Making Pasig River ferry commute a bit more colorful

Angelo G. Garcia

Posted at Jun 26 2017 12:27 PM

British artists Malarko Hernandez (left window) and Cristina Lina (right window) pose with their mural. Angelo G. Garcia

MANILA - If you regularly ride the Pasig River ferry, you might have noticed the pop of colors bursting from a couple of the pumping stations along the river.

The newly painted Escolta Pumping Station was revealed last November. It was no ordinary paint job, however, because local artists Leeroy New and Janno Abenoja made the formerly dull concrete structure into works of art. Bright colors with interesting shapes and patterns now cover the building and its pipes.

Just recently, the Makati Pumping Station received a new paint lift from British artists Cristina Lina and Malarko Hernandez. Using colors like blue, yellow, orange, pink, and green, the two artists gave a fun makeover to the station’s wall.

These are the first two pumping stations that have been given an artistic paint job by the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) in partnership with the British Council Philippines. The project, called Pasig River Art for Urban Change, is a collaborative work between the two organizations as well as private groups like San Miguel Holdings Corp., Davies Paints, and OneRedesign Manila.

“MMDA really wanted to promote their ferry system and they also wanted to promote urban structures like the pumping stations and raise awareness why they are important. Particularly, pumping stations are important because they manage the flood in the city,” explained Maya del Rosario, head of Arts and Creative Industries of the British Council.

“We wanted to see Pasig River in a different light. It used to be, historically, a very important river, a very important transportation route and a water source. A lot has changed over the years. We have the river ferry, and we want more people to see it as an alternative mode and not just use EDSA all the time, to be able to get around Metro Manila,” she added.

The project selected various artists and art collectives from an open call. A total of nine pumping stations would receive the colorful murals.

For the Makati Pumping Station, British artists and experienced muralists Lina and Hernandez painted their signature colorful, energetic, and fun work on the wall of the station facing the river. The duo, who started working together on murals in 2012 have done different projects in London, Belfast, Peru, New York, and New Zealand.

The two are both known for their quirky art and also for their use of bright colors. It is their first time to work in the Philippines.

Lina and Hernandez share their art during an event organized by the British Council. Angelo G. Garcia

“We didn’t know so much about Manila before so we did some research. One of the things we came across was a documentary about jeepney, which kind of blew our minds. It seemed such an incredible and highly visual culture. We were really into to it,” Hernandez shared during the Artist Talk organized by the British Council.

According to them, their mural is inspired by a lot of things, from the jeepney to a poem.

“There’s not a single narrative of this is what the mural means. It kind of combines lots of different influences and ideas. That’s why there’s a certain chaos perhaps to our mural. It’s sort of intention to kind of invite lots of different perspectives and idea. But one of our inspirations is a poetry called ‘The Horse that had a Flat Tire,’” Lina said.

They both agree that working on wall murals give them more freedom and also a wider audience as compared to doing an exhibit at a gallery.

The new colorful wall of the Makati Pumping Station. Angelo G. Garcia

“We want the mural to come across as energetic and fun. For us if you translate it exactly what you got on paper to the wall, then you lose some of that energy. We haven’t been to the Philippines before and we want, as much as possible, to incorporate little bits of stuff that we picked up along the way. There’s a few Tagalog words we learned that we put in,” Lina said.

The other artists that will work on the other pumping stations include Archie Oclos, Ged Alangui, Kris Abrigo, Luigi Almuena, Ralph Eya and Hospicio de San Jose youth residents, and Team Manila Graphic Design Studio.

The MMDA aims to finish the project this August and will launch a special art cruise once all artworks are completed.