(This interview was made by me for our J111, Feature Writing,
class last semester. Our class project was a magazine named Noypi.
Access the Magazine here: NOYPI)

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You might have seen these huge caricatures paraded during various protests actions. But, have you ever wondered why they bother making one just to burn it all up in the end?

Read on to know what it takes to build these huge masterpieces of the street. And read their views on art, with an Interview from Iggy Rodriguez, Project Coordinator of UgatLahi.

NOYPI: How did UgatLahi came to be?

IR: Ugat Lahi started as a transmedia collective of artists who use different media like theater, literature and visual arts. UgatLahi artists see that there are problems in society and from there, uses different artistic and imaginative expressions to voice out these issues. We try to create projects to serve as venue for balitaktakan or talks like exhibits, fora and effigy-making among others.  

NOYPI: How long have you been making effigies?

IR: We started in 1997, for the “Kalbaryo ng Mamamayan” held during the Lent. But, officially we started making effigies of personalities and presidents in 1999, from the Estrada administration up to the current one.

NOYPI: How long does it take to create an effigy?

IR: Our timeline in making an effigy is exactly one week though there was one time during the Estrada administration that took us up to three weeks.

NOYPI: Why do UgatLahi artists involve with such advocacies?
 
IR: It is important to be critical of the social realities. We believe that artist as human beings, as Filipinos, should be active participants and not passive bystanders in society. Creating art that reflect social realities is part of an artist’s responsibility. Whether in streets, in a factory, or a mainstream gallery what’s important is that the artist can broadcast the message as a social being.

NOYPI: What creative process does creating an effigy go through?

IR: Well, first we unite in the concept or idea to be portrayed. We identify the call, for example [during] the State of the Nation Address (SONA) 2009 the main call is “Tapos ka na Gloria.” We want to show that her 9 years of staying in power is [nearing its end] and that people are in discontent.

At the same time we want to show a “Rotting Glo,” where she continuously finds ways to extend her term either as president or as prime minister. She was portrayed riding a bulldozer which symbolizes the administration move for a charter change (cha-cha). The bulldozer symbolizes how the Arroyo administration wants to derail all efforts of the masses to oppose her moves to extend her term.


NOYPI: What does an effective effigy look like?

IR: Among our collective, we try to raise the standards of creating effigies [as artists]. But actually, it depends on the objective, the concept of the artist and the purpose or use of the effigy. The most important consideration is the concept, identifying the most effective concept, and then we try to raise the aesthetics. Like during the Marcos years effigies mostly use chicken wire, now we use clay which is easier to sculpt, add details and mold.

NOYPI: Why are effigies exaggerated in form?

IR: Firstly, it is more effective in broadcasting our message. Different forms get different impacts or reactions… exaggeration gives edge at the same time it can effectively articulate what you want to say as well as expose the character you want to portray.

NOYPI: What other projects do you have?

IR: We believe that artists should be one with the struggles of the masses. Our programs try to show how artists should not just be confined in studios. We believe that artists should also serve the people.

Among our projects are exhibits, trainings both internal which is among the members and external which include advocacy work in partnership with communities like in Tondo and South Alabang.

We have a monthly program where for two months we integrate with communities. This program is called BMI or Basic Masses Integration. We also plan a publication of works of artists called Engkuwentro, a folio type magazine envisioned to be a handy gallery. 

NOYPI: What purpose do effigies serve?

IR: Effigies give focus to the collective discontent of the masses. Second, it serves as a venue to channel the discontent especially in the symbolic burning. Finally, it helps to disseminate the message not only to the people present in the rally but also to those who saw it on television or the news paper.

It engages the Filipino sensibilities, so there is collaboration with the masses during the whole performance.

NOYPI: Why do you burn the effigies in the end?

IR: It is burnt because it is still tradition [and] burning uplifts the momentum and spirit of the protest as a performance. It is a ritual where we burn the image of the effigy and all the evils attached to it like corruption. This symbolic action reflects the unity of the people to end injustice.

NOYPI: How do you view art?

IR: First of all, for whom do we create art for but for the masses? Where the masses are the artists should be there to help them articulate their experiences, dreams and aspirations.