Who Are These Weirdos? (E.X.I.S.T. and Espasyo Siningdikato creatiVEnue, Dasmariñas, 2002-2012)

Lirio Salvador during the recording session of E.X.I.S.T.’s 2009 3-CD anthology, released through Toshiyuki Seido’s label New Art Laboratory, at Studio 23, Dasmariñas, Cavite, 13 August 2008. Photo courtesy of Seido.

A Conversation with Mary Ann Jimenez-Salvador, Gilbert Sanchez, Cris Garcimo, and Jon Romero on E.X.I.S.T. and Espasyo Siningdikato creatiVEnue

(Dasmariñas, 2002-2012)

Founded by Lirio Salvador of the experimental group Elemento, Experimentation in Sound Art Tradition (E.X.I.S.T.) was a not-for-profit sound art collective and movement. It started in 2002 as a concert tour but has since evolved into a loose organization of sound artists. In 2006, a series of group shows signalled the start of Siningdikato, another group Salvador co-founded with his wife Mary Ann Jimenez-Salvador, and in June 2009, Espasyo Siningdikato creatiVEnue (ESC) opened in Dasmariñas City, a few hours south of Metro Manila. In this conversation with Mary Ann, Gilbert Sanchez, Cris Garcimo, and Jon Romero, we discuss the noise, sound art and larger creative community in Cavite from the mid-2000s to the early 2010s and how these groups developed and overlapped.

After the anthology recording session, members of E.X.I.S.T. went straight to a gig at Souk Kafé, 2009. Photo courtesy of Seido.

E.X.I.S.T. 1

Gilbert Sanchez (GS): Originally, E.X.I.S.T. (Experimentation in Sound Art Tradition) was actually just our concert tour because, in 2001 going to 2002, we wanted to tour different places but we needed to come up with a name for it. It was that simple at first.

Merv Espina (ME): By “we” do you mean Elemento?

GS: We started with two bands: Elemento and Transitory Form, the band of Charlie Velarde who was a former member of Elemento. It was like an off-shoot and it was also experimental.

At first, we just needed a name for when we proposed the events to bars but it then became the name for everything: the tour, the production, the movement, etc. If I remember correctly, the first event was in 2002 at Club Sound Experience (Club SEx).

Mary Ann Salvador (MAS): Along Bautista St. in Makati City.

GS: Yeah. Meann [MAS] was there. So, that was E.X.I.S.T — only two bands with long sets each.

MAS: You released something then, right?

GS: Yeah, we released a CD. It was so limited; not to exaggerate, but I think we only released around 20 pieces. That disc contained some songs by Elemento and a few from Transitory Form. But in 2009, E.X.I.S.T. was able to release a 3-CD anthology with the help of [Toshiyuki] Seido and his label New Art Laboratory.

Actually, I don't remember if there was an E.X.I.S.T. 2. I think that was the only one, then we forgot about it because Transitory Form joined a different production. So, there was a time it was inactive but, eventually, Lirio [Salvador] and Erick [Calilan] brought it back.

ME: What was your involvement then? Who were the members of Elemento during that time?

GS: It was the Makina Organika (2002) lineup. It was Lirio, me, Kaloy Olavides, PJ Soliven, Sirk Demigod, Herald Corpus, and the new member was Raymond Patawaran. So, the core group was us and the members of Transitory. PJ was active in Elemento circa 2000 to 2001 and he took part in the composing and recording of Makina Organika but he left before E.X.I.S.T. 1.

Basically, we wanted to tour but also do an exhibit because we, the members of both Elemento and Transitory, were also visual artists. That didn't push through officially as E.X.I.S.T. but it also kind of did because whenever Lirio was invited to events, he included everyone. So, although Transitory’s exit halted E.X.I.S.T., we proceeded somehow. Elemento was also very busy in the early 2000s.

E.X.I.S.T. and Siningdikato members posing with foreign guests in front of Souk Kafé, 7 March 2010. Photo by Abet Esguerra.

Elemento’s Makina Organika line up, circa 2000. Courtesy of Kaloy Olavides.


ME: Who were part of E.X.I.S.T.? From what I can see, there’s Cris Garcimo as Blend:er, PJ as Nyabinghi, Mannet [Villariba], and Roger [Lopez] among others. How were these networks formed?

MAS: A lot of them were members of Elemento at some point.

GS: It was mostly off-shoots. Around the mid-’00s, we landed in Cavite because we were invited to play at De La Salle University - Dasmariñas (DLSU-D). Many came from another group, the Buntisan Art Movement. That's why the first events happened in Cavite; they were the ones who organized that. Some of those who got to watch became our friends and some joined us.

MAS: That was in 2003 because I had just transferred from the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) to DLSU-D. I was living in Trece Martires City, while Lirio is from  Dasmariñas.

ME:  You were part of the organizing team?

MAS: Yes, with three Communication Arts students [Gerson Dapiton, Chelot Belan, Lynette Olabe] from DLSU-D. It was in an underground restaurant called Arrozja in front of DLSU-D. We regularly had Buntisan events and, aside from sound art, there were poetry readings as well. During the first Buntisan, someone threw a rock on the roof perhaps because they were so pissed at us.

ME: Who performed there?

GS: Lakbay Lahi... Jon, did Skies of Ember perform?

Jon Romero (JR): Yeah, but I don’t remember if Daydream Cycle or Slavedrum also played that night. [1]

MAS: After Buntisan, we had follow-up events at Robinsons Place Dasmariñas because the restaurant relocated there. We also changed the name to Suvasa because of course Robinsons wouldn’t allow us to use Buntisan as the name. [2]

GS: There was censorship.

ME: What does Suvasa mean?

MAS: Suvasa is a Sanskrit word for “dwelling place.”

GS: It became like a festival, right?

MAS: Yeah, this time it was a festival.

GS: During one Suvasa art happening, Erick played and his guest was Blend:er. I can’t remember which Suvasa event this was but this was also the time we were given a stage. This was the first time we saw Cris but Erick already knew him because they were members of the Electronica Manila Yahoo group. [3]

Cris Garcimo (CG): Yeah, that was when I joined. Erick was the first to invite me.

ME: How did you meet?

CG: We met at Cubao X during the launch of Tengal’s [S.A.B.A.W.] Anthology.

ME: 2006.

CG: I was there because I had a track in that anthology. Erick was there and he even had a circuit bent-device with him. A few months after that, he invited me to Suvasa. I already knew of Lirio, Intermidya, Publiko, and Elemento since I was in high school but that was the first time I met them. I also bought an Elemento CD from a punk who had a distro. We shared stories about noise then I saw he was selling Elemento.

GS: What’s weird is that we don't know who that punk was. We only had a few copies of Makina Organika so we don't know how he obtained a copy.

CG: I never saw him since.

ME: How often were the Suvasa events?

GS: I think it was monthly.

MAS: At Souk Kafé. Souk’s owners and Arrozja’s were the same.

Mannet Villariba’s performance during We EXIST at Mogwai Cinematheque, Cubao X, 29 May 2009. Photo by Carla Dizon.


ME: What were the instances that led to the establishment of Espasyo [Siningdikato creatiVEnue]? Because at some point, your events were just in front of the school where Meann works.

MAS: Before Espasyo, we had gigs in Malate. Right, Gilbert?

ME: At Round Eyeglass?

MAS: No, aside from that. We played at bars where nobody really plays at. Siningdikato was already a thing then but we didn’t have a space for ourselves.

ME: So, there was E.X.I.S.T., then Suvasa, then Siningdikato?

GS: Yes, there were Siningdikato events. We also had an event called Pangunahing Udyok but that was more on visual arts.

MAS: That was way before, one of the first.

GS: That was in the late ‘90s. We had a hard time because there were a lot of restrictions. It was difficult to bring equipment and you couldn't do everything you wanted to do. That's why long before Espasyo, Lirio had already been planning to open a space of our own. It helped that it was in the DLSU-D area.

ME: It was also cheaper there.

GS: Yes.

MAS: That was when Lirio was already earning.

ME: He was signed to The Drawing Room, am I right?

MAS: Through informal negotiation. He had his first exhibit there in 2002 and Espasyo was only established in 2009, so it took a while to develop. He used to create artworks but would redesign or destroy them later. 

GS: That's why his work didn't really proliferate.

ME: Who were in Siningdikato?

MAS: Whoever was in Elemento and E.X.I.S.T. already.

GS: It really was just Elemento plus other people and groups. Then there were others who would exhibit their paintings.

MAS: It was multidisciplinary. When we opened Espasyo, it became an umbrella organization which involved groups like the Cavite Young Writers Association and Tanghalang Poblete, a Cavite-based theater group. We wanted to engage with everything related to culture and art in Cavite.

GS: It became Cavite-based.

ME: It seems really rooted in Dasma.

MAS: Not just in Dasma, but Cavite as a whole.

E.X.I.S.T. members performing at Noises at the Park, organized by Ian Madrigal, 2 May 2010. Photo by Muffet Sta. Maria.


ME: Espasyo was registered with the Securities and Exchange Commision (SEC) as a non-profit, right?

MAS: Yes, it was necessary for us to acquire funding. That was really the only reason. But it was more enjoyable without an organizational structure. Everyone had their own initiative and we worked around informally. 

GS: It was just a formality.

ME: When did you register? Before it opened?

MAS: No, we registered after opening.

ME: You were President and Atty. Crispin Garcimo was Vice President.

MAS: We needed signatories and people with an ID. Lirio didn't have an ID.

ME: What were the projects you applied for? 

MAS: We applied for funding from the NCCA and it was approved but, because we didn't renew our SEC registration, it didn't push through. They also changed the requirements like we had to be accredited by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD). We also didn’t have a financial statement which we needed for the SEC renewal.

The project that was approved was called Punla-Sining. We were supposed to organize a series of community-based workshops for children. But since it wasn’t implemented, the money was just returned to the government.

ME: After that, did you try again?

MAS: Not anymore. We had a hard time renewing. We just partnered with the City Government.

ME: And it’s worth noting that you formerly worked for the NCCA and you even have Cris, who is a lawyer.

MAS: It was hard. There were too many requirements.

ME: What were your main projects? You mentioned that Espasyo became an umbrella of different orgs in Cavite.

MAS: You would think it was bigger but it was just 50 square meters. Cris put up his own bookstore space there. 

CG: There were books in one portion of the wall and I called it Sonic Mind Fields.

MAS: On its third day, I remember there was an international event and Tengal was in that discussion.

ME: The Asia-Europe New Media Art Symposium (ASEUM). Wow, it was already that busy?

MAS: Yeah, we were pretty fortunate. We also partnered with Tupada [Action and Media Art] for their InterAksyon festival in 2010. People thought something crazy was happening in Espasyo because there was blood on the street so they thought someone died but it was just a performance. We also had a monthly event called No E.X.I.S.T. 

GS: It was another off-shoot. We wanted to counter E.X.I.S.T.

ME: But with the same people?

GS: Yes, it was still us. It was like an alternate reality.

CG: It featured the side projects of people from E.X.I.S.T.

GS: E.X.I.S.T. was like Jekyll and No E.X.I.S.T. was Hyde. It was more extreme. What we couldn't do in Elemento, we did there.

JR: I was asked by Lirio to organize a new event for the newer projects of Espasyo members like Washing Machine, Double Burner, etc. Since it was a newer generation, we used a different name.

For the first event, I used an old E.X.I.S.T. poster, redacted the texts, and superimposed No E.X.I.S.T.'s performers and the date and title of the event.

MAS: Heidi [Sarno] and I were also part of that. Our project was called Chopping Board. We would recite poetry while chopping whatever and it was interactive! People would eat the fruits that we chopped after!

GS: The chopping board had contact mics attached to it

MAS: We would only perform during No E.X.I.S.T. 

ME: When did this start?

GS: No E.X.I.S.T. started around 2010 also.

ME: How did you make the space more stable during those times?

MAS: There were individual contributions, right?

GS: Espasyo also had a mini-restaurant that served vegetarian food.

MAS: We also rented out the space sometimes. There were also community-based projects that we did with the barangay, for example, during Arts Month. We conducted workshops that were almost for free. We also organized lectures and we published zines with Ayn dela Cruz of Paper Monster Press.

ME: Did you have a good relationship with students from DLSU-D?

MAS: Yes, sometimes they go to our place for their Art Appreciation class since it was the nearest gallery.

GS: There was a time when teachers would require their students to go to Espasyo and write a reaction paper after. We had support from them.

We attracted a lot of like-minded individuals, fellow outsiders. Before Espasyo, there were no spaces for groups like ours to exchange ideas. In other groups, only established people get to present their works. When we opened, they found a venue.

ME: What was the process? How did you provide space? Did it require a proposal?

MAS: No. Just hang out and talk to Lirio.

GS: It was very informal.

MAS: After talking with Lirio, he would be like, “let’s install the exhibit tomorrow.” But of course we would schedule it.

ME: Did you ever reject anything?

GS: Lirio and Meann never rejected anything. Everything was accepted. One time, there was a death metal concert. That was very fun. The place was almost wrecked.

MAS: Everything was painted on, even the cabinets.

ME: How much were you involved in the community?

MAS: We partnered with several NGOs for workshops. We tried to involve everyone and everything was free. Everyone acted as a volunteer. There was a spirit of community. We also coordinated with the barangay often. We would always let them know whenever we would have an event so the tanods [neighborhood watch] could watch over us.

ME: How did they react to the death metal event?

MAS: Actually, because there were plenty of dormitories nearby, we would actually censor ourselves by not allowing events to go past 12 midnight. 

ME: Was there ever tension or arguments between you and the barangay captain and tanods?

GS: The reception was varied. Actually, the area is notoriously quite hostile. It’s known among Dasma residents for having a lot of delinquents. Sometimes, when we would make art there, people would throw things on the roof. The reaction from the community was very polarized. At the same time, there were like-minded individuals who were awakened when we opened the space. It was like that until it closed: there were the typical “rednecks” who would say, “who are these weirdos?” and there were also students who hung out there everyday, learning more about art and music.

I think Espasyo indirectly did something. Before Espasyo, everything was so formal. Maybe they saw that you can actually do something even without a grant; it’s the philosophy of just doing things, even without an actual venue or even if it's just beside a residential community.  

Lirio’s idol was Joseph Beuys who said “everything is art.” There was a time that Lirio wanted to play with that idea, as though every time you went to Espasyo, it was art in progress. He had that wild idea but of course not everyone would subscribe to that. It was brilliant, it blurred lines.

Abet Esguerra, Meann, Cha, and Lirio at Penguin Gallery, Makati, during Active | De-Active, 13 October 2010. Photo courtesy of Abet Esguerra, 孟懷馳, Andi Baldonado.

Elemento during Few Breed of Sounds, 29 December 2009. Photo by Arth Dayrol Ayson.


MAS: We had a sound art exhibition titled “Reverb” at the Lopez Museum and we also held a workshop.

CG: That was in 2011. It felt like the culmination of E.X.I.S.T. because Espasyo was more about performances and events while, for that show, everyone worked because a viewable output was needed.

GS: Everyone had a product.

CG: Lirio conducted a circuit bending workshop for that exhibit. That Lopez [show] was great because aside from the exhibit and the installations, we also had a performance at the SM Mall of Asia (MoA). I think that was one of the main events for E.X.I.S.T. It was great because [Toshiyuki] Seido flew in from Japan and Caliph8 also performed. It was like whatever we were doing in Espasyo was showcased somewhere so public and many from outside Cavite could maybe appreciate it too. They said that was the first time something like that happened in MoA.

GS: A noise performance in the middle of a mall.

CG: Mannet, Seido, Caliph, Elemento, and Gentle Universe played.

MAS: Going back to Espasyo, we were also able to invite other sound artists like Chris [Murillo] from Cebu. Who was the sound artist from Canada?

GS: Maggot Breeder.

CG: Reuel Ordoñez’s project. He’s from Imus.

ME: How did you know him? How did you get to know this network?

CG: From what I know, Erick invited Ordoñez.

MAS: I think Maggot and Lirio played together before at Jing Garcia’s event in...

GS: Club Dredd.

MAS: In Eastwood, Quezon City. We also met another artist from Taiwan. Who was that?

CG: Pipa woman [Luo Chao-Yun].

ME: Didn’t she live at Erick’s?

MAS: Right, she was a resident artist.

GS: Erick was the one who could go to events at that time so he had a lot of contacts.

CG: I think Erick met her on Myspace.

ME: So, Erick was your main networker?

GS: He frequented gigs and he was with Electronica Manila. [4]

CG: He would be the one to invite international performers.

ME: Were you able to utilize this network? Not just by having artists going here, but also with you going to other places? Were you able to utilize it for the tour or other projects outside of Cavite?

CG: There was a joint project in Batangas. E.X.I.S.T. was also in Luneta for Noises at the Park. That was organized by Ian Madrigal. 

GS: The whole group was invited to that. [We] were also able to go to Baguio.

MAS: But there was no international tour.

GS: There almost was one. I think some time around 2010, someone wanted to bring Elemento somewhere in Europe. It was going to be with The Drawing Room but it didn’t push through. I think there was something political happening in the Philippines at that time.

Espasyo Siningdikato creatiVEnue’s entrance during Few Breed of Sounds, 29 December 2009. Photo by Reuel Ordoñez.


ME: When did Espasyo stop and why?

MAS: We only stopped because of Lirio’s accident. [5] We had our third anniversary in June 2012 and that was the last event there. We focused on Lirio’s rehabilitation.

ME: What happened to the place? Who took over?

MAS: It’s a road now.

CG: They demolished it

GS: It’s totally gone. Now, it’s just a memory. They tore it down to widen the roads. 

CG: Now it’s “no exist.”

ME: When did they tear it down?

CG: I think it was 2018.

MAS: Before the [2018] elections. Although we lost the physical space, we continued to collaborate with different groups. We continued to have exhibits in schools for example. I don’t think Espasyo is going to end. We just bought a lot in Alitaptap [Artists Community]. Three of us invested in the lot and we’re going to have an art space that’s around 500 m2.

ME: Wow! That’s ten times bigger! When did you decide on this?

MAS: Three years ago.

ME: Who is Alitaptap?

MAS: Alitaptap is a community of  artists who decided to live together in a serene environment. They started the Paghilom [Arts Camp and Festival] in 2016 and Espasyo Siningdikato was among the several groups that got involved. Alitaptap Artists Community started because someone had land and they sold it to our friends and other artists. They wanted Lirio to be part of it and, since it had always been our dream to have an art space, I said Espasyo will purchase a piece of land so I looked for other members who could join me.

GS: Lirio was the one who diligently organized E.X.I.S.T. events so after his accident, it didn’t continue and Elemento also took a break after that. From around 2011 to 2016, Elemento only had sporadic events. People would invite Meann because she was the contact person then we’d show up. Sometimes, Elemento was just one person, sometimes two or three, and sometimes it was just the “Sandata.” [6] Elemento reunited because of PJ’s initiative.

ME: When was that?

GS: I think it formed in 2018.

MAS: The idea was to record, right? That’s why they regrouped.

ME: Wasn’t that in 2017? Because Elemento played at Green Papaya. Do you remember that?

GS: Around that time, we haven’t officially reunited yet that’s why it was just me and Jonjie [Ayson]. With the later gigs, we were already complete. The current lineup is Knell [Fabiana], Vernon [Perez], PJ, Jon, and me. 

ME: And then it ended because of COVID?

GS: Actually, yes. We had a streak and a lot of invites were coming in. We were supposed to perform at the Metropolitan Museum of Manila because the exhibit there featured Lirio’s work. We were supposed to perform at the closing event but the lockdown happened. 

ME: So, could you say that the core of E.X.I.S.T. really is Elemento? It expanded and evolved into what it is now — still Elemento?

GS: It just continued to grow.


[1] A subsequent clarification made by Gilbert Sanchez is that, according to Erick Calilan, Skies of Ember performed at a later edition of Buntisan, not at the first.

[2] From the root word “buntis” which means “pregnant,” “buntisan” can be translated and interpreted as a verb (“to impregnate”) or as a noun (an orgy) depending on which syllable is stressed.

[3] Cris Garcimo later clarified that although he was a member of the Electronic Manila Yahoo group, he is not sure if Erick Calilan was also in it. [4] Refer to previous note.

[5] On 30 December 2011, Lirio Salvador fell into a coma after he was hit-and-run by a motorcycle about two steps away from Espasyo.

[6] “Sandata,” Tagalog for “weapon,” is the name Lirio Salvador gave to the experimental instruments he made using bicycle gears, stainless steel pipes, utensils, and other everyday and industrial materials.

The online interview with Mary Ann Jimenez-Salvador, Gilbert Sanchez, Cris Garcimo, Jonjie Ayson, and Stanley Castelo took place on 5 September 2020. Subsequent clarifications and additional information provided by Mary Ann Jimenez-Salvador, Gilbert Sanchez, Jon Romero, Erick Calilan, Mel Araneta, and Toshiyuki Seido in the Facebook group chat were included in the text. This interview was edited for length and clarity and was translated from Filipino.


E.X.I.S.T. was a not-for-profit sound art collective and movement founded by Lirio Salvador. It was launched in 2002 with an exhibition and performance featuring the experimental groups Elemento and Transitory Form. E.X.I.S.T. sought to promote experimental music and sound art in the Philippines and has organized concerts, exhibitions, symposiums, and workshops in various spaces.

Launched in May 2006 with a series of exhibitions and performances around Manila and Cavite, Siningdikato — a portmanteau of “sining” (art) and “sindikato” (syndicate) — was conceived as a loose group of artists that would engage and promote the arts as well as showcase Cavite-based artists.

Espasyo Siningdikato creatiVEnue (ESC) was opened on 12 June 2009 in Dasmariñas City in the province of Cavite. As the de facto headquarters of Siningdikato, it functioned as an alternative space that sought to enliven the art scene in Cavite. Some members of the ESC team include Mary Ann Jimenez-Salvador, Lirio Salvador, Cris Garcimo, Jonjie Ayson, Jon Romero, Orvin Sayos, Stanley Castelo, Erick Calilan, PJ Soliven, Heidi Sarno, and Angelo Aguinaldo.

More info: 

Elemento ni Lirio Salvador

EXperimentation in Sound art Tradition.” (16 June 2008)

E.X.I.S.T.’s Anthology Album.” (22 Mar 2009)

BUNTISAN ART EXPERIENCE: June 24, 2005 (Dasmariñas, Cavite near DLSU-D).” (17 June 2005)

SUVASA (10th year anniversary DLSU - DMS).” (9 July 2007)

S.A.B.A.W. Anthology of Noise, Electronic, and Experimental Music (2006)

Espasyo Siningdikato

Sonic Mind Fields

ASEUM - Asia-Europe New Media Art Symposium.” (20 July 2009)

Noises at the Park (photo documentation).” (10 May 2010)

Reverb at Lopez Museum.” (9 Sep 2011)

"Sound artist Lirio Salvador in a coma after hit-and-run crash." (31 Dec 2011)

Help Lirio Salvador

YouTube playlist containing some videos shared to us by Toshiyuki Seido and Mel Araneta

If you can:



Right People, Wrong Timing (RPWT) is a series of texts on defunct or inactive independent Asian arts initiatives that had crossed paths or ran parallel to Papaya’s own 20-year history. With new posts every Friday from August to December 2020, RPWT is kindly supported through a local grant by the Japan Foundation Manila.