Lungsod na Walang Liwanag is the new exhibit by visual artist Reymark Umpacan. Exhibited at NO Community-run Space at Teacher’s Village, Umpacan’s works revolve around the idea of how people in cities evolve to address poverty. 

Specifically, it takes a critical stance on the government’s hands-off approach that forces people to look for other ways to cope with their situations. In Nica B.’s write-up for the exhibit, she exemplifies these traits within the exhibition’s featured works.

“Mas lubos na nasasadlak sa kahirapan ang mga Pilipino, dahil sa kawalan ng nakakabuhay na trabaho at maayos na tahanan, at dahil sa iba’t ibang suliraning panlipunan.” she wrote. 

[More Filipinos fall into deep misfortune due to the lack of livable jobs and homes, and other problems inherent in society.]

View of "Lungsod na Walang Liwanag" exhibit. Photo by Elle Yap.
View of “Lungsod na Walang Liwanag” exhibit. Photo by Elle Yap.

How We Portray Poverty

Umpacan’s works present Manila in stark terms, effectively photographing at  street level away from the monuments and skyscrapers to see how the people on the ground exist. 

Some photographs show the co-existence of its denizens with the grime of the streets, as in “Pareho ngunit magkasalungat,” where residents and tricycles seem to walk around a small pile of garbage in the middle of the road. 

"Pareho ngunit magkasalungat" by Reymark Umpacan. Photo by Elle Yap.
“Pareho ngunit magkasalungat” by Reymark Umpacan. Photo by Elle Yap.

Many photographs here highlight the daily grind of working-class individuals. The best of these, “Hindi mo kasalanan,” shows a pedicab driver with a tired, frustrated look on their face. The derelict pedicab has scribblings on the front, while an umbrella works as a makeshift roof for the driver. It perfectly encapsulates their existence in the periphery, and the lack of help that they get from either the moneyed class or the government. 

"Hindi mo kasalanan" by Reymark Umpacan. Photo by Elle Yap.
“Hindi mo kasalanan” by Reymark Umpacan. Photo by Elle Yap.

Others, like “Malapit lang pero ang layo pa,” shows children on a ramshackle boat staring at three high-rises in the distance, portraying class and income inequality with blunt imagery. It’s. 

"Malapit lang pero ang layo pa" by Reymark Umpacan. Photo by Elle Yap.
“Malapit lang pero ang layo pa” by Reymark Umpacan. Photo by Elle Yap.

The image effectively gives a visual shorthand to the poverty that inherently exists in our system: most people in this country will never have enough money to live in those high-rises as they toil day to day to survive. 

Religious Fervor as an Escape

Other photos in Umpacan’s collection illustrate the old “religion as the opiate of the masses” quote in action. Whether it’s photographs of devotees struggling for the rope, or a whole wall peppered with images of Jesus Christ, the photographs are explicit in how they showcase the desperation of the poor to escape their situation through prayer and miracles. 

"Munting Ginhawa" by Reymark Umpacan. Photo by Elle Yap.
“Munting Ginhawa” by Reymark Umpacan. Photo by Elle Yap.
"Munting Pagkabuhay" by Reymark Umpacan. Photo by Elle Yap.
“Munting Pagkabuhay” by Reymark Umpacan. Photo by Elle Yap.
"Umaasa sa pag-asa na may matatamasa" by Reymark Umpacan. Photo by Elle Yap.
“Umaasa sa pag-asa na may matatamasa” by Reymark Umpacan. Photo by Elle Yap.
"Hindi Katha" by Reymark Umpacan. Photo by Elle Yap.
“Hindi Katha” by Reymark Umpacan. Photo by Elle Yap.
"Swerte sa kulay, malas sa siyudad" by Reymark Umpacan. Photo by Elle Yap.
“Swerte sa kulay, malas sa siyudad” by Reymark Umpacan. Photo by Elle Yap.

The write-up pushes that assertion forward, that many people find healing in religion when the government has done little to help them out. “Ilan lamang ito sa mga dahilan kung bakit hindi maitatanggi kung bakit karamihan ay kumakapit sa pananampalataya. Dahil ang manalig ay pagbibigay ng pag-asa sa mga panahon na hindi naayon sa kanila ang buhay.”

[This is one of the many reasons why many find themselves grasping towards their faith. Because their faith gives them a period of hope that doesn’t correspond with their life.]

Realities of Poverty

Fiction tends to show poor people in crisis as they attempt to find a way out of their situation. But this exhibit shows a bleaker view of poverty: there’s no hope, only the everyday grind to survive. 

It’s people ignoring the trash in the street because nobody in the government is using their funds to move the needle forward. Or people having to use temporary parts for their work vehicles to keep it working functionally. It’s the need to highlight the power of a miracle because only a miracle can get you out of your situation. 

Lungsod na Walang Liwanag showcases the quiet desperation of people in poverty, and how they survive even as the world seems to ignore them further.

Related reading: ‘Alburoto’: Recontextualizing Labor Rights as a Women’s Issue

LED Light Bulbs and Everything You Need to Know About Them

Ever wonder how lighting can transform your home’s interior?  It’s more than just positioning light fixtures (though that’s important too!). Unlike color psychology, the effects of lighting are surprisingly versatile and impactful. And the real reason is actually just hiding in plain sight—LED light bulbs. But it’s not like you have to go through the […]

Galley Kitchens: Making the Most of Every Inch.

Galley Kitchens: Making the Most of Every Inch

Are you tight on space but want to showcase your cooking creativity? Living in a smaller home doesn’t have to mean sacrificing your culinary dreams. If you have a galley kitchen, we got some space hacks to maximize functionality without sacrificing an inch of style.  The Galley and its Backstory The galley kitchen originated in […]

Half Half House: A Fusion of Old and New in Urban Living

Conceived by Dua Studio, the Half Half House is a renovation project that equally distributes old and new forms. It’s a balancing act of preservation, transformation, and addition that makes this home stand out amongst the urban fabric of Karawaci, Indonesia. The structure responds to its context by virtue of its scale and orientation as […]

Color Drenching: The Monochromatic Magic You Need for Your Home

When designing a space, building a color palette is a crucial step you cannot skip. You often combine varieties of neutral and solid colors to create a balanced and harmonious look. Sometimes, you even consult the color wheel and rely on color theory to ensure your color selection is on point. But, what if you […]

The AM House: Where Nature, Design, and Mindfulness Converge

The AM House is a garden retreat that offers its users  refuge within the rural landscape of Can Giuoc, Vietnam. It employs a fragmented layout of separate blocks unified underneath the home’s unifying roof. This affords the home a dynamic range of openings and spatial compositions tied together by three young architects, each having their […]

Audrey Lukban's "Anecdotal Evidence." Photo by Elle Yap.

‘Anecdotal Evidence’: Audrey Lukban Links the Material and Ethereal

Anecdotal Evidence is the new exhibit by Audrey Lukban currently being shown at MO_Space in Bonifacio Global City. Showing at the gallery from April 27 to May 26, the works feature paintings of everyday objects depicted in new and exotic ways.  In their write-up about the exhibit, James Luigi Tana said that Lukban’s work for […]

Download this month's BLUPRINT magazine digital copy from:
Subscribe via [email protected]