Higit sa sining: Tarantadong Kalbo revolts through and beyond art

Kevin Raymundo, the man behind Tarantadong Kalbo, ensures that every visual encourages us to speak out about injustices.

Days before President Rodrigo Duterte’s 2021 State of the Nation Address (SONA), an eye-catching artwork surfaced on Twitter. It depicted a crowd of fists bowing down, yielding to an unseen higher power; but there was one which stood firm, remaining defiant in the face of blind worship. As punching fists became a Duterte trademark, the piece became a rallying cry, emphasized by its simple yet sharp caption: “Tumindig.


More than anything, the pandemic exposed the government’s systemic shortcomings in implementing proper health protocols, focusing on mismatched priorities, and inadequately supporting our healthcare workers. This prompted digital artist and animation director Kevin Eric Raymundo—popularly known as Tarantadong Kalbo—to express his dissatisfaction and spark political discussions through satirical artworks. Little did he know that Tumindig would become the catalyst for a movement that transcends our virtual environments.

To this day, Kevin remains active in sharing creations highlighting his thoughts on national issues, especially about the present administration and the 2022 National Elections. With every piece, he uncovers perspectives on the importance of political awareness and reminds viewers that art can become commentaries on such topics, nudging people to keep a sharp eye on those who take advantage of the masses.

Creativity with a purpose 

Kevin’s artistry was like a blank canvas that oozed with colors early on. He grew up observing ​​Apolonio “Pol” Medina Jr.’s illustrations on Pugad Baboy and reading Georges “Hergé” Remi’s The Adventures of Tintin and Manix Abrera’s Kikomachine Komix. This interest in art led to the launch of his very own webcomic, Tarantadong Kalbo, in 2019. 

Depending on the complexity, each artwork typically takes Kevin two to four hours of work. In choosing his topics, “Sometimes, the idea just pops into my head as I am browsing.” This is evident in his mundane artworks depicting Filipino wit, humor, and quirkiness. From tasting the sap of santan flowers to secretly expressing one’s joy over the exclusion of raisins on macaroni salad, his own creative spin on daily, middle-class problems, pop culture, and nostalgic childhood references make his art resonate with many. 

“Other times, the topic is relevant [or] something that I feel strongly about,” he shares, citing his artworks that criticize current political trends. One example is Inuman Sessions, where Kevin collaborated with nongovernmental organization (NGO) Foundation for Media Alternatives on discussing “the different ways of managing online disinformation and historical distortion”.

But being an artist—nonetheless inherently human—he is not an exception from stress caused by work. As a pet lover, Kevin tends to his 14 cats to lessen burnout. And when it comes to the social pressure from the public, he urges fellow artists, “If everything gets too loud, remember that you can always log out and breathe.”

‘A spark can start a great fire’

But as the president’s final SONA approached, Kevin knew he wasn’t going to be silent on the administration’s rule. Tumindig serves as a manifestation of his feelings as an artist-activist under the Duterte regime and his frustrations toward the administration itself. Hence, the national traction the movement got was a surprise to Kevin. “I wasn’t expecting that amount of reaction to it…I did not imagine [that] a whole ‘movement’ would spring out from such a personal piece,” he opines.

In an interview with Rappler, he also reveals that another factor behind the creation of the piece was the disconnection between the local art community and the country’s current situation. With that, he wanted his fellow artists to be more involved in national affairs. Kevin aims to convey the message that we should not be afraid to stand for justice, “even if it feels like you’re the only one doing it.”

Tumindig spread like wildfire, inspiring artists, organizations, companies, and other groups to add their own fists to the piece. Some notable additions included artists Kapitan Tambay, Cartoonist Zach, and Tsambolero; prominent figures such as Chel Diokno; and student-led organizations like UP Babaylan and the University’s Filipino publication, Ang Pahayagang Plaridel. This unified expression of dissent shook many Filipinos to the core with its impact, Kevin included. “The Tumindig movement is definitely a lifechanging event for me. It must be a manifestation of our collective trauma,” he jests.

Art defying neutrality 

With the increasing political unrest in the Philippines, Kevin has also expressed stronger and bolder stances about sociopolitical issues in his artworks. 

His illustration of a pink military rifle posted in November 2021 garnered overwhelming support from netizens but received backlash among some supporters of presidential candidate Vice President Leni Robredo. Captioned “yassista”—a portmanteau on the Filipino word pasista (fascist) and the slang “yassified”, referring to excessive glamorization to emphasize its ridiculousness and fakery—Kevin denounced the alarming authoritarian implications behind Robredo’s stance on keeping the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC). 

His visual exposes the irony of Robredo’s pink political brand in contrast with her support toward the military. Given that NTF-ELCAC is known for red-tagging activists and political dissenters, Kevin asserts, “[Yassista] wasn’t a spur of the moment [decision]. That issue is something that I really feel strongly about, [especially] as someone who has been red-tagged multiple times.”

But despite being pressured to delete his post, Kevin persisted in being critical of all politicians. And given the coming election season, he aspires that his art stimulates more initiative among netizens, especially those privileged, to have more patience and eagerness in discussing politics with close-minded relatives. “Mayroon nang conversation na nangyayari”, he explains in another Rappler interview, “hindi na tayo stuck sa kanya-kanyang echo chambers,” because electing better leaders for the country cannot happen with more division; instead citizens should pitch in with the collective goal.

(There’s already an ongoing conversation. We are no longer stuck in our individual echo chambers.)

Artista ng bayan, ngayon ay lumalaban!  

As his art drove Filipinos to action, Kevin believes, “There’s no grand ‘goal’ for [the Tumindig movement] at the moment because it has already served its purpose.” However, the artist remains adamant in creating pieces that awaken one’s political awareness. Tumindig’s popularity is a testament to the power of art in sparking change by being united and headstrong about our political beliefs.

Kevin is hopeful that many artists will also use their platforms for the same cause. He stresses that they shouldn’t be afraid to use art in exposing problems in the nation’s underbelly. “Speak up, but be honest,” he voices out. Through these means, anyone can suggest solutions and reforms to existing problems that would help our nation’s welfare.

But one shouldn’t rely on artists alone. He encourages citizens to do their part as well, “Join NGOs [or] groups that push for reforms [and] organize.” Collective resistance should not be underestimated as proven by his Tumindig artwork. “While art is a powerful tool,” Kevin emphasizes, “it will never be enough if not followed up by action.” 

The legacy of Kevin Eric Raymundo and the Tarantadong Kalbo comics will carry on as long as resistance matters in the country. “I think this is how it’s gonna be for me. I’m still enjoying what I do,” he expresses. But whether one is an artist or not, one must remain critical of politics and how it can affect the country and its citizens. “Tumindig, right?” he firmly reminds.

(Resist, right?)

Alessandra Pauleen Gomez

By Alessandra Pauleen Gomez

Jamie Sanchez

By Jamie Sanchez

Leave a Reply