Alee Garibay and Jodie Jose
Roger Mond’s residency exhibit is titled after his childhood neighborhood as an ironic pun and an emotionally-charged portrait of the complex place that shaped his identity. His works inspect the concealed but continually deteriorating living conditions in the city, as seen in places like Welfareville, and the multi-layered effects of systemized neglect and oppression on its residents.
Roger Mond is a compulsive doodler, easily finishing reams of bond paper and ballpen inks. He channels his tireless energy into his drawings which serves as the basis of his paintings. Rendered with an intentional crudeness, he recreates horrific scenes that regularly transpired in his village growing up with his figures. These are applied in bright, cheerful hues of blue, red, and yellow further enriching the irony in his works. A vivid memory is that of his nineteenth birthday when upon returning, he found his family home in flames.
In Welfareville, an ever-present terror and unease, the constant pressures on the working class, and the quiet anxiety among the urban masses is viscerally palpable. Roger Mond doesn’t shy away from depicting neurotic portraits as his characters teeter on the edge of breakdowns, with no choice but to keep on existing prodded by a primal will to survive or for some, driven by dreams of crossing the dividing wall between theirs and a better life. Situated just beside Welfareville is another village where the rich, strong, and powerful reside. A wall divides the 2 areas, separating the powerful (monsters) and the powerless masses. Inspired by stories of heroes and villains in comics and manga such as Attack on Titan, he likened their plutocrat oppressors to giants that devoured the helpless citizens, while presenting themselves as the people’s savior as seen in Knight in Shining Armor (40 x 30 in.). Their own greed consumes them as they consumed the helpless, like an unquenchable fire. In Performance Speaks (16 x 16 in.) and Condolence (24 x 18 in.)
Roger plays with the symbol of Mandaluyong city, the tiger, to also represent these greedy ‘titans’. Borja’s hometown earned the moniker “Tiger City of the Philippines” for its rising performance in business and industry. This same tiger however, is also plaguing the citizens, and it does so by disguising as one of them. It is hard to believe that the multiple cases of fire in the compound are mere accidents from faulty electric wiring or a lit candle. Ituloy ang Sulong (16 x 30 in.) reflects the implicit but common knowledge among Welfareville residents that the ‘arsonists’ mingle amongst themselves, goaded on by “invisible” but powerful hands with their own looming and ubiquitous designs for the downfall of the neighborhood.
This exhibit is Roger Mond’s way of igniting the issue on the reality of the skewed way of life in their neighborhood brought about by the absurd greed and violence of those in power. More importantly, it is his retribution, a way of exacting the same anxiety and discomfort upon those that inflicted them with these troubles. It is his gesture of setting a match to those on the other side of the wall.