Graffiti Indicators

by Juan L. Mercado

The jeepney signboard read: “Before Pay Tell Where Get The On Before Get The Off.”   And this one appeared on a San Andres construction site. “No Urinating On The Over Walls.”

Funny?  Thank former UP president Jose Abueva. He  mailed a clutch of what some people scrawl or spray on walls or gates. The clip popped up while I weeded my files. Welcome to  the “Talking Wall,” others used to dub it  the “Aerosol Kingdom”. But that was before the recession bit. Imported spray cans now cost more. That forces locals, like jeepney drivers, to splash paint instead.

Graffiti are disguised socio-economic indicators, some say. You doubt that? Consider the chap who scribbled on a Quezon City office entrance: “ None ID, Nothing Entry.” Obviously, he’s barely literate. 

“Semi-lingualism” is a condition  “where the student has not mastered even one language, native or foreign”,: a University of Tampere study says.  “Thus, he/she can not carry on higher order cognitive activities in it.”

Haven’t we all met “graduates” who talk only in disconnected grunts? . “There are Filipino children, who finish Grade 6, but are hardly able to do basic interpersonal communication,” the Canadian Review  points out.

One wrote at a Cubao parking lot entry: “Taxi and outside Car Not Allowed.” And at the exit, he added: ”Don’t Parking.”

Highest order reading skills are seldom attained by Grade 5,  “Philippine Human Development Report” notes. “And there is a danger in returning to illiteracy,  if the students drop out before Grade 6.” (Only 67, out of every 100 who enroll, finish Grade 6).

Scholarly research into graffiti started in the early 80’s. Toronto has an Areosol Arts Archives.” Australia studies scrawls on  prison cells. Michigan U focused on erotic graffiti from medieval Pompeii.

Universities like Tulane, Northwestern or Northern Sydney, have scholars analyzing it other than “defacement”. There  differences between graffiti on men and women’s comfort-rooms; Afro American; Chicano, lesbian, restaurants, walls,etc.

Graffiti bugged New York’s subway, until aerosol–proof cars came on track. In Rome, the Food and Agriculture Organization  failed to beat graffiti by guards or repainting.  Instead,  FAO  planted ivy that covered the walls.

Filipino graffiti tends to be practical.

“Not for Here” a sign on an Ilocos truck proclaims. A Pampanga billboard announces . “We Make Modern Antique Furniture.”

A Cebu cafeteria graffiti announced:  “We HabSop Drink in Can and Batol.” A restaurant menu had this: “Stomach Spare Parts for Sale”. Come again?  Dishes of gizzards, liver and other innards may be ordered.

What do Rizal’s novels or Horacio dela Costa’s history, -let alone Shakespeare or Tagore mean to “graffiti  squads?” They can barely read. Can they add or subtract –without  resorting to their toes.

“Numeracy” is the “capacity for quantitative thought and expression”.  In the 1999 International Mathematics and Science Test, the Philippines limped in as 39th of 42 countries. We stayed cellar position  n 2003. We aven’t joined the last two tests.

Reversal of decides-old decay in education comes slow. Thus, we’ll continue to see the likes of that San Juan café poster: “Wanted Boy Waitress.” Or the Baguio grocery note: “Fresh Frozen Chicken Sold Here.”

Data on water-sealed toilets are laid out in neat tables in World Bank studies. But graffiti writer, at a Mandaluyong construction project, translated that to: “Bawal Omehi Dito. Ang Mahuli Bog-Bog”

Communist fronts here used graffiti in their “ibagsak “campaign of the 80’s. That withered after they refused to join the Edsa  Revolt.

People Power toppled  the Marcos dictatorship as the communists huddled in their safehouses. Today, they periodically squirt slogans against the disliked “GMA”. But with a free press, the Left’s graffiti squads haven’t gotten very far.

The Commission on Higher Educations, meanwhile, assails mismatch between academic courses and jobs. It’s statements lag behind superb one-liners: “Notary Public. Tumatanggap Din Ng Labada Kung Linggo.”

Special Weapons and Tactics (Swat) soldiers in Cebu were harnessed as luggage boys for the high-profile Maria Victoria “Minnie” Osmena, sister of the city mayor. For Swat, the put-down graffiti became:  “So What? Atsay Tayo.”

(Email: juanlmercado@gmail.comThis e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it )

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