This Eye-Opening Exhibit Wants Us to Be Responsible for Our Waste

Alon! runs until December 14 at the College of St. Benilde.

( When was the last time you did not make use of any plastic for your activities? Probably close to never. People would normally say "It’s part of everyday life!" But Alon!: An Exhibit on Surfing and the Problem of Plastic Waste begs to differ and inform the public about the sources, implications, and current state of some of our Philippine seas through groups of surfers, artists, and environment advocates. The exhibition runs until December 14 at the 12th floor of De La Salle – College of St. Benilde’s School of Design and Arts in Manila City. It is open to the public from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on weekdays, and from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturdays.

Alon! welcomes visitors with colorful walls in salmon, orange, yellow, turquoise, and green—making you feel as if you’re whisked away in a tropical island. Look closely and you’ll see reprints of social media posts tackling the hazards of plastic consumption and irresponsible waste management. Otherwise confusing statistics are rendered as infographics to show how big a problem we have. But of course, alternative solutions are also offered through informative posters, sparking some hope.

Environmental organizations want corporations to take a look at how much single-use plastic they manufacture.
PHOTO BY AZ Camiling

PHOTO BY AZ Camiling
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From the roster of artists and students featured in the show, it is the photographs by Noel Guevara—a Manila-based director and wildlife photographer—that show the most alarming stories of how single-use plastic end up in the water and affect marine life.

A shampoo sachet is lost among corals and other marine creatures on the seafloor.
PHOTO BY Noel Guevara

A plastic sachet, such as this item, takes hundreds or even thousands of years before it decomposes. 
PHOTO BY Noel Guevara

“It’s a very easy explanation—garbage and plastic waste [are] thrown in the ocean, even the smallest ones will come back to us; the fish eat it, then we eat the fish, we eat the garbage and the plastic with the fish, and now it’s inside us,” says Jun Plaza, founder of Amihan sa Dahican—a team of surfers in Mati.

Surfers and residents of Baler, Aurora show how much trash can be found along Sabang Beach.
PHOTO BY AZ Camiling

“Burnt Out” by AB Fashion Design and Merchandising student Allana Nicolas, is made from used and melted plastic bag.
PHOTO BY AZ Camiling

Another wall shows portraits of surfers from six surf spots in the Philippines—San Juan, La Union; Baler, Aurora; Gubat, Sorsogon; Siargao, Surigao del Norte; Mati, Davao Oriental; and Dulag, Leyte. Instead of photographs of them posing with their surfboards or riding the waves in their home break, they are shown holding pieces of trash that they picked up within five minutes by the shore or out in the sea.

Dresses made from recycled materials, created by design students of the College of St. Benilde, are also on display.

“Save BB Whale” is the third iteration of Biboy Royong’s “Dead Whale” project, which unmasks the country’s plastic problem through large-scale sculptures. It was first seen in Cavite in 2017, then near Manila Bay in 2019
PHOTO BY AZ Camiling

Exhibit curator and architect Gerry Torres hopes that Alon! will “plant seeds of awareness among us and communicate that as consumers, we can be part of the solution.” This starts with consumers adding “refuse” to the “reduce, reuse, and recycle.”

Alon! is a reminder that as a country surrounded mostly with water, we are the first ones that feel the worst effects of pollution—and in the bigger picture: the global climate crisis. We’ve been experiencing the hottest summers of all time, the most destructive typhoons, rapid changes in weather and season, dwindling of wildlife, among others. And if these real-life problems highlighted through the exhibit are not enough to open our eyes, we don’t know what else will.

Alon!: An Exhibit on Surfing and the Problem of Plastic Waste runs until December 14 at De La Salle – College of St. Benilde’s School of Design and Arts, Pablo Ocampo Street, Malate, Manila. For more information, follow Center for Campus Art, De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde on Facebook.

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