Streetwear and illustration go together naturally, it doesn’t even really need explaining. When you look at the work of Gerone Perez, the connection between the two is obvious. He’s not the only one doing it, but he’s definitely doing it right. Labels provide crucial texture for his work. “I try to put everything and anything onto my characters and hope it works,” he says. “Most of the time the words and logos are just about creating aesthetics and layers.”
“Are they turning Cubao Expo into a mall?” I’ve heard this question over and over these last few weeks. I do happen to know the answer, but there is a lot more nuance to it then can be discussed in an editorial like this one. However, I can tell you this: Cubao has changed a lot in the almost four years that I’ve been running Kendo Creative there.
But before we get into that, it is with a heavy heart that we must announce that both Kendo and our independently run subsidiary, Hidden Space are closing and leaving Cubao Expo at the end of September 2019. That’s today.
I understand that this does probably come as a shock to many of you, as it did to us when found out about this via an anti-dated letter for which there was no previous notice whether in writing or verbally. The decision was made unilaterally by the Cubao Expo Admin and they did not state a reason for not renewing our lease this time, as they have done many times over our over three and a half year run in this location. While they did not state a reason as to why we are not being renewed, we do have our very informed guesses as to why.
There are probably two or three possible factors that may have contributed to the situation. But if you ask me, this ultimately came down to one incident where a younger member of the owners’ family was inappropriate to our guests over some period of time and to myself on one particular Saturday night at around 10PM, while the shop was full of customers. I politely but firmly asked that he stop doing that and that we set a meeting on a weekday, during work hours to discuss business. He stormed out. I later found out that the Aquinos believed that I should have let this younger gentleman behave however inappropriately he wanted to behave, simply because “he’s a billionaire.”
Either way, since they only gave us 24 days’ notice, we see this as a betrayal of the friendship and trust that we’ve built up with them over the years and as such, we do not wish to be in business with them anymore either. The truth is that it has always been difficult to deal with the admin, but new changes that they made over the last year strained our relationship with them to its limits.
We would be celebrating our fourth anniversary if we had made it to December of this year. It’s been a total of 45 months of operation. That’s longer than a lot of people spend in college. And perhaps the Shop 33 experience has been just that: a place to learn new things and build new friendships.
Last Saturday, over 500 people came to say goodbye to our little 72 square meter home. Inside, regular guests and members of the Kendo family broke into tears. Meanwhile, dozens of art lovers chanted “Hidden Space! Hidden Space!” in the streets until the guards came with their whistles and tried to silence them.
These were signs of what made Kendo special and why the final art show, “Farewell Shop 33” was so fitting. Upstairs in Hidden Space, 6X6” art works covered the walls. Almost all disciplines were represented: traditional acrylic and oil painting, graffiti, graphic design, collage, tattoo art, and even sculptural works. It showed how diverse the Shop 33 community is and has been over the years. The small 6X6” format came to be symbolic of how each contributed in their own way and came to own a small part of the space themselves. Downstairs, over 300 photographs lined the walls in a gallery showing our history and the good times we spent in this space. It showed art, connection, family, and shop 33 as a home.
I think that this is ultimately why letting go of Kendo and Hidden Space is so difficult for all of us. After the re-branding of The Appraisery and the closing of Gold Digger, The Reading Room, Russ, and Cosmic gorgons all within the span of just a few months, what this particular closure seems to mark is the end of an era for Cubao Expo.
I remember a Cubao where artists were free. Free to be themselves. Free to play music on the streets. Where rap battles were welcome and drum lines broke out spontaneously. Graffiti artists would line the gutters, gearing up before hitting the streets to bomb at midnight. And while artists have still chosen to make Cubao Expo their haven, there has been a crackdown on such freedoms by the administration of the Cubao Expo property who have told me that their desire is to have the property become a mall one day.
So I dream of a new place that is similar to Cubao Expo, but where the owners actively desire to support artists and the arts. Kind of like a giant Kendo. A place that exists for the sake of the art and the culture. One that is not driven by the ego of the Aquino family. A place that is truly artist-run. An Arts Center with solid economics and business strategy to make this lifestyle possible for decades to come. You know I can do it.
Kayo Cosio is the Editor in Chief at Adjima Magazine, Daily Drink Magazine, and Next Action Phase. Over the years, he has spearheaded over 50 urban public art projects, including the ArtBGC Mural Festival. He is also the Master Planner at HoneycombManila Collaborative Studios at DoubleDragon Plaza, a 1200 square meter coworking space where Kendo partner Ynna and Hidden Space founder, Miggy are members of the board of directors. Kayo together with his wife, Nica have run Kendo Creative since day one.
Straight lines and perfect circles. Forward-thinking designs. Hyper-realistic pieces. Pretty much any kind of tattoo you’re looking for, Jhay Colis has got you. While he prefers to focus on black and grey pieces and neo-traditional styles, he’s wildly a versatile artist. Colis works out of a small shop in Wharf Plaza in QC across the way from graffiti supply shop Carrot Bombing (which is probably why he recently did a Nemo design for one lucky customer).
Before he became a tattoo artist, Colis was a painter and performance artist, often doing public interventions focused on freedom of speech. But ten years ago, after getting his second tattoo, he got pulled into the world of skin art. With a cash gift after graduation, he bought his first tattoo gun and set about finding early victims to experiment on. After two years his work became presentable enough and he found an apprenticeship to bring his style to the next level. In late 2016 he finally opened the doors to Jhay Colis Tattoos, where he’s since worked alone with an apprentice. In the decade he’s been working, tattoo culture in the Philippines has exploded. “When I first started there was still a stereotype about tattoos, but people have become more open-minded now,” he explains. “Local events like Dutdutan helped a lot, but so did Western TV shows like ‘Miami Ink,’ ‘LA Ink,’ and ‘Ink Master.'”
His work has evolved into something of a catalog of recent styles. Paint splatters mixed with bold blackwork, small anime boxes, gothic realism. Colis has a steady hand and is versed in most of the latest techniques, so pretty much anything you’re looking for he can do. At Dutdutan last weekend, he even won second place in the neo-traditional category. Do not sleep on this man.
When you talk about Manila streetwear, many local brands come to mind. But there are only a select few that sit confidently on top of that list. THE is one, if not the one. They helped pioneer the rise of streetwear culture in the Metro and are one of the reasons why many young people started their own T-shirt brands. And this week they’re celebrating their 10 year anniversary.
Browsing through the artwork of Tyang Karyel evokes the childhood pleasure in small things. A single candy, a plastic toy, an old movie. As we grow older it’s a little harder to find joy in these things, but the Cavite artist puts a low brow art spin on things, refreshing their aura. Her pieces are art objects for the everyday fan, often made in cutout shapes or packaged in satchels. “I’m fascinated by cheap, local brands with weird designs and wobbly lines. I especially like product labels and ephemeral stuff,” she tells us. “Everything looks clean, crisp, and shiny these days. It’s too perfect so we forget about the simple stuff.”
Last weekend the cul de sac of Cubao Expo was once again filled with creatives from all walks of life, this time to celebrate the fifth anniversary of The Twelfth House’s storefront opening. People filled the shop and overflowed out its door into the cool night air. The label dropped a series of 12 collaborations with other brands and DJs handled the decks all night, juggling styles from reggae to rap to chill electronic beats. “It was a culmination of eight years for the brand and five years for the store. Years’ worth of work, friendship, and growth for me and the brand,” says owner and founder Mikki Dela Rea. “I wanted to give back to the community that helped me grow as a person, found a family within, and built a business with that keeps me fed.”
Yes, it’s the AirMax 720s again. But these ones are an unreleased colorway and they’re customized… kinda. The aurora green kicks that were gifted to Kayo and appear on today’s special edition of OPENING ACT are clearly not a stock version. As he unboxes them you can instantly tell that something happened to them, but the question is whether they’ve been ruined or improved.
Al James is no stranger to success and his latest video “Latina” is on track to become one of his biggest yet, hitting 5 million views in less than two months. As his sound has spread throughout the Philippines, he’s switching up his style a bit to stay ahead of the imitators. And he’s also invested some more in the video since it was clearly going to be a hit. The updated flow, crisp animation, and cinematic views all come together for a true leveling up.
Tahoooooo. Tahooooo. This early morning siren is one of the sounds that define the Philippines, and the warm feelings it evokes in so many is why the artist Qwark sought them out during a time of personal crisis. His new series is not just the about the magtataho though, but street vendors in general. As a young kid, he’d watch them on his way to school every day, and they left him with an impression he couldn’t fully explain. “I’d see the same ice cream man in the morning, at lunch, and afternoon,” Qwark explains. “I never understood until I grew older how these people spend long hours working for minimal income. I admire their resilience, their dedication to providing for their families. So now I depict these people as modern-day gods: people of wonder and might both in body and will.”
On the hook of “Maestro,” the Kartell’em crew rap how they’re intent on letting the city know who they are, that they’re set to “make this place aware.” It’s a mission statement, and they’re definitely doing a good job following through on that promise. To do so, they’re aiming higher than the stage and looking to the sky. Specifically the rooftops. If you gaze out the window of the LRT in Manila, you might spot a recent big ‘ole blockbuster at eye level with the train screaming TELL’EM. It’s so crispy it looks like an advertisement, which we guess it is, but it’s a DIY one painted by the crew themselves to promote an upcoming tee collab with cmplct.