From the outside, Metro Manila’s Tenement Taguig is an intimidating structure. Its grey, fortress-like walls seal its tenants off from the surrounding world, with only tiny windows on its dilapidated exterior peeking outside. But once visitors find the entrance and step inside, they’re greeted with vibrantly colored walls and smiling faces. Residents here are used to outsiders these days, ever since the low-income housing project became world-renowned for its basketball court murals.
The center of this community is literally and figuratively the basketball courts, wedged tightly within an enclosure of walls that rise seven stories high. It’s a place where local ballers refine their skills and compete for glory and cash; when no games are in session, it’s also where residents gather for cookouts, parties, and a playground for the kids to let loose.
从外面看来，位于马尼拉大都会塔吉格市（Taguig）的 Tenement 廉价公寓楼令人望而生畏。堡垒般的灰色外墙将住户与周围的世界隔离开来，只能透过破旧墙壁上那扇小小的窗户窥视外界。然而一旦踏入公寓楼内，迎面而来的却是色彩鲜艳的墙壁和一张张友善的笑脸。这幢廉价公寓楼因其篮球场壁画而闻名全球，如今，那里的居民对慕名而来的游客也早已见怪不怪。
篮球场位于 7 层楼高的公寓大楼正中央，是这个社区真正意义上的中心。社区里的篮球爱好者就在这里磨炼自己的球技、打比赛、赢奖励；没有人打球的时候，居民就在这里聚餐、办派对，孩子们也把这里当作游乐场。
The open-air walkways look directly down onto the main court, providing a perfect view for the large-scale paintings that turn the entire court into a giant canvas and the intense games that play out atop them. A secondary court used to be unpaved, doubling as a soccer field, but it’s now outfitted with concrete benches and a bandstand.
Most of the walls on the ground floor and the roof are covered with graffiti and street art while many of the other walls are coated in bright pinks, yellows, and greens, with the ramps connecting each floor lit up brightly until midnight. In the daytime, each floor seems to glow as the warm Manila sun bounces off of the colorful surfaces. Soundtracked by the ambience of kids laughing and basketballs being dribbled, it’s something special for people lucky enough to take it all in. Even on stormy days, the complex is just as lively, with residents hanging out together in the hallways, roaming around and chatting while the rain batters the exterior.
Despite this proud and tightly knit community, many pressing issues haunt the tenants. The entire building is constantly threatened with eviction, concrete is crumbling in the complex’s many corners, and there’s no running water. Residents cart gallons of water, filled from the sole faucet on the ground floor, up the cracked ramps all day, even the elderly. Holes are so big in some places you can see straight through to the floor below. But it was these struggles that invigorated the community’s transformation into an arts-and-entertainment hub, which has helped raise awareness of the tenants’ plight and make their life more enjoyable.
Fort Bonifacio Tenement, as it’s formally known, is located in Taguig City and was originally built in 1963 as part of a relocation program for informal settlers, mainly those living along the PNR commuter railroad tracks. It was home to 700 families and constructed by the Japanese government as part of the nation’s wartime reparations efforts.
这幢公寓楼始建于 1963 年，以前的名字是 Fort Bonifacio Tenement，源于为贫民窟居民提供的重置计划，主要是面向生活在 PNR 通勤铁轨沿线的居民。这幢公寓楼里生活着 700 个家庭，由日本国际协力机构建造，作为日本战时赔偿工作的第一个建设项目。
Generations of families were born and raised at the tenement, and many of the original tenants’ families remain, including Jennifer Corpin, the current tenants’ association president. “The neighbors are like one big family here,” she says. “You don’t really need to leave to be happy, everything you need is here.” And it’s true; scattered throughout the building on various floors you can find sari-sari stores (mini convenience stores), food stands, barbershops, and public computers popularly called pisonet (named after it’s cost: one peso for five minutes of internet access). On one floor, there’s a pool table, and on others, videoke machines. “It’s a very simple life,” she adds with a smile.
这里有许多人家，几代人都是在这幢公寓楼里出生、成长，有许多初期的住户至今仍住在这里，包括现任的租户协会会长 Jennifer Corpin。她说：“这里的居民就像是一个大家庭。你甚至不用离开大楼也能生活，因为这里有你所需要的一切。”确实如此，在大楼的不同楼层，你可以找到小型便利店、小吃摊、理发店，还有俗称“pisonet”（意为“一元网”）的网吧（1 比索可上网 5 分钟，网吧由此得名），一层楼里摆满台球桌，另一层楼则是视频唱 K 机。“这里的生活很简单。”她笑着说道。
Although Corpin, known to the locals as Prez Kleng, has another home now, she still keeps her original apartment in the tenement that she shares with extended family. Her apartment speaks to the range of units within the walls of the tenement. It’s one of the nicer spaces, renovated with new tiles and updated furniture. Some other units are just as well attended as hers, while others are more modest but lovingly adorned with family pictures and mementos. Then there are those that are just bare concrete spaces. Some have been boarded up since their families left. A few of the least fortunate residents have set up living spaces in the corner landings of the back stairwells.
Jennifer（当地人喜欢称呼她为 Prez Kleng）现在有了另一套房子，但她仍然保留了在这里的公寓，与家人亲戚住在一起。她的公寓是这幢大楼里比较典型的一间，属于比较好的房子，里面铺上了新的瓷砖，换上了新的家具。有些人的公寓和她家一样装修得比较好，还有一些人的公寓虽然比较朴实，但里面摆满了家庭照片和纪念品装饰；而有一些则只有空荡荡的混凝土墙壁；还有一些人搬走后用木板将房子钉上了；还有少数比较困难的居民就在后楼梯间的拐角处搭建起自己的生活空间。
Troubles first began for the tenement in the 90s. The aging building began falling into disrepair as the government fell behind on upkeep. Eventually, residents stopped paying rent. It’s unclear when exactly this started happening, but by the 2000s, pretty much everyone had stopped paying. The original residents were awarded perpetual lease contracts and were supposed to pay the National Housing Authority. But sometime during this period, they stopped sending bills entirely. And then the eviction threats started happening.
90 年代起，这座公寓楼开始陷入了麻烦。由于政府未能及时维修打理，大楼变得年久失修，很多住户因此不愿意再支付房租。虽然不清楚这种情况从何时开始，但是 2000 年之后，几乎所有人都不再付房租了。最初的住户拥有永久租赁合同，原本应该向国家住房管理局交付房租。但就差不多这时期，他们拒付房租，随后就开始收到了驱逐令。
In 2010, mayoral candidate Lani Cayetano stepped up and told the residents they didn’t need to worry if she was elected. “You will not be leaving,” she said. “You can now sleep in peace.” The promise helped carry her into office and she went on to serve two terms until 2019. But she went silent after that first election and barely visited the tenement, despite numerous eviction notices sent out during her tenure. “It’s like she just used the issue to win,” complains Erick Delloza Reyes, an activist and former resident who grew up in the tenement. He points out that her family is a political dynasty holding positions all across high levels of government. “They’ve been in power for how many years now? But they did nothing.”
In 2014, the housing authority again threatened the residents, saying they would be removed from Tenement, claiming that the structure was unsound and would collapse in the next big earthquake, which is expected and overdue. They offered to move them to a new location, but it was out in the province, far from work, the hospital, and the friends and family they’d grown up around. While some took the offer, the majority of tenants poured out to the alcoves, leaning over the railing to bang pots and pans in a noise barrage to protest the eviction. “We’ve asked for a third party to study the structure but they won’t entertain it; we’d have to pay for it ourselves,” Corpin says. When Neocha contacted the Japan International Cooperation Agency (the agency that took over development projects like Tenement), a representative declined to comment, saying they could retrieve no records of the project and thus were unable to provide any information about it.
2010 年，市长候选人 Lani Cayetano 站出来表示，如果她当选，住户将不用再担心被驱逐。她说：“你们无须搬家，可以安心睡觉了。”有了这项承诺，她最终得以继续任职，第二个任期将持续至 2019 年。但是，第一次当选之后，她就没有再提及此事，也很少到访这幢公寓大楼，但在任期内，她发出了多次驱逐通知。Erick Delloza Reyes 是一名社会活动家，也曾是这幢公寓大楼的居民，他抱怨说：“她只是利用这个问题来赢得选举。”他表示她来自一个政治大家族，她的家人在各级政府中都担任着职务。“他们执政已经有不知道多少年了，但全都毫无作为。”
2014 年，住房管理局再次威胁居民，声称大楼结构不稳固，下一次地震时就会倒塌，因此要求他们搬离公寓楼，并表示搬迁的决定早已逾期，且势在必行。政府提出将居民安置到省里新的地点，但那距离他们的公司、医院以及他们一起长大的朋友和家人都很远。一部分人接受了安排，但大多数住户选择在楼中央聚集起来，愤怒地推撞着栏杆，大力敲击锅碗瓢盆来抗议驱逐。Jennifer 说：“我们要求第三方来评估大楼的结构，但他们不愿意支付这笔费用，要求我们自己支付费用。”当我们联系上日本国际协力机构时，对方拒绝发表评论，称他们无法检索到该项目的记录，因此无法提供任何相关的信息。
It was around this time that Mike Swift got involved. Swift is a FIlipino-American rapper who grew up in the housing projects of Coney Island, Brooklyn. He moved from the Philippines to New York in second grade and returned in 2004 as an adult to pursue a rap career. He had some success from documentary-style DVDs, which included video of him performing in both countries, joking around with big-name rappers, and hooping. “Basketball had always helped me make friends, even as a kid in Brooklyn before I spoke English well,” he says. “I was already ahead in math and grammar and everything, but my accent was different. Once I landed in the Philippines, I was looking for basketball right away. ‘Where we ballin’ at?’ That’s how I became friends with everyone.”
Swift had been in the country for a full decade by 2014 and was looking for something beyond the rap world. With basketball so popular in the Philippines, courts can be found almost anywhere in the country, from little dirt clearings with boxes for hoops, to narrow alleyways with hoops on wheels so they can be moved out of the way of traffic. He’d been taking pictures of them along his journeys, collecting them on an Instagram account called Mr. PinoyHoops. He was also involved in renovating courts. “Everywhere I went, I was looking for courts,” he says. “Even in New York I was involved in clean-up jobs on the courts. It’s not major money, it’s just major time. And that became my philosophy: You don’t need the government or money, you just need to be a leader. Get a broom and a garbage bag; buy a bit of paint.”
就在这个时候，Mike Swift 参与了进来。作为一位菲律宾裔美国说唱歌手，他从小就在布鲁克林康尼岛的公房项目中长大。二年级的时候，他从菲律宾搬到纽约，并在 2004 年回到菲律宾，成为一名说唱歌手。他发行了一些关于说唱的 DVD，成绩也不错，其中包括他在两个国家表演的视频，与著名说唱歌手的说笑以及打篮球的内容。他说：“篮球让我结交了不少朋友，甚至在我刚到布鲁克林，英语说得不太流利之前，我就是通过篮球来认识朋友的。我当时上数学、语法课和其他方面都没问题，就是有口音。我一回到菲律宾，马上就去找地方打篮球，认识新朋友时，我第一句话就是‘我们去哪里打球？’。”
到 2014 年，Swift 就已经在菲律宾生活了整整十年，而他也一直想在说唱界以外有所作为。篮球在菲律宾是一项十分流行的运动，到处都是球场，包括用铁箱做球篮的简陋泥地球场，或是在狭窄的小巷里带轮子的球篮，有车来的时候能随时移开。他用镜头拍摄下旅途中看到的各种球场，然后将照片发布在名为“Mr PinoyHoops”的 Instagram 帐户上。除此之外，他还会参与翻新球场，他说：“我每到一个地方都会去找球场。哪怕在纽约生活的时候，我也会帮忙去做球场的清洁工作。钱不是最主要的，时间才是。这也是我的理念：你不需要政府，也不需要很多的钱，只需要成为带头行动的人，拿一把扫帚和一个垃圾袋，再买点油漆就行了。”
In 2014, Swift was featured in a Nike commercial shot at the tenement. Through that visit, he met the ballers there and learned more about the place. “I became focused on getting the world to pay attention to the tenement,” he says. “I wanted to make it attractive so people would come here, and I was interested in all elements of hip-hop, so the art came naturally. They were facing eviction and I was at a low in my rap career. We were both at lows in our lives.”
Swift decided to throw a big event called Picnic Games to help raise the resident’s spirits. There were games for the kids, food, music, and art. “It was a synergy of all the different parts of my life, but the residents really made it all happen.” The event was a success, and the Picnic Games became a regular event. As a result, the local government even briefly backed off with the eviction demands.
2014 年，Swift 参与拍摄了耐克在这幢公寓楼拍摄的广告。这次的经历让他结识了那里的篮球玩家，也进一步了解了这个地方。他说：“我开始努力提高外界对这幢公寓楼的关注。我想使它变得更有意思，吸引人们来这里参观，加上我对嘻哈元素比较感兴趣，所以自然而然地就想到了在这里创作艺术。这里的住户正被驱逐，而我也处于说唱生涯的低谷，可以说我们是同病相怜。”
The next year Swift met Maya Carandang, a local painter, tattoo artist, and dancer. The murals that they created in the tenement began to capture international attention. Their first full-court mural, designed by Carandang and painted with the help of dozens of residents, was a giant picture of LeBron James. “The mural was bait for him to come here,” Swift laughs. And it worked. The mural and its story drew one of the NBA’s best players to the other side of the world. “It became a saying around here, ‘If LeBron came to the tenement, anything is possible.'”
次年，Swift 认识了当地的画家、纹身师和舞者 Maya Carandang。他们一起在公寓楼创作的壁画开始引起国际关注。他们的第一幅覆盖球场的壁画由 Maya 负责设计，在数十名居民的帮助下完成绘画，画的是 LeBron James 的画像。“这幅壁画其实是个诱饵，为的是吸引他来这里。”Swift 笑着说道。这个“诱饵”奏效了，这幅壁画及其背后的故事吸引了这名 NBA 传奇球员千里迢迢来到世界的另一端。“这里的人们都在说，既然勒布朗都能来公寓大楼，那真的是一切皆有可能。”
Despite the tenement’s newfound exposure, eviction threats once again continued. “The problem is the value of the land,” says Reyes. “The local government wants to sell the land to corporations rather than have the tenants stay there. They’re not helping residents because they want them to suffer so they are just forced to move.” Along with the eviction notices, the murals and events continued as well. The court is now repainted a few times a year, although Carandang is no longer involved. Events are just as frequent, with graffiti battles and musical performances drawing crowds from across the city. The tenement has been used as a setting for telenovelas, video games, and a Nike sneaker was even named after it. The grey walls of the tenement’s outer walls are slowly being covered in pastel hues as well, with donated paint organized by Swift.
虽然公寓大楼新近有了更多的曝光度，但拆迁的威胁依然存在。Erick 说：“整件事的问题在于这块地的价值。当地政府想将这块地出售给企业，因此不愿意让租户继续留在那里。他们之所以不愿意帮助居民，就是想让居民的生活糟糕一些，迫使他们不得不搬家。”虽然驱逐通知没有撤除，但壁画创作和活动仍在继续。Maya 已不再参与，但这个球场每年都会出现新的壁画；他们频繁举办着各种活动，通过涂鸦比赛、音乐演出吸引各地的人前来参观。这幢公寓曾被用作电视剧、电子游戏的拍摄场地，甚至有一款以它的名字命名的耐克运动鞋。灰色的大楼外墙也慢慢地被柔和的色调覆盖掉，所用的油漆是由 Swift 的活动筹集得来的。
Earlier this year, a month before the country shut down in hopes of warding off the coronavirus, tenement residents came together once again in remembrance of Kobe and Gianna Bryant. A full-court, black-and-white mural of Kobe and his daughter Gianna was painted within days of his demise. Space was cleared on every other bit of surface surrounding the court for residents and guests to paint messages to them. Candles were lit throughout the week. “It’s unfortunate that it needs to be in mourning,” says Swift. “This tribute was the least we can do. It was so natural: There was no plan, no proposals. We all just came together out of love.” Once again, reporters and fans started arriving from across the country and the world to revel in the magic that the tenement had created. “We’re the world-famous tenement court,” Swift grins.
年初的时候，菲律宾因为疫情采取了一个月的封锁措施，公寓大楼的居民再次聚集在一起，纪念逝世的科比。就在科比离世的消息出现几天之后，一幅他和女儿 Gianna 的巨型黑白壁画就覆盖在球场之上。球场四周的空间也被清理出来，让居民和游客可以留下悼念文字。整整一个星期，球场上点燃着蜡烛。“这种不幸需要被人们哀悼。最起码我们力所能及的，就是向他致敬。”Swift 说，“整个过程都是自发的，没有事先计划，没有人特意提议。我们都是出于爱而团结在一起。”再一次，国内外的记者和球迷涌到这里，感受这幢公寓大楼创造的奇妙力量。“我们公寓大楼的球场可是举世闻名的。”Swift 笑道。
But the struggles are far from over. There’s still no running water, the concrete keeps crumbling, and the eviction notices continue. “We’re just surviving on our own,” says Corpin, a statement made with some pride rather than resignation. “We’re used to the fact that no one cares about us.”