Philippines Art Fair honors the ‘Fallen 44’

World Today

Filipino citizens remember 44 special force officers, who were killed in the line of duty. It happened last month as they clashed with Muslim rebels. Amid looming questions of why they were pursuing rebels and who will be accountable for their deaths a artist presents a tribute at the Art Fair Philippines. CCTV’s Barnaby Lo reported this story from Manila, Philippines.

It’s National Arts Month in the Philippines and for the third year in a row, two whole floors of a parking building in Manila’s central business district has been turned into an art gallery. Aside from top Filipino artists, Art Fair Philippines features artists from neighboring Southeast Asian countries as well. The highlight was a piece that was a relative last minute addition to the exhibit, a tribute to the 44 Filipino police officers who died in a clash with Muslim rebels in the country’s south last month.

The venue is more than 4,000 square meters of this parking building, in the heart of Manila’s central business district.

“Our goal when we put together this art fair is really to expand the awareness of what’s really happening in Mania’s art scene to the local market, to ordinary everyday people who would not normally be interested in art,” Trickie Lopa, organizer said. “And I think it’s been three years, our attendance has been increasing every year, so this means that we’re sort of succeeding in our goal.”

While the event owes its success in large part to the artists’ creativity and ingenuity, it has also stayed relevant by showcasing pieces by intention or not, represent overwhelming public sentiment.

This year a tribute by visual artist Alwin Reamillo to the “Fallen 44” referring to the members of the Special Action Force of the Philippine National Police who died in the line of duty.

It’s become a subject of national debate – the death of 44 elite police officers during an operation to capture two of Southeast Asia’s most wanted men. On social media, in the streets, and at the country’s premier art event, Filipinos from all walks of life want to know the truth behind the tragedy.

“You see flashes on television of the 44 faces, and that was really powerful because there was no commentary. It was just faces of young people, young officers who were all killed during the eight-hour firefight on that site,” Artist Alwin Reamillo said.

Questions still remain unanswered about who should be held accountable and why police officers in pursuit of terrorists were engaged in a long battle with Muslim rebels who have just signed a peace pact with the government.