STREET art in Cebu City is gaining ground, and thanks to six young artists, some people might just stop calling it vandalism.

Two years ago, John Micheal Pujante started using the nickname “SID” when he dabbled in street art.

As early as nine years old, he already saw himself becoming an artist, a dream he pursued by studying painting at the University of the Philippines-Cebu. SID is now one of the newbies in the local graffiti scene, and yet he impressed and topped the second leg of Caps and Cans by Aerosoul, the biggest gathering of graffiti artists in Cebu.

Caps and Cans 2 was held last Oct. 7, Saturday, at the basketball court on Pelaez St. in Cebu City. Six local artists who were selected after a month-long open call and assessment of portfolio—SID, Havoc, Krem, Kogs, TJD5th, and Derp—joined the competition.

Aerosoul is a group of graffiti artists in Cebu that promotes street art through activities like Caps and Cans. Paolo Abellana, one of the members of Aerosoul, said their goal is “to promote the graffiti scene by educating the people that street art is something to be appreciated.”

Graffiti artists face many challenges, such as the lack of support and public acceptance. For many, this form of art is vandalism. But for the few who try to understand and learn about it more, they learn that street art styles and techniques send a message, mostly on social issues—thanks to local artists who improve themselves in the name of passion and movement.

“People need to appreciate (graffiti) because aside from the fact that it really makes our streets colorful, it also signifies that Cebu is home to true revolutionary artists who are willing to do this for free, for the people,” said Aerosoul member John Villoria (aka Nark).

He shared their struggles in keeping the graffiti scene alive. He said one of their challenges is getting sponsors in organizing events like Caps and Cans “because we’re still an underground scene. it really is a challenge to keep this scene alive because of lack of money.”

According to Janot, another member, the event is supported only by a group of friends with small businesses. “The participants have to pay for their own cans. As much as we want to provide it to them, we still lack money and sponsors.”

Caps and Cans 2 is supported by Moonjogger Art Supplies Company, Flick, PEACE CLUB, Vagrant, Strap, Belle, Redeemed Tattoo, Passion on Ink, Daot Art and HyveCreative.

Two years in the scene has brought SID financial challenges as well. “You really have to think it through; you really have to invest if you want to continue pursuing this kind of art,” he shared.

Havoc, who placed second during the event, shared that graffiti is hard to grasp for many. “So we have to be responsible graffiti writers…we are in the streets to represent that graffiti art is still here in Cebu,” he shared.

Derp, one of the participants, has been coloring the city’s streets for almost six years now. Letter constructing and associating color schemes in walls are challenging for him, but he still enjoys doing it.

The only woman who participated in the event, TJD5th, is a street artist for almost three years now. She’s into street art to show that women, too, can excel in a male-dominated scene. “My purpose in joining the scene years ago was to empower women. My purpose is to let people see that this isn’t just for men. I want to encourage women that they can do this, too. It’s not easy but artists like me are ready to help anytime,” she said.

People who came to watch the event praised the aritsts for their works, including SID’s. SID said his technique is the first style seen in the streets of Cebu. “My style is called ‘scribble style’; it’s like a child scribbling on a wall. Because I want to feel again what it was like when I first learned to draw,” he shared. SID is hopeful that this style will be learned and appreciated by artists and the public as well.

Aerosoul members foresee a graffiti scene with more artists who share their goals. They encouraged graffiti artists to practice painting and hand techniques, and to have the right attitude. Being a street artist isn’t easy but according to Daot Tado, these three words will keep them in the streets—passion, dedication, and consistency. “There are a lot of brilliant local artists, they just need guidance through acceptance,” he said.