Art amid chaos: Artist paints Manila's notorious traffic jams

Erik Tenedero, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 16 2019 06:25 PM

TRAFFIC SERYE IN WATERCOLOR. Local artist Erwin Mallari created a series of artworks depicting various traffic situations in Metro Manila through watercolor painting.

TRAFFIC SERYE IN WATERCOLOR. Local artist Erwin Mallari created a series of artworks depicting various traffic situations in Metro Manila through watercolor painting.

TRAFFIC SERYE IN WATERCOLOR. Local artist Erwin Mallari created a series of artworks depicting various traffic situations in Metro Manila through watercolor painting.

TRAFFIC SERYE IN WATERCOLOR. Local artist Erwin Mallari created a series of artworks depicting various traffic situations in Metro Manila through watercolor painting.

TRAFFIC SERYE IN WATERCOLOR. Local artist Erwin Mallari created a series of artworks depicting various traffic situations in Metro Manila through watercolor painting.

TRAFFIC SERYE IN WATERCOLOR. Local artist Erwin Mallari created a series of artworks depicting various traffic situations in Metro Manila through watercolor painting.

TRAFFIC SERYE IN WATERCOLOR. Local artist Erwin Mallari created a series of artworks depicting various traffic situations in Metro Manila through watercolor painting.

TRAFFIC SERYE IN WATERCOLOR. Local artist Erwin Mallari created a series of artworks depicting various traffic situations in Metro Manila through watercolor painting.

MANILA -- Pandemonium has become the new normal for Filipino commuters over the years.

Daily commuters battle it out in the streets, trying to catch that elusive ride amid the gridlock of millions of vehicles, aggravated by occasional train bogdowns and even bad weather. 

Local artist Erwin Mallari is one of the millions braving this scenario every day. But amid such chaos, he decided to pick up his brush and paint his way to depict the struggle in this urban madness. 

"Naisipan ko gumawa ng visual diary sa pamamagitan ng pagpipinta at naisip ko 'yung eksena sa aking daily commute," Mallari said in an interview with ABS-CBN News

(I thought of creating a visual diary through painting and I thought of the scenes in my daily commute.)

Using watercolor, Mallari painted the nitty-gritty cityscapes of the capital region -- a jampacked EDSA, tricycles and motorbikes criss-crossing busy streets, a rain-damped road leading to Binondo, the striking colors of Chinatown, heavy metal cranes from various construction sites, the LRT and MRT, and the iconic jeepneys.

The breathtaking realism of his work earned him tons of praise on social media. His Facebook post titled "trapik serye in water colour" has now garnered thousands of shares and reactions from netizens.

"Ginawa ko ang mga pyesang 'yon pagkauwi sa bahay, usually during weekends dahil ang pagpipinta ng realism ay kinakailangang mahaba ang oras," Mallari explained. 

(I created those pieces at home, usually during weekends because painting realism requires a lot of time.)

The work started in 2011 when he was still working as a graphic artist for a design studio. He traveled every day from his house in Malabon to his office in Ortigas: 2 hours in the morning and 2 hours in the evening. 

At one point, he said he got stuck in traffic for 5 hours going to work because of an impassable street in Malabon. 

This struggle became his inspiration for his artworks and his decision to quit his job. 

"Nag-resign na ako nung 2014 dahil din sa hirap sa pagpasok dulot ng matinding trapik. Nag-decide akong mag-concentrate na lang sa mga art exhibitions," Mallari explained. 

"Simula nun ay na-divert na ang aking hilig sa mga rural scene at may panahong binabalik-balikan ko pa din ang kalye serye dahil doon ako nagsimula."

(I resigned in 2014 because of the struggle caused by heavy traffic. I decided to just concentrate in art exhibitions. Since then I concentrated in rural scene but from time to time I still go back to the streets because that's where I started.)

Right now, Mallari is also advocating the use of bicycles to help ease the traffic problem in Metro Manila. In fact, he goes around the city on a bicycle as he continues to reimagine more urban landscapes through his paintings. 

"Naniniwala akong palala nang palala ang krisis sa trapik sa Pilipinas at ngayon isa sa naging advocacy ko ang paggamit ng bisikleta," he said. 

"Kung kayang gumamit ng bisikleta ay mas mami-meet ninyo ang tamang oras, hindi ninyo ramdam ang trapik at maraming oras pa ang nakalaan sa personal na bagay at pamilya. Ingat lamang."

(I believe that the traffic crisis is worsening in the Philippines and that's why bicycle use has become my advocacy. If you can use bicycle, time will not be a problem, you won't feel the traffic and you can make use of your time for personal matters and your family. Just be careful.)