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.”
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.
For a small island country located far from the centers of street dance culture, the Philippines plays an outsize role in the scene worldwide. Legit Status, a team founded in 2009 by coach Vimi Rivera, has continued that reputation. This August they captured the bronze in the top category of Hip Hop International, one of the world’s biggest street dance competitions. Every year, around 50 countries descend on the West coast of America to battle it out in a dozen different categories, and Filipino teams nearly always rank among the top in the mega crew competition, beating out teams from the US, Japan, and other bastions of street dance. “This year had the most intense level of competition,” Rivera says. “It’s crazy”
It can be tough to choose among your favorites, but sometimes you have to. For today’s OPENING ACT, Kayo pits his two highest-rated sneakers—Nike’s Air Vapormax 2019 and the AirMax 720—against each other in an attempt to pick an all-out winner.
Rainy season in Manila can be a difficult time, but combine that with an endless rush hour and you have every excuse to go full emo. A young Makati-raised artist named Sabadontt is capturing all the feels of these dreaded, water-logged days in a series of pixel art animations. Commuters stuffed in leaky stairwells waiting for an MRT that threatens to never show up. A student trying to hide under her umbrella pauses on an overpass, gazing off in existential crisis. Locals start to shed the day’s struggle in a communal break at the carinderia.
The term “street dance,” when used in the Philippines, is a little complicated since most of it happens on stage or in the studio. But director Mark Valino aims to correct that, bringing these styles back their rightful place. He shoots song-length videos of dancers on sidewalks, stairwells, and literally in the middle of the street. The series mainly focuses on Southeast Asian dancers but also includes dancers from his hometown of Toronto. Ultimately though, it was the Philippines that inspired the whole thing.