By Jaymee T. Gamil | Inquirer.net | July 27, 2015
MANILA, Philippines–Sitting on an imitation of a derailed commuter train, President Aquino’s effigy for his final State of the Nation Address (Sona) on Monday is the biggest and “most ambitious” created so far by a militant artists’ group since 2010.
The group UgatLahi, which is under the umbrella of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan), is behind the yearly Sona effigies.
Measuring 4.1 meters high and 3.7 m long, the Sona 2015 effigy depicts Aquino on a “derailed” and “rotten” Metro Rail Transit (MRT) train.
The effigy’s arms will be movable while the train will have sliding doors through which “passengers” would stream out to show dissatisfaction with the administration, said UgatLahi production head Aldrein Silanga.
“The challenge of the last Sona effigy is to symbolize the last five years. The [straight path] failed and was neglected,” Silanga said.
In a statement, Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes likened the administration to the MRT. “It keeps breaking down…. It badly needs a replacement. It is a visual representation of government neglect and lack of empathy for ordinary, working people,” he said.
In 2010, the effigy had a Harry Potter-inspired theme, a play on “Aquino magic”—the charisma of democratic icons and his parents, Cory and Ninoy Aquino—perceived to have secured Aquino’s presidency. It also symbolized the anticipation of what kind of “magic” Aquino would weave to deliver on his promises of change.
That figure of the President wearing a star-spangled wizard’s cape was not put to flames—a break from the usual fate of effigies in Sona protests. “He had a good platform. So we thought: ‘Let’s see what he will do for the nation,’” Silanga said.
But the second effigy went back to ridiculing the administration. The 2011 character was a rotten “Penoy,” a play on “P-Noy,” the nickname of the President, followed by a “two-faced” Aquino, with a flower in one hand and a mace on the other, and another figure feasting to symbolize how he supposedly serves only the interests of the elite and the United States.
Silanga, a freelance artist, described effigy making as a protest art. “It’s not for display. It’s a symbol. Once it hits the road, we no longer own it. It is an expression of the public,” he said.
A day before Aquino’s final Sona, violence broke out between police and protesters in Quezon City.
Supt. Christian de la Cruz said activists who were holding a rally near the President’s home on Times Street became “unruly” and ended up injuring four policemen.
De la Cruz said protesters led by Bayan from Southern Tagalog tried to push past the police barricade around 1 p.m.
One militant, PJ Santos, countered the police narration. “Some of our members were hit [with batons] on their hands,” he said.
The protesters made a show of eating simple lunches in plastic bags to criticize the P2 million to be spent for snacks during the Sona.
The National Union of People’s Lawyers scored the Quezon City government’s failure to act on its request to be allowed to hold a rally on Commonwealth Avenue, near the Batasang Pambansa complex.
Reyes said City Hall had not acted on the permit application so the rally would proceed.
To manage traffic during the Sona, the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority has added 200 more traffic constables to the 1,200 personnel it initially planned to deploy for the event.–With reports from Jerome Aning and Maricar B. Brizuela