Artists, Peasant Advocates Hold Back-to-Back Art Fair and Exhibit Launch

Artista ng Rebolusyong Pangkultura (ARPAK) celebrated Arts Month 2023 this pre-Valentine’s weekend with back-to-back events in support of the peasant sector’s calls to junk the import-dependent, export-oriented Rice Liberalization Law (RLL) and the Fisheries Code of 1998. Ahead of the upcoming anniversaries of the signing of both policies, artists and peasant advocates asserted the importance of creating art reflecting the national struggle for food self-sufficiency.

ARPAK hosted the “TL;DR : TRL” small press and art fair under the theme “land reform is peace” on Feb. 11 at Sikat Inc.,Tomas Morato, Quezon City. Joining ARPAK are artists and merchants Makò Micro-Press, Marz Today, KITA, VISIBLESIGNAL, ACID Distribution, Sweetxdreams, The Cabinet, Ulong Sinigang, Sopdrinks, Harry Limbo, Austin Abante, Edwin Tayao, Kamayari Books, Protagonist Books, Kayatinta Tattoo Studio, Rural Women Advocates, Liyang Network, as well as Artista para sa Agham, Teknolohiya, at Kalikasan.

The first part of the program was a food situationer entitled “Pag-ibig na Walang Tamis” led by peasant leaders. Amihan Nation Federation of Peasant Women secretary general and Bantay Bigas spokesperson Cathy Estavillo detailed how RLL heightened malnutrition in the country, intensified land use conversion of agricultural lands, and prioritized importation which led to widespread losses in local production.

National Federation of Small Fisherfolk Organizations (PAMALAKAYA) spokesperson Ronnel Arambulo explained how the Fisheries Code of 1998 continues to fail in protecting small fisherfolk forced to compete with foreign and large commercial fishing vessels while hindering them from making a living with stifling bureaucratic policies.

Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) chairperson Butch Lozande gave an update on the High Level Tripartite Mission undertaken by the International Labor Organization due to the attacks on the union rights of workers in the country. Lozande also spoke about the sugar importation issue that led to the closing of agricultural corporations such as the Central Azucarera de Don Pedro Inc. and why we need to pressure the Marcos Jr. administration to provide government subsidies for farm workers.

Audiences enjoyed live performances from DEATHOMEGA and DJ HEADACHEMAXIMUM before the second half of talks from artist-advocates on practicing pro-people writing.

Children’s books illustrator Ara Villena of Sama-samang Artista para sa Kilusang Agraryo (SAKA) spoke about why she chooses narratives of youth fighting with the masses and full of hope. “Majority ng kabataan ay galing sa uring magsasaka,” she said. “Pati sa paglilikha, dapat may consciousness. Hindi lang isang tipo ang magsasaka na naka-straw hat na lalaki. May babaeng magsasaka at napakarami nila, at mahuhusay sila.” She adds that integrating with the peasant community is what can truly shape an artist’s consciousness.

Ronaldo Vivo Jr. at Kuya Marlon ng Deepweb Dumagete shared some of their experiences and influences in a panel called “Pagkukuwento sa Panahon ng Inip, Bagot, at Pasismo.” Kuya Marlon advised on developing an art style, “Huwag kang maging turista. Dapat nakapaloob ka [sa paksa mo].” Vivo added that in order to encourage readers to continue reading, an author must study how the world they’re portraying really moves.

Last but not the least is Epoy Deyto’s talk on defending didactism. “Habang ang artista ng bayan ay seryoso at abala sa pagprodyus ng mga akdang naglalayong makapukaw sa mga mamamayan para sa alternatibo at radikal na tunguhin, ang mga nais magsulat ng kritisismong pangkultura para sa sambayanan ay dapat lang na ilugar ang kanyang panulat at pumanig sa malawak at lumalawak na kilusang masa,” he said.

The event also serves as the launch of ARPAK’s first-ever zine “Pagkatapos ng Digma,” which depicts both the dire situation of Filipino farmers in the present and the possible future borne out of the struggle for land.


ARPAK then held the launch of its group exhibition for land, justice, and peace entitled “Mula Tarangkahan Tungong Sakahan” on Feb. 12 at Stall 09, Cubao Expo. Featured works by visual artists from ARPAK, SAKA, and PAMALAKAYA call for ending extreme hunger, poverty, and violence as well assert the need for genuine agrarian and aquatic reform.

To open the program, ARPAK gave an introduction to the exhibition and left the audience with the question, “Can art feed you?” Proceeding with a situationer on RLL, they declared that art cannot do that alone but it can be used as a tool to help uphold national food security by supporting policies like the Rice Industry Development Act (RIDA).

PAMALAKAYA spokesperson Ronnel Arambulo was again invited to speak about the plight of small fisherfolk and the campaign to junk the Fisheries Code of 1998. Amihan National Federation of Peasant Women chairperson Zen Soriano was also present to reiterate the need for RIDA. She also challenged the Marcos Jr. administration to admit its own negligence and how it has crippled and silenced farmers demanding their democratic rights. “Paano mabubusog ang puso natin kung walang laman ang tiyan natin?” she asked.

What followed was an artist talk where exhibitors spoke about their pieces and the narratives from peasant communities that inspired them. The launch ended with a challenge to fellow artists to stand with farmers and fisherfolk and an invite to join the protest actions to be held on the fourth anniversary of RLL on Feb. 14 and the 25th anniversary of the Fisheries Code of 1998 on Feb. 24. “Mula Tarangkahan Tungong Sakahan” is available for viewing at Stall 09 until Feb. 18.

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