Several months ago, the National Press Club commissioned the Neo-Angono Artists Collective to do an 8-foot mural on the topic of Press Freedom. Here’s is their final product:
It is a very compelling representation of the past and current state of Press Freedom here in the Philippines, what with freedom fighters Chino Roces, Marcelo del Pilar, Ninoy Aquino, Eugenia Duran-Apostol, Letty Jimenez Magsanoc and several others depicted in the painting.
A unique feature of the mural is the fact that the faces of the people in this man-on-the-street scene are media figures, press freedom icons and presidents of the National Press Club seen mingling with common and unnamed people. They are depicted or cast, not in their usual fighting stance, or projected stereotypically, but in a light and casual manner to suggest that journalists are like everybody else in the streets; that despite the threats to their lives for telling and reporting the truth, the journalists’ passion redounds to the same dream of ordinary citizens who want nothing more than to reap the benefits of transparency, public accountability and good governance, a society free from the clutch of poverty and corruption, and advancing press freedom – ideals which journalists fight for.
A similar distinct feature of the mural is that writers and journalists in various moments of historical juncture are (re)contextualized and reconfigured.
For this reason, it might initially escape belief and comprehension – and even solicit fun – that Joaquin “Chino” Roces is preventing a child (symbol for an emerging imperialist America) from shooting a bird resting on the street signage titled “Kalayaan”;Marcelo del Pilar rummaging through a garbage can for a cigarette stub and being furtively handed a letter by Mariano Ponce under a street sign labeled “La Solidaridad”; Eugenia Apostol smirking on the declaration of Martial Law; Epifanio de los Santos and Letty Jimenez-Magsanoc debating on the hot issues of the day; Antonio Luna, also an NPC hall of famer, being interviewed by journalists covering a rally of protesting journalists; or Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino listening pensively to Dr. Jose Rizal’s point on the issue of abduction and the “desaparecidos.”
However, when you take a trip down the NPC premises to see the real thing, you may notice some quite disturbing differences from the original work:
1) The erasure of a big portion of the newspaper held by the central figure, containing the statement of the International Federation of Journalists regarding the perceived effects of the anti-terror law on press freedom, and replaced by a hideous bird-monster in a cage;
2) The alteration of the headline of the newspaper Jose Rizal is holding from “Press Freedom Fighter’s Son Abducted” to “Press Freedom Fight Is On” and the defacement of Jonas and Edith Burgos’s pictures as well as the erasure of Jonas’s name;
3) The change of the tattoo on Andres Bonifacio’s left arm from the alibata “K” to a sappy red heart pierced by an arrow;
4) The erasure of the name of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines from the banners of the rallyists;
5) The lengthening of the hair and beard of the figure identified as academician-columnist Prof. Randy David beside columnist Conrad de Quiros;
6) The addition of beard and mustache and the change of hair color from white to black of the pugo and balut vendor identified as columnist and Martial Law detainee Juan Mercado.
From “What Press Freedom?”, official statement of the Neo-Angono Artists Collective on NPC’s supposed defacement of the mural lifted from Tinig.com
*Thanks to Carlos Maningat, UP-CMC-SC Journ Rep, for forwarding the email with before and after pics to the UP Journalism Yahoo Groups
If this is indeed true, it begs the question: isn’t it ironic how an institution that allegedly fights for press freedom impedes on the rights of others? What does the NPC fear? Libel? Lawsuit? I didn’t think an institution such as the NPC is capable of censorship which it should so bravely abhor and fight against.
What now, NPC? What Press Freedom are you trying to talk about? Clear this up, please.