The exhibition “Biyaheng Langit, Impyerno sa Daan (Trip to Heaven, Hell on Wheels) displayed 75 years of human rights in the Philippines. Organized and curated by SEA Junction from 5 to 17 December 2023 on the curved wall, 4th floor of Bangkok Art and Culture Centre (BACC), the exhibition employs visual mockery, sarcasm, and humor infused with pop culture sensibilities, aiming to address the 75th milestone year of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights (1948-2023) by showcasing key events in the Philippines’ post-war socio-political history.

The exhibition was launched with a dialogue with the two artists on 5 December 2023, 5.30-7.00 pm at SEA Junction. Additionally, Coeli Barry, a professor at the Institute of Human Rights and Peace Studies, Mahidol University, will offer reflections on human rights in the Philippines. Following that, we will have an exclusive exhibition tour guided by the artists.

In a 5-piece mural on canvas, artists Toym de Leon Imao and Kevin Raymundo (aka ‘TK’ or ‘Tarantadong Kalbo’) used the iconic vehicle of the Philippines, the jeepney, as the visual vessel to convey the plight and sensibilities of the Philippine masses, as they navigate events, personalities, and leaders that continue to shape their lives.

Evolving from retrofitted World War 2 era Willy ¼ ton field light trucks leftover by the American military after the liberation of the Philippines, into a civilian utility vehicle, the jeepney has become an iconic mainstay of Philippine roads, often as a public commute minibus that ferries thousands across locales. Its design and liveries are often customized by their drivers to reflect everything from contemporary events, their personal interests and favorite celebrities, autobiographical elements such as the names of their children, or nationalistic symbols from Philippine history or the various provinces.

Drawing heavily on this imaginary, the artists told the long trip of the country as portrayed by the jeepney riding across revolutions, coups and scandals, dictators and presidents, human rights abuses and political maneuverings, and yet, with the ever-present hope that the Philippine people maintain to keep this “jeepney” running. As the mural shows, the history of the country has been shaped by the illusion of “heaven” as promised by the leaders and the contrasting realities of “hell” for citizens through oppression, neglect and abuses.

Photo credit: Lattapol Jirapathomsakul