'Voltes V' and Martial Law in an Artist's Memory

Published on 30 September 2014
Written by CSSP Information Office

In an art installation titled “Last, Lost, Lust for Four Episodes” currently exhibited at the historic Palma Hall Steps or AS Steps, artist Toym Leon Imao presents his interpretation of the childhood days he had when Martial Law. The College of Social Sciences and Philosophy hosts the exhibit in commemoration of the 42nd year since Martial Law was imposed in the country.
When he was still a kid, Toym Imao was fond of the Japanese mencha (robot) anime, ‘Voltes V’. In 1979, then President Ferdinand Marcos ordered the banning of the show. According to him, “it was a wonderful time to be a kid until it all went away when through a directive by the Marcos government. Voltes V and the other robot animes were banned from airing because of alleged ‘excessive violence’. An entire generation was heartbroken that the last four episodes of Voltes V were never aired. After watching the travails and triumphs of the Armstrong family, viewers never got to see what was supposed to be the triumphant overthrow of an evil empire, and the return of peace and democracy in both planets Earth and Boazania.” His childhood was an era where TV shows were very much anticipated by viewers; there were no Youtube where you can watch downloaded episodes of a show anytime. As he laments, “they were left hanging, never knowing how the series ended”. His anger as a child grew into a feeling of social consciousness; as he was growing, he became aware of the social constraints the country had experienced during the first decade of authoritarian rule. He adds, “…at first it was only because he deprived me of a favorite TV character. And then a sort of political awakening happened. Suddenly, I was affected by what [the] grownups were talking about: Martial Law.”
The sculpture is an allegory of his anger as a child deprived of his favorite TV show, and his involvement in the struggle for freedom during the Marcos regime. In this masterpiece, he revealed his understanding of our history – the triumph of Filipinos struggle to regain peace and democracy in the country. He labeled Marcos as the hegemonic Boazanian Emperor, depicted in his artwork as the Boazanian Skull with horns starship, as his representation of the ‘Sky Rook’.  He also presented his version of the iconic ‘Marca Demonio’ of Fernando Amorsolo, commonly seen on the label cover of a popular Filipino gin.

Excerpts from the Artist’s Notes
“Last, Lost, Lust for Four Episodes”
Brass, Galvanize Iron & Fiberglass
10 x 8 feet
Artist: Toym Leon Imao 2014

[The] title refers to the last four episodes of Voltes V which were never aired after Marcos regime banned it in 1979. “Last” that that dark period in Philippine History is the last and it will never happen again. “Lost” refers to a generation of robot anime fans who felt no closure as they never saw the ending of their favorite cartoon series. Lost are also the desaparecidos and those who lost their livelihoods and futures because of Martial Law. “Lust” refers not only to the longing of these fans to watch the final four episodes, but with lust for power that characterized the Martial Law Regime.
The sculpture is a visual metaphor of the anger I felt as a ten-year old child when Voltes V and the other robots were summarily removed from television. We were left hanging, never knowing how the series ended. My anger was trained on then President Marcos whom my young mind labeled as the Philippines version of the evil Boazanian Emperor. At first it was only because he deprived me of a favorite TV character. And then a sort of political awakening happened. Suddenly, I was affected by what grown-ups were talking about: Martial Law.  I became more aware of my parents work as volunteers in the opposition machinery headed by then Ninoy Aquino and the LABAN party due to our friendship with Alejandro Roces (National Artist for Literature). I helped in making opposition posters and paraphernalia against our very own Boazanian Emperor/President. I played the role of earth defense forces, and the rebellious non-horned slave race in Boazania eager for liberation and freedom.
The artist took inspiration from Fernando Amorsolo’s Marca Demonyo – from the arches (on top is written “Nunquam Rursus” which is Latin for “Never Again”) to San Miguel Arkanghel defeating the devil beneath his feet. Under the artist’s imagination, St. Michael dons a Voltes helmet and armor and wields the famous laser sword. The devil is incarnated as a Beast Fighter (the Boazanian Empire’s mechanized weapon of terror). The Beast Fighter is actually a riot policeman with his face covered with a gas mask, metal shields as wings and waving a truncheon as his weapon- a visual metaphor for militarization.
President Marcos is depicted as the Boazanian Skull with Horns starship. The iconic “Sky Rook”.  The horns are the stylized front end of an M-16 machine gun.  The wings are based on the 1960s T-28 planes, nicknamed the tora-toras, which were extensively used in counter insurgency strafing operations in the 70s; also during the several coup attempts against President Cory Aquino in the mid-eighties. On the crest of the head is a depiction of four structures: at the front is Malacanang Palace, on its sides are the Batasan Pambansa, and the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant, and at the back is the Cultural Center of the Philippines. The middle area is populated by representations of industrialization via different chimneys.  These iconic structures associated with the late dictator, each having their own unique narratives on how the state has appropriated their resources of what the Marcos envisions as his “New Society”. 
When the artwork was first displayed, there was a lone boy wielding a toy sword, taking on the Sky Rook and his soldiers. This is the artist’s homage to UP activist Lean Alejandro. In the succeeding days, the boy was joined by a girl and three other boys. They represent the Voltes V team. They also represent, in a way, the amassing of individuals to fight the dictatorship.
The entire sculptural totem visually suggests a sort of altar statuary composition similar to a carroza, lighted by an assemblage of Molotov bombs. It incorporates characters from the Voltes V series as representation of the Philippine experience under martial law.
 

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