Filipino artist paints the plight of Lumads in mural

Bakwit, a 70-meter vibrant mural of a barefoot Lumad child who carries her younger brother and their meager belongings as she wades through a river, continues to call the attention of LRT commuters and passersby along the busy and narrow Dominga Street of Malate, Manila.

A twist on the English word “evacuate,” Bakwit sheds light on the plight of the indigenous people in the country. It depicts the story of the Lumad students who, due to militarization, are forced to abandon their schools and their communities to escape to the lowlands by foot.

The towering artwork was created by award-winning Filipino street artist and painter Archie Oclos, who utilized the wall of the 14-story Design and Arts Campus of the De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde as a canvas.

Oclos, a part of the Forbes 30 Under 30 list in 2017 and the Cultural Center of the Philippines Thirteen Artist Awards in 2018, focuses on socio -political themes, particularly on the struggles of farmers and locals. He was inspired by his own immersion and promised the children that he will impart their story.

The street artist finished the scene-stealing mural in 24 days. Below the painting is a message written in Bisaya, which when translated in English, reads: “Why do we have to leave our homes and our ancestral domain for the cities? Can’t we have college education near our farms? Why take away our pet chickens and pigs? Why are our crops destroyed and taken? Why is there chaos? Where is father and mother? Why were they killed? Why? Why do we have to evacuate? We just want to finish school and live.”

Bakwit, produced by Benilde Center for Campus Art, was made as part of the initial wave of the 2018 CCP Thirteen Artist Awards at Benilde exhibition. This was co-curated by Benilde CCA Director Architect Gerry Torres and 2000 Thirteen Artist Awardee Karen Ocampo Flores.

The 2019 Araw Values Awards recognized Bakwit with a Bronze Award under the Respect and Care for Life and Dignity and the Rights of All category.

Though Bakwit was produced prior to the pandemic, the piece continues to attract viewers until today.

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