One cold Saturday night in July, drivers going through a section of the Quezon Avenue underpass were treated to an unusual sight. Standing above ladders and crouching close to the ground, random people wielded brushes, turning drab gray walls into a mosaic of color. This was definitely not an act of random vandalism.
What it was, in fact, was a massive collaboration of like-minded groups in an effort to raise awareness for the plight of Philippine marine life.
At the helm was Save Philippine Seas (SPS), a non-profit organization that aims to raise awareness on marine conservation and enact socio-political change. Working with the support of the MMDA, DENR-PAWB, and Dolphins Love Freedom, SPS gathered a team of committed individuals to transform a 1,000 square meters of plain gray underpass in Metro Manila into a seascape filled with color and beauty.
Leading the charge for Dolphins Love Freedom’s team of artists was AG Sano. AG has made quite a name for himself for his murals depicting dolphins, whales and other marine creatures. He began in 2010 with the goal of painting 23,000 dolphins as a way of raising the profile on captive dolphins and protesting dolphin shows. Since then, his murals have adorned walls of schools, buildings and main streets throughout Asia. It was only natural that Save Philippine Seas would tap him for support on this endeavor.
Project leader and SPS co-founder Nix Cue Nicolas explained “Back in March or April, AG and I talked about painting along EDSA because of the potentially high exposure for advocacy awareness. But we didn’t want to intrude on MMDA’s ongoing mural project there, so we decided to take up their offer of the Quezon Ave-EDSA tunnel instead. It turned out to be a better location. This city needs more meaningful murals & hopefully ours will get people to really care about our seas.”
Once the exact location of the mural was chosen (the West and Eastbound tunnels at Quezon Avenue to be specific) and a rough concept sketched, SPS made a call to their network of supporters. Due to safety issues – the volunteers would be painting from 9pm to 5am inside the tunnel – the MMDA limited participants to 60. But within a day of posting a sign-up sheet online, SPS had amassed 100 volunteers. It was then decided that they would be split into two shifts of 50 each, with extra hands coming from sponsor representatives that also wanted to join in.
In total there were a little over 100 people on hand from organizations such as WWF, Amnesty Int’l, UP-MSI, Tipidtrippers, Conservation Int’l, the Art Association of the Philippines, and the Manila Surfers Association. Rounding off the show of force were students from UP, DLSU, ADMU, UE, Enderun Colleges, UA&P, Mapua, Letran, and PUP. Professionals from all walks of time also came on board, ready to give up a Saturday night for a good cause.
The week leading up to big night, Dolphins Love Freedom began drawing the outlines of the mural, mapping out colors for the volunteers to fill in. It would be like, as one participant later pointed out, “the biggest coloring book ever.”
SPS also got busy, finalizing the finer points of sponsorship agreements. The response from eco-minded corporations was overwhelming. Davies Paint agreed to provide the paint necessary, Starbucks and Manila Water would bring coffee and water respectively while Binalot contributed meals. Human Nature provided citronella spray as well as some giveaways. Taho Bar was a welcome addition for a late night/early morning snack.
There was also a focus of minimizing waste on-site. This translated to Starbucks and Manila Water—both eager supporters—agreeing to provide coffee and water but not cups. The midnight meal would be provided by Binalot, who was tapped for their use of biodegradable packagin. Everyone involved was asked to bring their containers from home for their liquids and utensils for their meals.
Using PAWB as the main hub, SPS and DLF met with the volunteers one Saturday night. By 9pm, a sizeable crowd had formed. Mermaids, turtles, mantas, whales, dolphins and sharks slowly came to life. Hours passed and before anyone knew it, it was time to pack up the paint, wash the brushes, take down the ladders and lead everyone left back to PAWB.
After the weekend majority of the main portions had been painted leaving mostly the hard-to-reach areas and some polishing left to do. Artists from Dolphins Love Freedom and Ang Gerilya plus some other master painters took to the tunnels for another two weeks, slowly bringing out the smaller details of the masterpiece to life between 10pm and 2am. On July 26, the project was officially completed and stands as a testament to the power of like-minded individuals banding together with a common cause.
“We participated because we heavily support the advocacies of both Save Philippine Seas and Dolphins Love Freedom. It feels good to know that in our own little ways, we can actually do something to spread environmental awareness and art appreciation in the country. We thought the event was awesome! It was an event full of passionate people doing little things that make a big difference! And it was so fun we hardly noticed the time!” shared Paula Peralejo a long-time supporter of Save Philippine Seas who worked the second shift with her fiancée Charlie Fernandez of Taho Bar.
Nikki Valenzuela, of Save Philippine Seas summed up the almost month-long project by saying “”It was a great collaborative project between Dolphins Love Freedom & Save Philippine Seas: the synergism yielded when art and environmental activism are fused produces this powerful medium that can introduce awareness in an entertainingly fun and lighthearted manner.”
To keep abreast of Save Philippine Seas’ future projects, follow them on Twitter: @SavePHSeas and on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/savephilippineseas