MANILA - Ultraman's snake eyes glowed, his knife hand ready to slice American forces in half, as the Japanese Imperial Army invaded Manila in one of the deadliest battles of World War II.
Street art group KOLOWN's fictional takes on history are scattered around Intramuros, the site of the first ever Manila Biennale, which seeks to bring back the "soul" of a city overshadowed by the capital's giant malls and condominium towers.
Intramuros is the perfect setting for the Biennale, which ponders the Philippines' struggle for a national identity following three colonial masters. During the Pacific War, much of its structures were leveled to the ground and Manila was declared an "open city."
At the Mission House, a few steps from the Manila Cathedral, a trio of television screens with English, Spanish and Japanese programs in inverted colors surround viewers in Jet Melencio's "Enemy Broadcast."
Black-and-white images of footbridges, parks and buildings are played on hyperlapse on three giant screens in Vic Balanon's "Chimera," a hypnotic take on the daily grind in the city.
Elinora Ebillo's "WatAwat" takes inspiration from the tenacity of Gregoria de Jesus, the wife of revolutionary leader Andres Bonifacio, and projects the evolution of the Philippine flag on tapestry that hang from the ceiling.
Pete Jimenez's "Hindi Kevlar" pays tribute to the bravery of the Filipino soldier, though ill-equipped at times, through an installation of bullet-pierced and rust-eaten helmets.
The unfinished interiors of the Mission House serves as the canvass for Roberto Chabet's "Onethingafteranother," an installation of GI sheets and halogen lights.
Tarpaulins from KOLOWN's "Parallels," disguised as markets and strewn across the walled city, are a commentary on the spread of fake news.
Kawayan de Guia revives "Lady Liberty," a replica of the New York landmark using scrap materials. First shown in Baguio as a question on American dominance in the Philippines, the piece finds a new context in the Manila Biennale.
Eerie whispers from the sound installation "Masamang loob" by Gail Vicente, Maria Vicente and Tanya Villanueva's bounce on the walls of one of Fort Santiago's dungeons.
Maria Cruz's "Trans" uses the "lona" that is staple of cemetery shades to create an extension to the Postigo De La Nuestra Senora Del Soledad to emphasize "solitary crossing."
A "Parallels" marker, which tells of the rebuilding of Voltes V's laser sword during the Battle of Manila, leads the public to Filmmaker Kiri Dalena's light installation.
Dalena quotes from a Bertolt Brecht poem in what war survivors could have asked themselves as they thought about what laid ahead.
"In the dark times, will there also be singing. yes, there will also be singing. About the dark times."
The Manila Biennale opened on Feb. 3 and will run until March 5. Visit their official website or the Facebook page for schedules and ticket information.