Artist Beans

Beasties to Besties: Exploring Sidlakang Babaylan’s World Of Critters

The manananggal outside your jalousie just wants to Netflix & chill with you

By Meena Shayna Sarsaba

There’s been hungihong going around concerning cryptid sightings in your rural town. A lower half of what seems to belong to a human body travelling in a sheer lace skirt, white platform boots and a fanny pack was seen pilfering items from 7/11 across the chapel. It seems to be using this unusual condition to its advantage & escape from the nakatulala 7/11 person. If it wasn’t for kuya sikyu, weary at the sparse influx of customers, reviewing the surveillance that night, that pastel grunge tumblr era no-torso thing on the loose might still be getting away doing crimes tomorrow & who knows for how long. (Really taking the h i p s t e r thing to extreme heights.) First it glides behind the about-3-feet-tall counter, clears the coast, then casually ensorcells the desired items in a pulling mid-air suspension towards its fanny pack pockets. For its last trick, comes slithering behind the register station on the cue of the 7/11 person picking up bola-bola siopao from the hot-stuff station. Flick! At least two rows of camel boxes & BIC lighters are gone and culminates its mystical show by slyly evacuating from the building. One of 7/11 persons had previously noted a few day-to-day variances. Maybe this could string together the pieces.

Lola Remedios, 10 cola-flavoured chupa chups, 4 yakult, 6 tower yema (peanut), 2 durex (dotted), a hair scrunchie.

That does not make sense. I mean, that is a lot, but, it doesn’t, you know…. it….. does not…. seem ….that …….. criminal?

Following this sighting’s blossoming, some villagers began their own cryptid inspection quests. Some attempted to follow its suspected tracks. People were taking just anybody’s word for it but the one that’s believed to have evident imprints was spotted midtrack: 78 ubi street, Purok Otot-Otot, Brgy. Tubigon Extensio—– ww wa wait, hey, isn’t that like, your block?

[cold chills with wind & leaves effect]

Before you, this wild dark faerie appears! Shimmering exquisitely in moondust, it examines your aura. After a little while telepathically communicating you passed its vibe check. Phantom voice so very sweet & delicate, probably from the consumption of Lola Remedios, it strikes up a conversation with you:

“Not to be creepy but word is, you have daw Netflix Premium. Would you be so lovely as to letting me watch Juno (2007) with you?”

You still stand there, neither sure what to feel most between delight, thrill & fright. You know Juno (2007) is not available on netflix. You just keep nodding hysterically, taking its larvae-like palms in yours. The blood, whose-ever it is… or those are, binds you for life. This is the beginning of a rather serendipitous friendship.

Or so I’d like to imagine how the equally magical & sassy human bean behind Sidlakang Babaylan (human form name: Shane Agir)’s breathtaking critter world was breathed into life: It began with friendship. Shane is a heart on fire disguised as “three goats in a trench coat”.

Shane is from Negros and growing up, he was exposed to myths and Filipino folklore. Of course, watching television and getting to see a lot of fantasies (shoutout to Disney), his entire world kept expanding and evolving, oh-so-beautifully, and voila~ we are witnessing it through his illustrations.

A personal favourite is this lil swamp chunggus he made so so loveable. Its species are also known to bear a life giving elixir streaming in their saliva. Wanna not die? Jump to the section where the berberoka is now!

“The berberoka are usually depicted as trolls or giants which we already have too much of! So I decided to change my depiction to make it more critter-like”, wide-eyed Shane says. “I wanted a frog-mutt-dragon-salamander-mutate-monstie so i made me one!” It’s just so wonderful and so erotic but so wholesome simultaneously.

“The berberoka are usually depicted as trolls or giants which we already have too much of! So I decided to change my depiction to make it more critter-like.”

I can tell he hates television gives him a headache but wants to hear you utter it firsthand from you in prose form. “Television might tame him.” They’ve definitely dated a dead coral anemone shibari axolotl but twin flame romances are doomed and to this day whines about how he’s still not over him. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, anyone?

The art we make is sometimes materialized by things that feel safe with presenting itself before us. Shane extracts beauty from wildlife around him having been raised in a rural town. And did you know, he is a Pokémon trainer level: alpha god???

Another proof to debunk the myth that people who witness mythic beings become cursed & wretched souls is that Shane organized an art for a cause donation drive as a response & relief going to the victims struck by the typhoons Ulysses and Rolly. All its proceeds went to our furiends at PAWS Philippines. Now who are you calling cursed? They just bring out the best in you. What’s not to love about them & invite them over for? Wala jud.

You’re still not seeing this yet *tosses night vision gears over your direction*

Blood parasites. just woOooowOOoowOooooooWoooOoooWoooow

With his traditional relief-printing inspired style, the digital comes off a tenebrous vision rising back and forth into and out of the plane of shadows. Maybe that’s what Shane sees right after he closes his eyes and then permanently allows its inky essence slip onto the digital canvas. It feels as though it’s beyond lore and childhood that binds him and his critters. Maybe it’s the blood (echoing voice: it’s the blood) and the things in between. His interpretations of mythic beings are illustrated unlike the usual way. You have horror thrown in, hunger & ferocity. But in Shane’s, the vulnerability sparkles in their blank yet earnest eyes, as if he was entrusted to so much, their beauty is more brought out.

Mega gardevoir, just feast your eyes on the mushroom & mantis details! Come on, look. She could just be another astray mutant from Cerulean City or Azalea town. Or maybe she could even take us to space…

Shane’s art teaches me that friendship comes in different shapes and sizes. Shapes and sizes that include those that cannot always be visible to the eyes. Friendship between two is so sacred and special. a tangible beacon that moves its outsiders to the extent of vulnerability & touches you with its love while still remaining a private experience. I love it so much because my first sense of friendship blossomed off creatures that not even my Kinder-1 classmates had seen. Let it be a private experience but let its love steep you in it.

The vulnerability sparkles in their blank yet earnest eyes, as if Shane was entrusted to so much, their beauty is more brought out

Friendships prosper the most under the care of little things, you know, just making sure you avoid sprinkling your junk food’s salt residues into your hipster friend’s exposed core. Or let it watch Netflix from your window with you like primitively wiretapping so it can disseminate stories among its critter friends to prevent a great supernatural war. Very simple.

You’ve heard of Netflix and chill, but what about netflix & chills? No this isn’t the ennui-induced marathon spinning only harrowing recorded documents either real or imagined. When I say netflix & chills, I mean, entertainment in the face, literally, of horror.

Well, these are just my favorites which I wish I could invite over for my blunt rotation! Be posted for more of Shane’s formidable worldbuilding at @sidlakangbabaylan & catch ’em all!

Meena Shayna Sarsaba graduated from University of San Carlos and is now spending most of her days as an opalescent pink poisonous soft coral scape klepto dreaming inside an umbilical cord (yes, you read that right) and being an advocate for kindness since day one. She is officially Team Love Club’s fairy.

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