July | People’s SONA

In July, Pin@y member Jill Mangaliman went on an exposure trip to the Philippines for the first time. During the week of President Aquino’s State of Union Address (SONA), they were given the task of effigy director, to oversee the logistics from birth to burning. It took 8 days to construct a 13-foot effigy of Aquino “pigging out” on a dining table, to symbolize the Philippine government not meeting the needs of the people, rather instead favoring the interests of corporations and its former colonizer, the United States.

The head artist, Cris de leon of UgatLAHI, an organization of progressive artists, instructed them on how to build the effigy: pasting paper mache, painting, and wrapping bamboo. At times, Jill had to run press packets, collect materials, go to planning meetings, and find ways to keep the 20 volunteers constantly fed.

On the day of SONA, thousands of Filipinos took to the streets, pushed through barbed wire and police. THE People’s SONA call attention to corruption of the Philippine government and its neoliberal policies of privatization and land-grabbing, which has resulted in 7.5% unemployment, skyrocketing rates of health care, tuition, and public transportation, and the lack of natural disaster preparedness. As Aquino began his speech, my team cleared a path to the center of the crowd, doused it with gasoline, and lit it. Soon it was engulfed with flames.

“At that time, I understood and felt the rage of the Filipino people. After learning about the demolitions on the urban poor’s homes, the human rights violations in Mindanao, those who died in the floods and those who were harassed for speaking out – all of it then manifested in front of me in their shouts, their raised fists, and this burning effigy” reflected Jill.

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