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Kris Abrigo, Mansy Abesamis + More Share a New Creative Space in Kapitolyo

Published Dec 26, 2022

( The view of an open sky from an alley below a residential property ends at a small studio that is surrounded by walls painted in geometric shapes and vibrant colors, giving off a certain kind of familiarity as if they were derived from a public mural by a renowned artist. The artist studio, Kris Abrigo’s Okipo, is one of the nine creative workspaces in Studio Kapitbahay. Located along San Rafael Street in Kapitolyo, Pasig City, the two-story duplex apartment is a community space shared by a muralist, an illustrator, a filmmaker, a potter-slash-crafter-slash-jewelry maker, a transport planner, a toymaker, and architects. This collective of Filipino artists was established in 2019, just a couple of years before they moved to their present location.

kris abrigo
Kris Abrigo in his studio, Okipo 
PHOTO BY Christine Chung
Mansy Abesamis' creative space is filled with her pottery creations.
PHOTO BY Christine Chung

Shared Space in a Shared Neighborhood in Kapitolyo 

"These communities are our neighborhood now. We know everyone now in the neighborhood. We walk around, we bike around, we know our neighbors," says John Ignacio, an entrepreneur and founder of venture-building company Hiraya MNL, in an interview with

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When asked about the idea of the creative space, he explained that it takes inspiration from the concept of kapitbahay or neighborhood where something is shared among the members of the community, from food to personal stories. According to Ignacio, "by just being in a space, an idea could come up, an inspiration could come up." This interconnectedness serves as a strong foundation for the community.

Studio Kapitbahay PHOTO: Christine Chung

Studio Kapitbahay is a welcome addition to the wide range of restaurants, artistic ventures, and other hotspots in the popular neighborhood of Kapitolyo. Aside from Abrigo’s Okipo and Ignacio’s Hiraya MNL, the space also houses the individual studios of illustrator and designer Soleil Ignacio, filmmaker Caloy Soliongco, paper cut artist/jewelry maker/potter Mansy Abesamis, mobility advocate and transport planner Ira Cruz, streetwear and toymaker Ralph Guibani (Kantoy), architects Leonard Cusi and Allie Principe (GRAAR), and Marla Darwin and Joel Darwin (NS Design and Palm Tree Abbey).

Ralph Guibani
Toymaker Ralph Guibani in his space
PHOTO BY Christine Chung
GRAAR's space at Studio Kapitbahay
PHOTO BY Christine Chung
GRAAR Studio
PHOTO BY Christine Chung

The concept of community and shared experiences is not new to Abrigo, who has worked as a mural artist in public and private spaces. 

"Urban artist talaga akoGumagawa ako ng street art, gumagawa ako for communities. Gusto kong mapabilang sa movement na ‘yonNag-start na rin maging open ‘yong public, especially ‘yong mga urban areas, urban communities na gamitin ‘yong art na ‘yon, ilagay sa location nila para mas mapalapit sila sa tao din," Abrigo reflects. 


The interiors of Kris Abrigo’s studio PHOTO: Christine Chung

Fascination in Architecture 

Abrigo recounts that as a child, he used to read a lot of magazines on architecture, which explains the geometry he employs as artistic and aesthetic elements, whether on murals, canvas, or objects. "Nag-start ako canvas, di ba? So parang canvas lang siya then nag-transform into walls. Kasi ‘yong architecture nag-oocupy ng space ‘yon." 

As a muralist, he has painted outdoors in Manila, Hong Kong, and New York City—all while challenging the two dimensions of murals being integrated in structures and edifices. 

"From canvas tinry ko ‘yong malaking scale, so mas mural, flat pa rin siya. Eventually, nagkaroon ako ng murals na hindi flat, may dimension na nasa corner or nasa staircase. Hindi lang siya flat wall or ceiling. So, parang ako no’ng na-add ‘yong dimensionality na ‘yon, naisip ko parang mas nagiging interesting, mas nag-eenjoy ako," he adds.  

True enough, enjoyment and fun are evident in the brightly colored shapes and lines that are a representation of the grit and allure of urbanity. Abrigo’s medium, scaled up as a mural or scaled down as objects and canvas, determines the kind of engagement of the viewers toward his art. 


"Naisip ko na kailangan lang na mas maging malapit pa sa audience ‘yong art na ginagawa ko na pwede nila i-interact, mahawakan, maupuan," he says referring to his collection of six objects that he calls "Alcoholistic Approach."

Kris Abrigo Alcoholitistic Approach
Kris Abrigo’s "Alcoholitistic Approach" at HirayaMNL's studio
PHOTO BY Christine Chung

"Sa unang collection ko lang feeling ko kailangan ko magmukang functional silaMay mga piece ako na hindi mukhang functional. Gusto ko ‘yong contrast na gano’n e. Objects ba siya? Sculpture ba siya kasi mukha siyang sculpture? Or common furniture ba siya?," he says. 


The contrast and duality embedded in his artworks make more sense as he attempts to either blur the function of the object or make it futile of its purpose. 

"Mas ma-aarrest ka sa pigiging art niya, hindi sa pagiging functional object," he emphasizes. The same duality applies in his artistic practice which he describes as "rotational," meaning rendering work for the community and acknowledging when to create for himself.  

Moreover, Abrigo recognizes that commerciality is a significant factor in art’s availability to the public. It allows the circulation of art and gives people access to what they consider art, may it be the signage of an establishment or graffiti art.

Caloy Soliongco's studio PHOTO: Christine Chung

Art for the Community and With the Community 

Abrigo learned to blow up images in an interesting albeit unusual way. As an elementary student, his lola-tita (as he fondly calls her), who was a teacher to the barrios, would give them the task of copying and drawing bigger illustrations found in textbooks into a teaching aid for the entire class. 


"[Sa] mga bundok talaga, so mga elementary school do’nDi na nakakarating sa kanila mga book. Kailangan niya’yon i-translate into charts, so mga visual aid," he recalls. 

Ralph Guibani's custom toys, which he calls "Kantoys," are inspired by fish balls with your favorite dips ("Luto with Garlic Sauce," "Hilaw with Vinegar Sauce," and "Tustado with Sweet Chili").
PHOTO BY Christine Chung
Soleil Ignacio
Illustrator and designer Soleil Ignacio
PHOTO BY Christine Chung
framed works
Soleil Ignacio's framed works
PHOTO BY Christine Chung

As exemplified by his lola-tita, knowledge can be shared and passed on through art. "Makikita mo pa kung gaano ka-creative ‘yong mga Filipino in generalKasi halos lahat ng site [where I paint] may magsasabi [sa akin na] sobrang galing [nilang] mag-drawing kaso wala lang silang resources," he narrates.  

The scarcity of materials which he experienced early in his career, has been his motivation to share the gratifying feeling of making art for the community and with the community regardless of scale, regardless of space. 

Studio Kapitbahay is at 66 San Rafael Street, Kapitolyo, Pasig City.


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