‘Bakwit:’ Street artist dedicates tallest mural in the country to Lumads

May 21, 2019 - 6:10 PM
Lumad from hinterland communities of Lianga, Surigao del Sur begin evacuating their homes to avoid military operations. (photo from Higala: Friends of the Lumad in Caraga)

A community-based school for Lumads praised a mural created by a street artist for capturing the plight of indigenous Filipino students in Mindanao being red-tagged and harassed by the military.

Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development (ALCADEV), a community-run Lumad school in Mindanao, shared pictures of the “tallest mural in the country” and recognized Archie Oclos for the artwork.

The mural is titled “Bakwit” which translates to “evacuee” in English.

“Maraming salamat Archie Oclos sa pagsasalarawan ng aming danas.¬†Mabuhay ang makabayang artista!” ALCADEV wrote in Twitter.

The mural, which is almost 70 meters tall, is located on the side of De La Salle-College of St. Benilde’s School of Design and Arts campus along Dominga Street.

It was created by Oclos for the¬†Benilde Center of Campus Art’s “The 2018 CCP Thirteen Artists Awards at Benilde” project.

According to DLS-CSB, “Bakwit” (Evacuee) pertains to the situation of indigenous Filipino students who are forced to leave their respective schools and communities due to the militarization of the government.

They are forced to go down the lowlands instead, usually in barefoot.

Oclos also shared a piece that summed up the Lumads’ sentiments, especially after the administration imposed martial law following the deadly Marawi siege in 2017. It reads:

Bakit kami bababa sa aming tirahan patungo sa kalungsuran?

Bakit kami mapapalikas sa aming lupang ninuno? 
Bakit wala kaming paaralan pang-kolehiyo dito sa kabundukan? 
Bakit inaagaw sa amin ang aming alagang manok at baboy? 
Bakit winawasak at inaagaw ang aming pananim? 
Bakit may kaguluhan? 
Bakit wala na sina Itay at Inay? 
Bakit sila pinaslang? 

…gusto lang naming makatapos ng pag-aaral at mabuhay.

ALCADEV in a follow-up tweet shared that Oclos visited the Lumad community in August 2018. The artist listened to their stories and learned from their experiences.

Oclos was also able to share some of his ideas and create a mural dedicated to them.

Oclos is a street artist and painter who graduated from the University of the Philippines-Diliman with a bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts in Painting.

He has participated in several art exhibits (both solo and group) and has earned multiple awards in national art competitions.

Oclos’ works usually portray¬†socio-political issues and the plight of farmers and the indigenous people.

His aim is to “raise social awareness through art” and “give a voice to the voiceless” such as the minority and the oppressed.

“There is a great need to let people know of the sort of issues and struggles they are facing. I want to capture their value and demonstrate their importance in our society,” Oclos said in an interview.

Constantly abused 

Lumads have been facing constant threats and harassment from the government ever since President Rodrigo Duterte claimed that he would bomb their schools, believing it was allegedly run by communists.

Back in 2017, the tough-talking chief executive said that the schools were purportedly influencing the youth to rebel against the government.

He specifically mentioned that he would order the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police to “bomb” Lumad schools.

Duterte later on took back his statement and said that he would only bomb empty Lumad schools.

However, it was revealed by the Department of Education’s¬†Indigenous Peoples Education Office that the Lumads only have a more culturally appropriate educational system.

Students are taught the core curriculum present in mainstream schools but it is “localized” with the help of consultations with members and elders of the indigenous people.

In 2018, reports of rampant abuse and harassment to the Lumads by the military surfaced following Duterte’s declaration and extension of martial law.

Some Lumad schools were allegedly taken over by state forces and used as barracks or camp.