This is the question an upcoming exhibition aims to answer.
The specially curated show, dubbed “Alon!,” shows photographs of surfers from the country’s six leading surfing communities—Siargao, La Union, Baler, Mati in Davao, Gubat in Sorsogon, and Sabang Daguitan in Leyte—each holding plastic trash they picked up from the beach in a five-minute period.
The photos intend to show the extensive presence of trash from plastic-packaged commodities in the country, may it be in Luzon, Visayas, or Mindanao.
In addition to these alarming photos on display, the exhibition, which aims to create awareness of plastic waste and eventually initiate change, also features the the eponymous Alon documentary, written and directed by award-winning filmmaker Gabby Fernandez. The docu will premiere on August 28, a day before the opening night of the exhibition organized by Benilde’s Center for Campus Art.
The short film, also produced by the CCA, will feature interviews with 40 local surfers as they try to answer the question: Why is the Philippines the third worst plastic polluter in the world?
While the trash gathered by the surfers only represent what’s within sight, a mini photography exhibit featuring pictures by award-winning photographer Noel Guevara for Greenpeace Philippines will highlight the amount of non-biodegradable waste in the depths of the seas.
The photos were taken during a three-day dive and exploration at the Verde Island Passage, known as the “center of the center” of global marine biodiversity, located in Batangas.
Also on view will be the dead baby whale sculpture by artist Biboy Royong, first seen as part of the famous 78-by-10-foot whale-like statue “Cry of the Dead Whale” recently installed in front of the Cultural Center of the Philippines.
Made from plastic bags, bottles, and various waste products found in the bodies of water, the dead baby whale, now separated from its mother, depicts the horrifying effects of plastic trash to sea creatures.
“Alon!” will also bring back a series of Benilde projects that illustrated both cause and effect of the issue: the 2016 TrashLation project in partnership with the Spanish Embassy Manila and RM de Leon’s 2018 class project Mga Plastik Kayo, a series of charcoal and pastel sketches of sea creatures trapped in various plastic packaging.
“‘Alon,’ the surfers’ call when the waves come also pertains to the waves of plastic trash that threaten to engulf our oceans. This is not the first time, nor the last that Benilde will be raising this issue. We are here to remind people that this is a continuous battle,” said CCA director and curator Architect Gerry Torres.
Torres added, “The exhibit hopes to promote the reduction of single-use plastics, press multinationals to rethink their plastic packaging, ask the government to implement existing laws on waste management such as the RA 9003, or approve new ones specific to plastic like Senator Francis Pangilinan’s Senate Bill 40 or the Single-Use Plastics Regulation and Management Act of 2019.”
“Alon!” will likewise showcase solutions by social and community leaders who try to start the change. Young student-designers from Benilde also contributed their promising works, including the innovative end-product of accumulated plastic trash transformed into plastic tiles by Architecture Program student Prince Koo, as well as a number of stylish and sustainable ensembles made from unconventional and upcycled materials, including plastic, by the College’s Fashion Design and Merchandising students Kimble Adrienne Quinto, Allana Nicolas, and Pamela Marie Casambros.
The exhibition will be on view from August 30 to December 14 at the12th floor Main Gallery, School of Design and Arts Campus, De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde, Pablo Ocampo Street, Malate, Manila.