MANY PEOPLE MISTAKE my ethnicity. Often they’d think I’m Indian, Indonesian … or Mexican. My response to the latter, or to anyone who asks me about Filipino culture, I usually sum it up in one word: ‘Mexicasian’.
Mexicasian. We’re in the middle of Asia and the bamboo network Chinese have assimilated to the point where many of us have Chinese blood. But we still have an undeniably Latino spirit to us, especially when it comes to the artistic, flashy or vivid ways we celebrate.
That goes for our art too. In the days before It’s More Fun in the Philippines when hardly anyone cared about visiting our country I had always envisioned Manila making its selling point of this by becoming a ‘mural city’ like Mexico City and our other long-lost Latino cousins. And am I glad that, to some extent, this dream is coming true.
Interestingly enough, in contrast to common perceptions of murals dominating slums, they’re popping up everywhere – even in the Makati financial CBD. You’ll see murals in pedestrian underpasses and overpasses, connecting skyscrapers and shopping malls. Which makes the Makati mural a tad different from murals in the rest of Metro Manila – they’re the type that some may call ‘hipster’. But there is still a serious message in them – after all, this is the financial district, where people have their mind on their careers – a big thing for an emerging market with a young population. So maybe the quirky juxtaposition of favela-style murals and ultra-modern steel-and-concrete skyscrapers makes some sense. Or it’s even more appropriate to brighten what would otherwise appear to be the most sterile part of town.