Dong Abay

It takes some serious madness to produce timeless music and words and works of art. This is the magic behind Filipino poet and musician Dong Abay’s opus—a good amount of mental and emotional contortion to bring the deepest parts of his imagination to life. If anything, Abay’s peculiarities developed the level of mastery evident in his work. Perhaps it is a test of endurance, writing, holed up in his room for years while dancing with his demons. Maybe he was standing on his head while scribbling words onto a wall. We’ll never know, but his downright crazy antics could be the secret recipe to his luster.

His visual art speaks for itself. But to harp, Abay becomes a dean of counterculture comedians. With a mix of political satire and social realism, his art, poignant and deep as it is hilarious, challenges his audience to think independently and critically—albeit not entirely deliberately. Taking freely from the real world of people and objects, his works are an irreverent operation aimed at institutions. His playful and provocative use of materials, objects, and gestures set in stimulating contexts forces commentary and engagement. Once, he used his goatee to paint in watercolor and acrylic (one watercolor series), calling it “goatee art”. This was for the benefit of UP ikot drivers.

Heavily inked with a pointy beard and armed with a hefty, long-standing derision toward Philippine politics, Abay established an anthem that forever championed human rights through his music and art, reverberating through generations, and catching the diaspora. And while his enigmatic larks weave his creative endeavors and mind-bending genius, they stand to question the great pop-intellectual myths of our time— the stupidity of our nation. Maybe, we are trapped in some kind of satanic ilk and Abay is the rebulto that reminds us to get out.

Dong Abay is a Filipino contemporary poet, musician, and visual artist who was the founding member, songwriter, and lead vocalist of the bands Yano, Pan, and dongabay. He later on pursued a solo career as an independent artist by releasing an album titled “Sampol”. He also formed a rock band called “Dong Abay Music Organization or D.A.M.O.” while pursuing other endeavors such as a songwriting school. Aside from his music, Abay explores other mediums and art forms such as installation work, performance art, visual arts, photography, to name a few. He has participated in group exhibitions in notable galleries across Metro Manila such as “Abortion of Cute'' at Artinformal Greenhills. He continues to lecture and give workshops around the country.

Main photo: Inquirer/Eric S. Caruncho