — perhaps, in the hopes of shedding light on the moralistic dilemma about the boon and bane sides of graffiti. Murals are sanctioned works. When someone asks you, instructs you and pays you to paint a wall or a fence, you are doing a mural, not a graffito — even if you insist on calling yourself a graffiti artist. Graffiti, on the other hand, are unsanctioned. And, this is why graffiti usually run against the grains of many people. After all, though it is usually depicted as a snub to what is generally accepted, art is supposed to be fundamentally built upon a set of rules.
Are graffiti no more than an act of vandalism then? Well, despite the clarification attempted above, the answer may be more complicated than a YES or a NO. Objectively speaking, graffiti — in the respect that they are unsanctioned — are against the law. Yes, people may like them but that doesn’t give anybody a pass to break any law. But, I think we can arrive at a compromise — a middle ground where anybody can enjoy art without putting any right in disregard.
Cebu is one big canvas. Take a walk and you’ll see.