Filipino artists on creating during their crazy long lockdown
Between the virus, strict curfews and a barrage of natural disasters creatives in the Philippines have really been put to the test.
Photos courtesy of the artists
In 2020, the Philippines lived through one of Southeast Asia’s worst coronavirus outbreaks, as well as one of the world’s longest lockdowns. And while people struggled to keep livelihoods and businesses afloat amidst strict curfews, a new anti-terrorism law came into effect, making it more difficult for anyone to express dissent towards the government. In the middle of all this, to make matters even worse, the country was also hit with a series of deadly, record-breaking typhoons and a major volcanic eruption.
While there’s no denying that last year was terribly challenging, if there’s anything we’ve learnt from this pandemic, it’s how adaptable people are. Here we catch up with seven Filipino artists, who have released some super exciting projects in 2020, to hear how they did it.
What was it like creating art in 2020?
It was really difficult, especially during the start of the lockdown. It made me question everything and what the point of it all was. To be honest I think I only finished work only out of necessity so I could pay my bills. I remember coming into 2020 wanting to create more work, but I only finished one personal project last year. I’m hoping I can make that resolution come true in 2021.
What are you most proud of?
Working on the Endemic Flora of the Philippines series. It really requires a different kind of work ethic to produce those illustrations. I felt like I had to be more responsible with what I was drawing. That and leaving a job of seven years, which I loved, to become independent.
Sassa Jimenez, fashion designer
How has the pandemic and being in isolation affected your work?
The pandemic has definitely altered how I work with my team. We’ve been developing a collection on a work-from-home basis and it’s been challenging to accomplish small tasks at a slower pace but creatively speaking, I’ve really relished the time I’ve had to myself. I’d like to think it has had a positive effect on the clothes I design. I’ve considered the potential of the brand expanding beyond fashion and I’m excited to see where this new energy will take me.
Tell us about your 2020 RTW Collection.
In an effort to minimize fabric waste at Sassa J. Studio, we’ve created a new collection that upcycles archived fabric or deadstock materials that might otherwise go to waste. I took inspiration from the daily desire of still wanting to dress up, even if a lot of us are just spending time at home, so it’s a mix of mundane and over the top.
What would you tell other creatives struggling to produce work during lockdown?
Trust your instincts and don’t doubt your work. There’s so much pressure to be productive or to create the ‘next big thing’ but honestly, what’s important now is staying physically and mentally healthy. You’re doing just fine.
Monday Off, streetwear and design podcast hosts Paulo Reyes, Bryan Sochayseng and Lex Celera
What was it like creating content in 2020?
Living under this pandemic accelerated a lot of the subtle, gradual changes in content creation. We’re living in a digital world that’s growing larger, as our physical lives become more interior. Our priorities have changed; we’re buying into house plants as much as we’re buying into expensive PC builds. And for content creation, it’s leaning closer to storytelling and farther away from advertising. And we think that’s good! Our social fabric might need a little wear and tear.
What were some challenges in 2020?
The fact that we couldn’t see each other face to face. We started the agency spending time with each other almost every day. It’s a really different energy sitting around one table and being in each other’s presence compared to scheduling the nth Google Meet. The jokes don’t land as good as they should because of the slight delay during calls.
She’s Only Sixteen, musicians Andrew Panopio, Roberto Seña, King Puentespina and Anjo Silvoza
What was it like creating your EP, The Other Side, in 2020?
Puentespina: It was pretty challenging to be honest. Before the lockdown in the Philippines started, we were used to making songs by jamming them out in the studio and recording our final takes after the fact. Last year, we decided since we weren’t going to see each other for months, we were going to finish the EP remotely. Doing our entire process over the internet was a steep learning curve in the beginning, but Seña and I managed to get a good workflow going using Splice to collaborate and bounce ideas off each other.
Sena: As challenging as it was, I’ve never felt so driven to finish something. Some might argue that the pandemic really hankers down on creativity, but with the lack of options, I personally felt an odd kind of pressure, which resulted in our EP.
Despite the circumstances, you guys are still performing at online music festivals, what's that like?
Panopio: It’s daunting. Since it’s online and in a more focused setting, we can’t get away with pure energy. We picked up playing with a metronome just recently, so having performed for more than 10 years without one, I feel our skills as musicians were challenged.
Silvosa: It’s fun! I honestly think that we’re more ready in doing that than ever now. Plus I think that’s the direction the industry will go in the near future. All digital!
Czarina Toledo, stylist and designer
What was it like designing streetwear in 2020?
It was really challenging! Knowing we couldn’t fully function was really hard, especially not being able to meet and discuss designs with the team in person. We felt limited at first, but kept in mind what we wanted to portray as a brand. As a streetwear label, we want to focus mainly on quality and functional pieces and 2020 taught us how to be more intentional in terms of coming up with better designs that fit these trying times.
What are you most proud of?
The team has been putting in so much work for the brand despite living in a pandemic, and I am very grateful to have learned that we can overcome huge obstacles together.
August Wahh, musician
What was it like creating music in 2020?
2020 was a year of adapting for sure. I've always worked from home anyway, so this wasn't anything new for me, but what I had to adapt to look for inspiration inside myself and my home. Luckily I found a lot of it.
What are you most proud of?
My never-ending growth. Everything’s always changing as we know, but maybe a little pandemic-induced tweak in perspective here-and-there is a positive thing.
Renzo Navarro, Photographer
How has the pandemic affected your work? I mostly work with small brands rather than commercial, so if they’re not producing campaigns, then obviously there’s no work for me. So I’m kinda just waiting for these brands to get back on their feet. I have a few shoots that got postponed or cancelled but creativity-wise the pandemic has forced me into a box, a.k.a. my tiny bedroom. I’m happy to report that the shoots I’ve done in here have become my new favorites.
How has your creative process changed? Without much client work to think about, I’m able to let loose and let humour back into my work. If anything, the pandemic made me realize how good I am at being alone. I guess what’s hard about not being with the rest of society is the amount of time I have to think about myself and I’m trying to project bits of that into my art.
What would you tell other creatives struggling to produce work during a pandemic? Since everything’s on pause, now is a good time for an existential crisis. Question your intentions and try to give your work a purpose. Or bake bread. Do something new.