Thrilla' of Manila: Graffiti In The Phillipines

Photographer Abraham Menor recently returned from a trip to the Philippines where he photographed the thriving graffiti and street culture. "The pieces or letters help bring character and sometimes bring a sense of beauty to the areas that breathe hardship," he said.

This past winter I had the opportunity to visit the Philippines. Graffiti and street art was well alive and thriving. Because of my interest in street culture I was very curious about how the scene has developed since the last time I visited. While I was there, one of my main goals was to photograph some of the graffiti and street art that exist in one of the biggest and rawest scenes in Asia. I met with some local artist during this trip. Through long journeys of smog, heat, and some shady areas, I was able to capture some good photos. I also learned that the artists of the Philippines are definitely pushing the envelope and the scene and culture is well established.

Walking the streets or riding a jeepney to discover new pieces is definitely an experience. Walking through areas tourist would never go or areas that may not be the most pleasant to the eye, graffiti and street art bring an element of comfort. One can find amazing art on smog stained building walls and make shift fences along public and barangay streets. The pieces or letters help bring character and sometimes bring a sense of beauty to the areas that breathe hardship and eyesore. Because the people of the Philippines have bigger social issues to worry about, graffiti and street art are not a huge concern to the people so it has a longer shelf life than what we have in the States.

The first meet up was with artist Trip63. Trip took me on a two-day extravaganza exploring the different areas that graffiti and street art existed in Manila. From grimy street tags to colorful productions, I saw a wide array of styles that had the feel and look just like the work I see in the States. Street art and graffiti has definitely grown and expanded from the last time I was in the Philippines. It is more abundant and elaborate with different styles and can be seen all over.

The next artist I met with was from the Bay Area and goes by the name BasicLee. We traveled to a huge wall in the city of Marikina. This wall is specifically dedicated to graffiti and street art. If you know how to paint or paste you can make your mark, but best believe you better come correct. This wall has writers and artists making their mark from all over the world. Lee has his foundation in the homeland and shared with me that there are a number of artist from the area that are active and producing great work.

My last stop was to Cebu where I met with street artist Bartbombs from the UBEC Crew. Bart toured me around different areas where he lives and places to take photos. I hung out with some of his crewmembers at a local hang out that they frequent. We had a good conversation about art in the city. Bart explained to me that the availability to choice paints are limited and that they use what they can access and afford to be creative. Bart also shared that the scene in Cebu has been around for a long time, but it’s not as big or blown up as Manila. According to Bart, graffiti and street art will continue to grow and expand in Cebu as long as the new generations keep creative and keep it alive.  

The graffiti and street art scene is definitely on point in the Philippines. Each time I visit, there are new crews, emerging artist, and styles. Whether you are sitting in a jeepney in traffic or wandering the streets on foot, you are bound to see something. Graffiti and street art definitely brings an element of life and beauty to the grit of the Philippines.

Shout out to Trip63, BasicLee, Bartbombs of the UBEC Crew, DeeJae Paeste, and for the connections and tours. 

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