Atras Abante

PURO ARTE and KITAKITS are pleased to present ATRAS ABANTE: Filipinotown History Reimagined, a group exhibition of contemporary art by FilipinX American visual artists: Ferdinand Agriam, Cirilo Domine, Marlon Fuentes, Maryrose Mendoza, Christine Morla, Chris Sicat and Rey Zipagan. 

ATRAS ABANTE: Filipinotown History Reimagined is organized by Tala Oliver Mateo, Artist and Curator of KITAKITS-Visual and Reuben Domingo, Curator & co-founder of Puro Arte Gallery & Performance Space in partnership with Regis House Community Center. This collaborative art experience project is an initiative to partner with local community organizations and businesses within Historic Filipinotown.


Originally from Delano, California, Ferdinand “Freddie” Agriam moved to Palm Springs, California.  He attended California State University, Long Beach, and worked as an art assistant for Ed Moses and Manuel Ocampo.  Influenced by Dada and Fluxus approaches to art, Ferdinand set these ideas into practice with the Fil-Am art collective Grupo de Gago.  He resides in the desert near Palm Springs.  As a multimedia artist, he continues to practice the conceptualist tradition.

Cerilo Domine

Encyclopedic rather than serial, Cerilo Domine’s works point to an exchange and reciprocation to the many cultures and spheres he is part of.  Visually and culturally crossing bridges, he negotiates and recognizes the absences in history, and consciously translates and mistranslates systems and forms to create new subjectivities.

Marlon Fuentes

This current work continues my exploration of photography as a tool of connecting (and simultaneously flattening) historical evidence (i.e., in the case, the “art” object) and using its unique taxonomic capabilities to interrogate our relationship with constantly shifting epistemologies of media and culture.  How do we even identify the estuaries where exogenous and endogenous ways of knowing affect each other?  How and where does emotion intersect with perception?   How do we, as consumers of the image, engage with the ever increasing visual effluence made possible by technology?  And how does art-making, as a practice and tradition, insert itself in this potentially asymptotic voyage to numbness and apathy (masquerading as knowledge and progress)?  Even better, does this practice have any special claim to a moral dimension, or will it to be totally subsumed by the digestive cilia of our consumptive and regurgitative appetites?

Maryrose Cobarrubias Mendoza

In indigenous Philippine culture, the term Kapwa translates as “shared being.”  It is a value that connotes togetherness and interdependency.  The reverence for harmony and a holistic approach to life is echoed in the artist’s interest in Buddhism and in the concept of “inter-being.”  Maryrose Cobarrubias Mendoza uses linear perspective to explore ideas of how we establish viewpoints and form perspectives on the world.  Medoza appropriates the classic Coca-Cola font and signature ‘swoosh’ to incorporate 1960s pop culture, Warhol, and Filipinos’ historical attachment to Coke and all things American.

Christine Morla

Initially inspired by the agricultural landscape of Oxnard, “Pink Sky Over Strawberry Field” is a mixed-media painting made up of hundreds of weaving and floral-like paper constructions.  The Oxnard Plain has long been known and used for its rich soil and as of recent, its most popular crop being strawberries.  Born and raised in Oxnard, the artist Christine Morla is interested in translating the daily language of open space against the vibrant palette found in agriculture.

Chris Sicat

Chris Sicat obsessively and meticulously covers pieces of preserved redwood with graphite using hundreds and or thousands of pencils per each piece.  Applying several layers of graphite per sculpture, the redwood develops a silver sheen ultimately giving the piece of red wood a new life.

Rey Zipagan

The Balangiga Massacre is a tragic event of our country’s collective narrative that remains to prevail like a bone lodged of our country’s throat of national consciousness.  My Balangiga piece attempt to illuminate the dark shadow of our past with the hopes to reconcile with the present.  I believe that the transformative power of images can elevate human tragedy into something that is redemptive.  The Balangiga Massacre is an experience that warns us of the uselessness of war and intolerance.  Human suffering is the result of hatred and indifference, and our soul is the ultimate victim.  These paintings express my voice as a Filipino and as an artist.  These paintings also speak about us, the Filipino people who have suffered enough.  Our Spirit soars from the ashes of our painful collective experience.


Conditions (an unrestricted list)

by Napoleon Lustre (read by the poet as part of the closing program of Atras Abante)

You are Pilipino 

  • if your mother is Pilipina
  • if your father is Pilipino
  • if you are from ‘pinas’
  • if you have one drop of Pilipino blood.

You are Pilipino

  • If you’re Chinese but are from the Philippines
  • or if you’re only ½ or 1/3 or any 1/fraction
  • and your last name is Tan, Ong, or Chua
  • and you constitute the less-than-1%
  • of the native population
  • who control more-than-50%
  • of the national commerce.
  • Unless you’re Chinay or Chinoy
  • And you’ve never known anything else
  • and you will refuse to conflate
  • the Chinese Filipinos
  • with capital,
  • the kind of conflation that
  • all-too-easily
  • slides into corrupt kidnappings,
  • governmental financial blackmailings,
  • periodic ethnic cleansings,
  • and other types of domestic horrors…

You are Pilipino

  • even if you deny it
  • because your parents, or theirs, or theirs
  • are Español, mga Kastila
  • who settled in las islas Filipinas
  • named after your king, once.
  • My father, too, is named Felipe
  • part Portugués
  • but mostly from tall
  • bug-eyed Malays
  • with high noses and wavy hair.
  • I don’t know how many generations they have been
  • On these arbitrary islands that define us
  • maybe before Biak-na-Bato broke in half
  • at least before Bernard Carpio pushed his handprints
  • deep in the flat surfaces to separate the broken boulder.
  • The jungle has grown into the hollows.

You are Pilipino

  • if you are descended from the children of the Spanish friars, priests, and other unholy men.

You are Pilipino

  • if your mother was an American base hostess
  • and your eyes are green
  • or any shade lighter than black, really
  • and your last name is Murphy, Sullivan
  • or even Brown.

You are Pilipino

  • it doesn’t matter if you’ve been whitewashed by blood or culture
  • so bleached out you don’t think twice about blue contact lenses,
  • affirmative action,
  • or ski trips to Utah
  • and you sleep well at nights
  • with all the alien consonants in your mouth.

You are Pilipino

  • if you are Black
  • because your mother
  • or your father
  • is from America
  • of African ancestry
  • or your mother
  • or your father
  • is Negrito
  • or your mother
  • or your father
  • is from America
  • of Negrito Ancestry.

You are Pilipino

  • If you are part Japanese
  • Even though your father
  • Was the fruit of betrayal
  • Less than human, they called him
  • And your grandmother killed herself
  • After a lifetime as the local loka
  • Since the execution of her soldier/invader/lover.
  • Unless you are from Hawaii
  • where your grandfather joined your grandmother
  • against the white plantation owners.
  • There are those who say
  • that’s what the wars
  • were always about
  • anyway.

You are Pilipino

  • if you are ½ Mexican, ½ Flip
  • that west coast Catholic mix
  • like the Irish-Italians back east.
  • My friend Tony’s folks are both Mexipinos
  • met and married in Oxnard.
  • Tony always says he has two reasons
  • to boycott grapes.

You are Pilipino

  • if you know
  • that history docked on our islands
  • long before any pale giants’ boats ever got close
  • and history docked there
  • made home there
  • ever since.
  • Yes, if you know that
  • and if you know
  • that history has been leaving
  • ever since
  • for the next boontown
  • in Papua New Guinea
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Hong Kong
  • Tel Aviv
  • Montreal
  • Hilo
  • Maybe even Ho Chi Minh City
  • or Anchorage
  • or Los Angeles
  • to dock there and stay
  • wondering about those islands
  • that once had no name.

You are Pilipino

  • if you left
  • and have never made it back
  • and you think you will die
  • with only a child’s memory
  • of how the air smells
  • the 1st day
  • after the typhoon has passed
  • and in a week the mud
  • will still squeeze between your toes, red
  • but smooth and heavy
  • like the Duncan Hines frosting
  • for a dollar thirty-nine
  • at the Korean store
  • down the block
  • from the Rampart Police Station
  • in P-Town.

You are Pilipinx

  • because you refuse
  • to be male
  • or female
  • anymore
  • but instead claim
  • and own your space
  • something like both
  • or neither
  • and you will make room
  • now
  • for the task of making
  • this mental readjustment
  • go global
  • and this global readjustment
  • go mental.
  • And yet of course
  • Yes, of course
  • You are Pilipina
  • even if you’re half-German
  • (not your fault)
  • and you bear
  • our weighty burden of beauty
  • and so you nab
  • the third, yes
  • people, count them,
  • third
  • Miss Universe crown…
  • who cares if we waited so many years,
  • and who cares that that
  • asshole Trump produced the event…
  • It’s not like we needed
  • to remind the planet that we
  • are some of the most gorgeous things
  • that ever walked this earth
  • and swam its waters.
  • Yassss, there, I said it.
  • Please do take note that
  • that’s coming
  • without irony
  • whatsoever
  • from someone who is
  • wholeheartedly against
  • racial-cheerleading,
  • if all the aim
  • of your goddamned identity politics
  • is to feel good
  • about yourself.

You are Pilipinx because

  • you are an artist
  • a poet
  • a thinker
  • and for some reason
  • you feel the firm grasp of this
  • our fact
  • around your very being,
  • and you can disappoint
  • neither duty
  • nor destiny
  • and the only thing holding you back
  • is the length of time
  • it will take
  • to figure out
  • what material
  • you can muster
  • out of all this
  • garbage
  • and all these memories.
  • And finally then
  • there’s still
  • that undying question
  • of what exactly
  • will come out
  • at this said moment
  • of your much-anticipated
  • Utterance.

You are Pilipino

  • even though you
  • still haven’t gone back
  • In what might be
  • 42 years too late
  • but fuck it,
  • you are still alive
  • and you are still here
  • at this place
  • now
  • and you are still here
  • at this time
  • and you are still so so far
  • from being done
  • bearing witness
  • to this life
  • and to this city
  • and to the world
  • and all its ravishing grandeur
  • and all its ravaging greed
  • and all its punishing hunger
  • and you are still pleading
  • with Providence
  • for salvation and deliverance.
  • Yes, do or die
  • or do and die.
  • This is all you know
  • about how it’s done.
  • This,
  • Is really all.
  • This is really all.
  • It’s all you know about how it’s done.


ATRAS ABANTE kolectivos: Chris Sicat, Christine Morla, Cirilo Domine, Edwin Ramoran, Freddie Agriam,  Haydee Vicedo, Irene Suico Soriano, Jilly Canozares,  Marlon Fuentes, Maryrose Mendoza, Reuben Domingo, Rey Zipagan, Tala Mateo, Tellie Custodio. Additional by Ron Tamara.