I first knew Pong way back in 2004. I saw them in a punk gig with a full battle gear street punk look alongside his friends Tonton and other Makati punks. I visited them in their hang out place in Makati, and then I knew that Pong lived in a jeepney and sometimes he stayed in university rooms or friend’s house in Makati. When his family moved into the relocation site in Cavite, Pong and his older brother still stayed in Makati. Pong was literally a nomad, moving from place to place. When I was working as a tricycle driver, Pong and others would visit me in our terminal hang out and eat together after I finished my work. If we wanted to visit the anarchist space in Cubao, we would go together and sleep outside on the streets at nighttime.
Pong did not finish his graphic design study and instead lived as a street punk and artist. He was actively the one who was making posters, flyers for gigs and events, doing banners for any political activities like demonstrations, banner-hanging actions, etc. His forte was a black and white drawing using a ball pen. The images of his artwork related to anti-war (Food Not Bombs), anti-civilization, counter-culture punks and anarchism. He was inspired by the Black Bloc, anarchist personalities and Zapatistas. You would see that in his sketch book, zines or recycled bond paper. Pong stayed updated with socio-political events happening globally, and you noticed it with his drawings. I can say that he was an internationalist because of his concern with the situation around world. He drew Carlo Guilliani as a tribute for his loss; Carlo Guilliani was an Italian anarchist who was shot by the police in the Genoa Anti-G8 mobilization in 2001. In memory of Alexandros Grigoropoulos who was shot by special forces in Greece, Pong also drew images of him supporting the December 2008 riots in Exarchia. He also made a portrait of Santiago Maldonado, an Argentinian anarchist who was a victim of forced disappearance. An image of Palestinian girl Ahed Tamimi was also in his artwork. When Tukijo, a Kulon Progo farmer, was released from jail, anarchists celebrated it, and again Pong drew a portrait of him getting out of prison and hugging his comrade. I gave this Pong masterpiece personally to Tukijo when we visited him in Indonesia in 2015.
In 2005-06, we worked together alongside other friends to campaign for the release of the Sagada 11 punks. Pong and I had many meetings with Asian Human Rights Commission, as they were the ones who were helping us in Manila with their para-legal advice and other stuff. AHRC asked Pong to make an illustration in solidarity with the torture victims. We organized a demonstration, together with other friends from Manila, Cainta and Bulacan, for the International Day against Torture that we held in Welcome Rotonda.
Pong was a diligent promoter of anti-election propaganda through his creative illustrations depicting the system of repetitive voting.
Pong as a street artist portrayed images that were relatively important to him. He supported indigenous struggle, not only Lumad for its self-determination, but also the Zapatistas, an indigenous community who are autonomously living in Chiapas, Mexico. He criticized urbanization, industrialization, poverty and the destruction of ecology. He was aware that capitalism and the State are mainly responsible for the madness happening in our world.
Most of the infoshop and autonomous spaces here in the Archipelago had mural paintings made by Pong. He was willing to share his talent with the community and friends; he liked to draw friends’ faces and give it to them as a gift. Most of the time, he would draw in his sketchbook or he would ask a friend if he could do a mural on their house. He had difficulty putting prices for his work, as he was not comfortable seeing his artwork as a commodity that needed to be purchased. He was willing to give it for free or for an exchange of trade.
For me, I know Pong had an anti-establishment and anti-institution critique in general, especially in the art world. As an artist, he was not amazed or interested to put his work in a gallery that was enclosed. He would be happy to exhibit his work in public places, streets, gigs/events, neighborhood areas, abandon buildings and squatters’ areas. I learned from him that for the people to appreciate art is to show it in public so the people could raise questions and create an awareness. He always participated in art exhibitions on streets like the events “Lansangan Koneksyon” and “Sining sa Kalye”. But because we were proud of his work to be exhibited in other venues like Ishmael Bernal Gallery, we managed to convince him in 2012 to participate in a group exhibition. The group art exhibition was part of the five-day event Anarkiya Fiesta in the University of the Philippines.
Aside from punk, Pong had a soft taste of music. He introduced to us songs like “Tonight the Streets are Ours” by Richard Hawley and to the band CocoRosie. If he was staying here in our infoshop, we always talked of many things from love life, family matters, socio-political issues, gossip, etc. He loved watching movies together with my girlfriend, and they would stay up all night movie tripping.
Pong not only inspired people, he CHALLENGED each of us, showing that despite how hard the life is, anyone can make something different.
PONX NOT DEAD
HE WILL REMAIN WITH US