What "Future"? Which "Prospects"? (Future Prospects, Quezon City, 2005-2007)

Crowd in front of Future Prospects. Image courtesy of Cocoy Lumbao.

A Conversation with Cocoy Lumbao, Gary-Ross Pastrana, and Mizuki Endo on Future Prospects
(Quezon City, 2005-2007)

In early 2005, Future Prospects opened at the Marikina Shoe Expo in Quezon City. Founded by Cocoy Lumbao, Gary-Ross Pastrana, Louie Cordero, and Mizuki Endo, Future Prospects emerged shortly after the closing of influential artist-run spaces like Big Sky Mind and Surrounded by Water. Two years later, right before the art market flourished in the region, Future Prospects ended abruptly as a result of the sudden changes its environs had undergone. In this conversation, we discuss with three of its founders what it was like managing an alternative space in that brief window of time and amidst the transformation of the Marikina Shoe Expo into Cubao X, one of the most popular spots in Metro Manila. 

Opening of FP’s inaugural exhibition “Fission Products,” February 2005. At the center is a work by Japanese artist Keita Egami. Image courtesy of Cocoy Lumbao.


Merv Espina (MVE): My impression has always been that Future Prospects — starting right after the Big Sky Mind (BSM) residency program had ended — began this migration towards Cubao X, then known as the Marikina Shoe Expo. Maybe we can start with how Mizuki [Endo], who I think was doing an Asian Public Intellectuals (API) Fellowship at the time, came to meet these young artists and curators and decided to open up the space?

Mizuki Endo (MZE): I was taking a doctoral course in philosophy and anthropology at Kyushu University. At some point, I felt that I lost my direction. Fortunately, I met this really nice professor, Mr. Hiromu Shimizu, who is among the top scholars of Philippine studies in Japan. I decided to go to the Philippines after he said something like, “Mizuki, just go to the Philippines and stay in Baguio for three months. I have the budget for you right now.” So, I visited Baguio and stayed at Kidlat Tahimik’s house, and for my doctoral thesis, I decided to write about the Baguio Arts Guild (BAG) but unfortunately I never finished it.

I visited the country a second time around 2001 or 2002 because I received some grants to organize an exhibition in Fukuoka. The concept was about introducing young Filipino contemporary artists in the city — the Fukuoka Asian Triennale had just started a few years prior — and connecting them to its alternative art scene because I wanted to see a kind of chemistry at the time. In preparation, I stayed in Manila for maybe three to five days and I met Ringo [Bunoan] who showed me a lot of artist portfolios. I chose three artists — Gary, Louie [Cordero], and Nona [Garcia] — to have solo exhibitions in different artist-run spaces in Fukuoka. I think I also invited Kidlat and Kawayan [de Guia]: Kidlat had a screening at the Fukuoka Asian Art Museum and Kawayan had a solo show. This is very important for me, because it was the first time I curated an exhibition with public funding; all of these, I see now, were key factors in me becoming a curator.

I came back for a third time around 2004 because I received an API Fellowship grant from the Nippon Foundation. My focus was on the contemporary art scene in the Philippines and in Indonesia. I stayed for six months in Manila and another six in Indonesia and I think we made Future Prospects during that time I was in Manila.

Gary-Ross Pastrana (GRP): I remember that you were interested in artist-run spaces but, by the time you came here, BSM and Surrounded by Water (SBW) had both closed so we thought, “What if we made our own space?” We thought that maybe it was our time to hold the ship together somehow. 

MZE: At the time, I didn’t think of myself as a curator; I was just a young student who really liked being around artists. I considered studying the BAG for my doctoral thesis but I was also really curious about alternative art spaces and the art scene in Manila. So, I would do some personal research on the Manila art scene, and I would like to emphasize how helpful the Japan Foundation’s “Alternatives” book was. That’s how I knew about BSM and met Ringo, Katya [Guerrero], [Roberto] Chabet, and that community.

Cocoy Lumbao (CL): I remember when Gary was explaining to me this possible partnership with Mizuki, he was also explaining some models and approaches he saw in Japan on how to set up an alternative space or hub where we could integrate the other things we were doing like design, video editing, and selling merchandise. For me, that was very significant in how Future Prospects catapulted into fruition. 

GRP: I think Cocoy is referring to IAF SHOP, where I had my exhibition. What we liked about their space was that, during the week, they would work as graphic designers and do projects and then, on weekends, the space would become a bar with a small exhibition space. 

I liked it because I thought we had a similar situation: I was working as a production designer, Cocoy was editing, and Louie was doing a lot of illustration. So, it made sense that the ground floor could be where we would sell beer and T-shirts with one part set up as an office, while the second floor would be used solely for exhibitions. I guess it was also a way for us to justify to ourselves why we would spend or invest our own money. 

I think we put up 15,000 PHP each to renovate the space and Mizuki paid for the first three months of rent along with some other expenses.

I just remembered now, years prior to opening, we were already thinking of setting up a kind of studio together with Glenn [Cruz]. We thought of using Louie’s studio but for some reason, we couldn’t do it. So, I think the idea was already in the air; we were always thinking of doing something together.

Sau Bin Yap (SBY): Was there, in a sense, a clear departure from BSM or SBW in terms of intention?

CL: I don’t think it was necessarily a continuation as though we were just continuing what BSM or SBW did. We were aware that we needed those spaces but we also knew that we had to come up with our own, something more tailored to our needs rather than patterned after previous spaces. We had to figure out how to make a living, continue to be productive in other fields, gather friends via different programs, and socialize. The community was an important aspect.

Opening of FP’s inaugural exhibition “Fission Products,” February 2005. Behind Teddy Co is a work by Japanese artist Kikuko Nomi. Image courtesy of Cocoy Lumbao.


MVE: What was the sequence of events that led to you finding the space?

GRP: I think it was Louie who actually found the space around 2004. We opened around February 2005 and I think our first show had Kikuko Nomi and Keita Egami.

CL: I think it had something to do with Bellini’s, the Italian restaurant that was there. It was the talk of the town and we would hear how interesting the place was. When we got there, there was this antique, novelty, or collectors’ store called Vintage Pop which was run by Bong Salaveria and our impression of the place was that it had the potential to become like an alternative space.

I guess we were also able to chance upon that space because of its proximity to the compound along 18th Avenue where BSM was. We thought that — along with the potential we saw in Vintage Pop and the other thrift shops that were there — made the place perfect and then maybe everything just fell into place.

MZE: During my API Fellowship, I stayed at that 18th Ave. compound. I would always invite artist friends because I wanted to feel the energy of the art scene. We would often drink together and I soon felt that that community was close to me. I also found that the artist community in Manila was quite multidisciplinary. Not only were there fine artists but there were photographers, filmmakers, musicians, and so on: Lena [Cobangbang] and Jayson [Oliveria] would often drop by to drink and Jun Sabayton would be there as well as Lourd de Veyra of Radioactive Sago Project.

But, when it came to exhibitions, it all looked very commercial and a lot of the galleries were in SM Megamall. Gary and I thought that wasn’t for us so we would often talk about making an “alternative space,” which was the term we used at the time rather than “artist-run space.” Finally, because I had the API grant money, Louie said, “Hey, I found a space. Mizuki, you have money. We need around 3,000 USD to cover the initial costs.” So, we went to the bank together and carried the money out. Hey guys, don’t ever forget that I paid first!  All of us were a bit poor, haha.

MVE: How did the name come about?

GRP: I think it was also from Louie.

MZE: There were some magazines in Katya’s living room and Louie just took one, opened it, and found the name.

GRP: He also took our logo from firecracker packaging.

CL: We thought the name had other connotations and that it’s not really specific like, “What ‘future’? Which ‘prospects’?” We don’t really know. When you put the two words together, it sort of makes sense but it also doesn’t. Then we found other websites with the same name and I think they were like employment agencies so we thought it was perfect: it had something to do with employment and labor, so it sort of fits what we envisioned then.

GRP: I remember also thinking that people would eventually shorten the name to “future” so they might say something like, “Let’s go to Future.” But, everyone eventually started calling the space “FP” and “Future” would become the name of another bar that would open near our space years after. [1]

MZE: I just want to bring up what I personally felt at the time. Before moving to Fukuoka, I was studying at the Yokohama National University. I really loved the cultural scene in Tokyo and I visited some artist-run and alternative spaces, the most interesting of which, for me, was called Röntgen Kunstraum. It was a very important gallery which featured artists like Takashi Murakami, Makoto Aida, and Yutaka Sone. They are almost 10 years older than me. As a teenage student, it seemed like a new culture that was very different from the contemporary art in the public museum. I didn’t know this then but now I know that that generation was really influenced by the Young British Artists (YBA) and some Los Angeles artists in the “Helter Skelter” (1992) exhibition like Mike Kelley, Paul McCarthy, and Manuel Ocampo.

When I went to Manila, I found some points of similarity and difference. I felt a kind of LA, Paul McCarthy vibe like with Louie’s comics, but also the influence of Roberto Chabet — the formalism and conceptualism — was quite strong. The Japanese artists I liked didn’t have that kind of seriousness; rather, they belong to a generation that tried to move away from such seriousness. So, that combination was something new for me. That was my observation as an outsider.

At the time, I thought that our generation needed its own cultural ecosystem and that alternative spaces would make a kind of new stage for the art scene. We never imagined that we would someday be included in the programs of public museums or that the art market would become like this. I just thought we could continue this kind of wild feeling where everybody drinks and experiences music and art. I was wrong. It turns out that commercialization, globalization, and the biennials and festivals were stronger than our community.

Louie Cordero, Katya Guerrero, and Roberto Chabet. Image courtesy of Cocoy Lumbao.

Installation from the group show “OTHER MATTERS” curated by Roberto Chabet. Image courtesy of Cocoy Lumbao.


MVE: So, the beginning of FP was like the four of you hanging out at 18th Ave. and then you started the space. Who else eventually became part of FP? I remember Lena and Erick Encinares were there.

GRP: Buboy Cañafranca, Jet Melencio, and then I think in our second year, we had around four art students from Kalayaan College. They would hang out in the gallery and then, later on, they offered to open the space for us whenever we were busy. They would alternate manning the space and we would give them like a weekly salary.

CL: I guess it was like a summer job for them. But yeah, our operating hours were very informal so, sometimes, our friends who frequented the place would help us out. We also had workshops, the first of which was Sir Chabet’s. Our friends like Lena and MM [Yu] helped us run those programs. It was informal and spur-of-the-moment; whoever was there would help.

Dominic Zinampan (DZ): Gary mentioned during a talk at Mag:net in 2007 that, initially, you guys planned to have around four shows a year until, at some point, the programming changed and the shows increased in frequency. Is that right? How did the programming change and what were the programs you introduced around that time? Was it in response to certain things in the immediate vicinity?

GRP: One of the major driving factors for FP was that Robert Langenegger’s mom, Daisy of Green Daisy, really urged us to push through with it. I think at that time, Sir Chabet already had a stroke and had already stopped teaching at the University of the Philippines (UP). So, there was this group of young artists like Robert and Pow Martinez who may have wanted to go to UP but felt like they were missing the opportunity to study under Chabet. 

So, for the first few months, we had workshops every Saturday, two of which were with Sir Chabet. MM Yu participated in that as well as, I think, Mawen Ong and Bembol [dela Cruz]. That was a program we had incorporated from the beginning. Later on, we invited people to give talks like Gina Osterloh, Jenifer Wofford, and Paul Pfeiffer when he first came here around 2006.

CL: I guess you can say that the program developed in terms of frequency after our network expanded.

GRP: Also, I think our programming was a bit loose in such a way that we could accommodate friends visiting the country. Maybe we had around four shows scheduled throughout the year, but the rest of the months in between were left open for more spontaneous things.

MVE: How was the space sustained after using Mizuki’s grant money for the first few months? 

GRP: During the first year, to cover the rent, we raffled off works donated to us by friends. The idea was to have around 12 to 15 works and sell tickets at 15,000 PHP each because that was our monthly rent. Every guest would receive one artwork and there was no grand prize, and we did the same the following year. I think we just wanted to secure the rent for the whole year. Later on, the Japan Foundation also extended some help by occasionally renting the space for animation workshops and such.

CL: In a way, it was a very collective approach to raising money because those were works from our friends who frequented the place. 

MVE: What do you think were your most important or memorable projects? Were there moments that were particularly hard or funny?

CL: The space was always being rented for photo shoots for different bands or glamour magazines. We find that interesting as well as funny.

GRP: In terms of scope, I think the biggest one we had was “Mystery Meat” (2005) which was organized by Louie and Jordin Isip. We were able to bring in over 30 artists including Barry McGee and Neck Face. At the time, that aesthetic of street culture wasn’t as accepted as it is now and I think only a few pieces were sold.

CL: Even though we didn’t really sell much, that show drew a lot of attention from younger audiences because a lot of the artists in that show were the ones they would read about in art magazines. I would say that and the workshops were important because those were what allowed us to engage with the next generation of artists.

GRP: I would also like to add the “Friday Musical Fascist Nights” because we were able to invite filmmakers, musicians, and people from other fields like Quark [Henares] to DJ for the night or just basically play their playlists.

CL: Even though there were nights without an event, people would just hang out because we would also open FP as some sort of pseudo-bar. A lot of interesting things happened and got discussed during those “unprogrammed” or “uneventful” nights so I think those are important as well.

GRP: It's also good to add that, later on, we became part of the Shoe Expo community and we got involved in things that our neighbors organized. For example, Black Soup would organize a film or music event and they would use our space, along with the other spaces in the compound. This was interesting because it meant that other things that we didn’t organize or conceptualize could also happen in our space.

CL: Yeah, there were community events which I think probably led to the “Cubao X” name later on. 

MVE: I remember there were a lot of festivals there, with different stages at the different spaces.

CL: Yeah, and it was a very interesting setup because the [Marikina Shoe Expo] is U-shaped so we had to find ways on how to integrate everything like we would put up fliers to let people know there were events happening on the other side.

Installation from the group show “OTHER MATTERS” curated by Roberto Chabet. Image courtesy of Cocoy Lumbao.

The Sleepyheads performing in front of Black Soup and Future Prospects. Photo by MM Yu.


MVE: Speaking of community, I remember everything started with Bellini’s, followed by Vintage Pop and this used bookstore, and then FP. Suddenly, around 2005, Cubao X was popping because Chunky Far Flung and Pablo [Gallery] opened. I guess you were kind of spearheading that scene by being among the first ones there. How aware and conscious were you about this and were you encouraging this kind of movement towards the occupation of these former shoe stores?

CL: I'm not sure. I don’t think it was our objective to encourage. I think it was happening almost simultaneously. 

GRP: Maybe just a few months after us. I remember it took us a while before we could open because we were doing some of the renovations ourselves. I think it was during the middle part of the renovation when Jeremy [Guiab] began to work on his furniture store and I think they opened a month after us. That was probably when people started to take note of the place and I think a lot of them were from a filmmaking background like Black Soup — Avid and Robert [Quebral] — and Tara [Illenberger] of Chunky Far Flung. Maybe it was also because of Bong of Vintage Pop because they would visit him and then see the space.

Just to provide a little background on the Marikina Shoe Expo, I think what was happening at the time was that, because of all the shoes coming in from China which cost less than the locally-made ones, the store owners weren’t making money anymore. They had long-term leases so I think their rent was already fixed and they realized that if they rented out a stall for 7,500 PHP a month, they would already make more money than to stay open trying to sell shoes. That’s why I think they were subleasing their spaces to people like us who were looking for cheap storefronts that can be easily converted to galleries, toy shops, and the like. 

MVE: How involved was Mizuki after he left the Philippines? 

MZE: Sometimes, Gary or Louie would email me, telling me things like, “Paul Pfeiffer is coming.” At the time, I thought, “Wow, FP is becoming important.” Then suddenly, “Hey, Mizuki, we are closing.” I couldn’t understand it. We surely were not ready for that kind of gentrification.

MVE: That was something I was also hoping to ask because, in a way, the presence of all these hip, young spaces paved the way to justify higher rent. But, at the back of your head, you knew that development was bound to come into the area. So, when you started, how long did you think you were going to run the space?

CL: We knew it wouldn't be very long. But of course, it still ended abruptly. That was something beyond our control. Despite most people’s impressions that we sort of started this transformation of the old Marikina Shoe Expo into Cubao X, the idea of FP was not really tied to that specific locality and we had the option to relocate, but I guess because of other concerns, we were not able to.

GRP: During the two-year-run of FP, I remember I wasn’t able to have exhibitions because I had a day job and I was at the space the rest of the time. I think time management was really a problem. I might have participated in one small show but I was mostly busy buying beer for the bar.

DZ: When the management changed and the new managers decided to increase the rent, what was your attitude towards that? Were you relieved that maybe you could now pursue individual practices or did you want to continue managing a space? Did you have plans to open a new space or collaborate on another project? 

CL: I’m not sure if we ever talked about relocating to a cheaper space but I remember there were plans to shift to a website or some online space.

GRP: Actually, it was just the original owner but, because of what was happening, he wanted to be at the Expo more often and really manage the space, so to speak. 

In the beginning, we could only stay open until 10 p.m. or 12 a.m. because we learned that some tenants were spending the night in their stores so, whenever we had parties, they would report us to the management. But eventually, they got used to us and it became easier to hold events. We were becoming a place where people would congregate. So, for me, had the rent stayed the same, I would have tried to sustain it maybe for another year.

I just remembered, after closing FP, Louie still had a studio space at 18th Ave. and, a few years later, Jeremy and I opened a fabrication studio in the same compound. In a way, that became a hub where artists and friends would hang out. So even though it was really a workspace and not a gallery or a bar, having this studio could be the reason why I didn’t feel the need to open another space.

The Sabaytones performance. Image courtesy of Cocoy Lumbao.

Cocoy Lumbao, Gary-Ross Pastrana, Louie Cordero, Alvin Zafra, Lena Cobangbang, and Nona Garcia in front of Future Prospects. Photo by Erick Encinares.


MVE: What was the last activity and how deliberate was it? Did you know it was gonna be the last project in the space so did you intend for it to be something special?

CL: I think it was part of this event organized by the whole Shoe Expo community.

MVE: I remember there was an exodus around early 2007, like a lot of spaces closed or moved out.

GRP: Yeah, that was probably around January 2007. We didn’t have a show but there was a larger event in the area and we were just emptying out the shelves. Towards the end of FP, we were having more workshops with the Japan Foundation and more music events.

When we made the programming, we were probably still thinking of renewing the contract for another year. But we learned, right before we had to sign the new contract, that they were increasing the rent so our decision not to sign was more of a spur-of-the-moment thing. I guess part of our reason was that, to operate for another year, we would have to do another round of fundraising and by then we were beginning to feel a little awkward about asking for artworks from our friends again. 

SBY: Just an observation, I find it interesting that you — Louie, Cocoy, and Gary — were in your late 20s when you started FP. After finishing art school, you were hanging out with BSM and Ringo who was about four or five years your senior, just like Mizuki. In a sense, you were looking for a kind of space where you could interact and think with your peers in that stage of your artistic practice and careers. It’s also interesting how you engaged Chabet for the seminars you organized for artists who were just a few years younger than you.

CL: Interesting point, Sau Bin. If you think about it, we came from the same university so perhaps we were sort of continuing what we enjoyed there: learning together, talking to each other, and having a space for experimentation and looser discourse. And, like what you mentioned, there were older generations of artists whom we tended to model ourselves after — like Ringo and Katya who also came up with their own alternative spaces — and then, there was a younger generation who came in, which sort of kept us afloat. So it was sort of following a school model wherein commerce was less of a priority than discourse and experimentation. I guess that’s why we didn’t last that long.

GRP: I think it’s also interesting to note how some FP regulars like Robert [Langenegger] and Pow eventually had their own spaces: Pow was part of Light and Space [Contemporary], and Robert, I’m not sure if he’s the only one running Project 20 but I know that it’s in their house in Maginhawa.

CL: And that generation also came from the same university so I guess it was like a continuation of the same drive to simulate that setting. It always depends on the succeeding generations rather than on a single space. 

SBY: In a way, it’s about proliferating the ideas and making more “copies” rather than having one space and institutionalizing it. Different generations come in and they can think about running their own spaces in a different way as well.

CL: Yeah. Perhaps they see it from a previous model and, like us, add something which would suit their needs or what they want to explore, then the next generations will do the same with their own spaces.

MVE: More than a decade has passed since and all of you have traveled and witnessed different initiatives come and go. It’s really interesting how Mizuki’s career trajectory turned out, from being a PhD student to now running an institution in Hà Nội, while Cocoy’s still part of different initiatives like Lost Frames, and Gary’s still practicing as a curator organizing a lot of interesting projects. I’m curious, have you guys thought about FP’s legacy or influence? What are the lessons we could learn from FP? At this particular moment in time, what, for you, are the important takeaways?

MZE: As I said, FP and the Philippine art scene led me to the artworld and to become a curator. It prompted me to think about “alternative” relationships between the public and artistic practices. You may say it was the “wrong” timing. But, it’s something to be proud of. We were not commercialized, we couldn’t sell well, we couldn't produce any international art stars, and we were not in tune with the global art trends. So, I’d like to say we were in the right place at the right time. Sometimes, being right can only be proven by failure.

GRP: I think what makes those two years authentic was that we already knew that it was something that wasn’t sustainable. It was all wrong from a business standpoint; we made all the wrong choices and decisions. But somehow, we felt that we had to do all of those things, like organizing events for students or young art practitioners rather than collectors or buyers. That’s something I appreciate now, looking back. Maybe it’s also because we were young and we could handle putting in all the effort without any compensation. It was like our time in the trenches. We kept things afloat just long enough for the next generation to pick up and continue however they wanted to.

Things are so different now and I don’t know if you could still do things like how we approached it. I’m re-learning how to navigate this situation now, but I see a lot of younger artists who are doing good with how they approach these new conditions; I now look up to them to learn how to adapt.


[1] Today x Future was a bar that opened in Cubao X in 2008 and later relocated just a corner away from the compound. It closed in 2020 as a result of the pandemic. 

The online interview took place on 22 October 2020. This interview was edited for length and clarity


Cocoy Lumbao has been using video to explore time-based art since his days as a student under the Film and Audiovisual Communication program of the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City. From experimental narratives, his works have then evolved into more gallery-based works from the time he graduated in 2002. Since then, his video, which are done in both single-channel and installation pieces, have been shown in local and international galleries and video festivals such as the travelling show Move on Asia of Loop Gallery in Korea, Futura Manila in Osage Gallery in Hong Kong, and has been included in the Museum of Contemporary Art and Design in St. Benilde's exhibition of international video artists, “The Surface of the World.”

Gary-Ross Pastrana received his Bachelor's degree in Painting from the University of the Philippines, where he was awarded the Dominador Castañeda Award for Best Thesis. He has gained considerable experience and exposure within the region, with residencies in Bandung, Kyoto, Bangkok, and Singapore. In 2006, Pastrana received the Cultural Center of the Philippines' Thirteen Artists Award. Since then, he has shown at the Singapore Art Museum, Metropolitan Museum of the Philippines, the Jorge B. Vargas Museum, and was part of the 2019 The Art Encounters Biennial in Romania, 2019 Singapore Biennale, 2012 New Museum Triennale in New York, 2010 Aichi Triennale, and 2008 Busan Biennale. In 2005, he co-founded Future Prospects art space. In addition to his artistic career, Pastrana curates and organizes exhibitions in Manila and abroad.

Mizuki Endo is an independent curator, art consultant, and writer. He is the executive director of Higashiyama Artists Placement Service (HAPS), an Kyoto-based artists support program since 2010. Endo established three artist-run spaces in Asia: Art Space Tetra (Fukuoka, 2004), Future Prospects Art Space (Manila, 2005), and Playroom (Mito, 2007). He was awarded the 3rd Lorenzo Bonaldi Art Prize (Bergamo, 2005), was the networking curator of Singapore Biennale 2006, the director of Arcus Project (Moriya, Japan 2006-2009), the curator of Cream: International Festival for Arts and Media, Yokohama (2009), the collaborative curator of Fukuoka Aisan Art Triennale 2009, and the artistic director of Vincom Center for Contemporary Art (2017-2020).


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.