Inside The Apl.de.Ap Foundation And Bitto’s ‘Phygital’ Collaboration That’s Set To Take Over Crypto

Prepare to see a lot more of phygital art.

Breaking new ground and all for a good cause, the Apl.de.Ap Foundation, Bitto, and GCash are bringing art to a whole new forefront.

Related: Reen Barrera’s First NFT Collection With GCrypto Will Have You Saying Ohlala

For centuries, art has always been at the forefront of change and innovation. With every start of a new age for humanity, the arts have always been the leader in breaking new ground and leading the way for what’s next. In today’s increasingly digitized world, art has been a key field in shaping the way we view things, and this collaboration between GCash, Apl.de.Ap Foundation, and Bitto is proof of that.

As NFTs, NFCs, and more aspects of the crypto and digital world find themselves even more embedded into the art space, GCash, Apl.de.Ap Foundation, and Bitto are showing what a ‘phygital’ art scene looks like by combining the physical medium of art with the digital space in their Agents of Peace and Love collection.


On the surface, the founder of AplFi and Grammy-award-winning member of The Black Eyed Peas Apl.de.Ap and visual artist Bitto are two creatives who operate in different realms. But it’s what they bring to the table that made this partnership work, with GCash, and specifically GCrypto, serving as the platform to make it happen. The collaboration began a little less than a year ago when Apl, who is no stranger to the NFT and blockchain space, began talks with GCash on a possible art collection infused with blockchain technology.

“I’ve always wanted to do something in a Web3 space and promote Filipino artists, especially in the creative industry and I thought blockchain is a good space for artists especially in the Philippines,“ says Apl. “I’m very excited about the collaboration with Bitto and GCrypto to keep promoting Philippine art from digital to music. I’m excited about this one as I’ve been thinking about combining my music with digital art.”


For GCash, the collaboration was a no-brainer given that the financial app has a key pillar of bringing NFTs and cryptocurrency closer to Filipinos. “One of the ways to do that is through art,” shares Luis Buenaventura, head of Web3at GCash. “We’re bringing Filipino talent, to Filipino customers, and Filipino art collectors, using NFTs and other technologies.”


Soon, Bitto, an artist and muralist based in Manila whose abstract and attention-grabbing work you’ve probably seen around the Metro, came on board to bring this collab to life. Through Zoom calls and other meetings, the partnership became a ‘Phygital’ art collection titled Agents of Peace and Love (whose initials spell APL) which, as the name suggests, had the goal of promoting peace and love.

You’ve probably seen some of BITTO’s work before, such as this piece he did for a global brand in BGC.

Taken from Instagram/STUDIO_BITTO


To that end, a portion of the sales of the collection went to the Apl.de.Ap foundation which focuses on supporting youth to grant opportunities through arts, technology, and healthcare in the Philippines. Combining art, music, and cryptocurrency in unprecedented ways, the collection stood out for, among other things, having unreleased music from Apl being embedded into the actual pieces.


True to the collaboration’s main goal, the music Apl made serves as a “siren to call out like-minded people who want to promote peace and love – and that’s what we need most in the world right now”


So, you may be wondering, what is ‘Phygital’ art? Well, it refers to artworks that combine both the physical and digital realms. Elements from both are pieced together in new ways as artists create pieces blending traditional artistic techniques with digital technology. It’s yet another form of how art innovates with the times and how the medium has no boundaries.


Self-expression takes center stage with how collectors get to consume art in new ways. “There is always going to be that physical aspect of the art. We’ve just kind of added these other layers to make it richer,” shares Luis. 

Old school meets new school with how collectors have both the physical artwork and the collection on the blockchain. “If you’ve ever bought an expensive painting, typically these have pieces of paper that say, this is the authentic work of this artist and it’s all signed by the artist,” Luis notes. “It’s kind of something that has been upgraded by blockchain because now you can put that information on a universal database.” To illustrate that point, Luis shared how the certificate of authenticity, which is normally given as a piece of physical paper to the buyer, is now stored in the blockchain.


With Apl focusing on music and Bitto leading the way in terms of visuals, this partnership proved to be fruitful, literally and figuratively. The Apl.de.Ap Foundation has continuously been supportive of the local creative scene, while Bitto is one of the country’s top visual artists, so magic was bound to happen.


As Apl explains, “It came out very organic. We had the same goal in promoting Filipino art along with music and this is a great two mediums to put together to support the youth.” 

This combination of physical art and NFTs had endless possibilities as both artists frequently ping-ponged ideas between each other, with Bitto at one point pitching the idea to make a music video with NFTs scattered throughout the video. Agents of Peace and Love eventually manifested differently but still eye-catching with a mix of vibrant colors.


The most recognizable detail from the whole collection is arguably the image of Apl sitting on top of an actual apple. According to Bitto, he aimed to include something that would have heads turning and easy to recall, “I wanted to come up with something iconic or obvious.”

Apl on an apple began as a joke, but it proved to be popular with the team. “Parang nakakatuwa siyang isipin but they liked it.” The symbol also served as a homage to Isaac Newton and how he formulated gravitational theory after watching an apple fall from a tree. “I wanted Apl sitting on the apple so medyo layers siya na discovery of exploration and invention at the same time.”


Agents of Peace and Love is composed of three main parts. First, the biggest, is a 4×5 ft Canvas painting with embedded original music by Apl, which served as a particular favorite for the musician. “It has a great message to keep promoting peace and love all over the world. Bitto did a great illustration,” Apl shares. 

The artwork was auctioned off during the launch of the collection at Poblacion last January 18, with it eventually going to Jax Reyes, who bought it for a price that went above a whopping 300,000 pesos. Aside from the artwork, Jax also got to keep the original song and the opportunity to have dinner with Apl and Bitto.


Second, there are the Apl x Bitto 12-inch sculptures with embedded music available in eight unique colorways. “The sculptures are a nice technical innovation kasi naka-embed pa yung blockchain record inside the sculptures,” marvels Luis. Both the canvas painting and the sculptures had NFTs serving as the certificate of authenticity. The final are silkscreen prints that came in two designs, with each edition having 15 prints.


As technology continues to advance, so too does art evolve to meet the moment. While the idea of ‘phygital’ art might seem foreign to many, it’s a showcase of how physical and digital can go together to make something new and exciting as well as what the future holds. “A lot of modern art is testing new things, seeing where the boundaries are,” shares Luis. “What we have here is just the beginning of this experiment.”


This collection is a start not only for how crypto is going to move into new fronts but also to open people’s minds to what they can expect from art. As Bitto sees it, the opportunity for flexibility and to play around with formerly rigid structures is real. “You can see it anywhere, the possibilities of art to bridge different fields… It’s a catalyst for more opportunities and possibilities,” Bitto shares.

More importantly, it opens the doors for young Filipino creatives to have their talent be seen in new ways by a wider audience and for the industry to grow even more. The Apl.de.Ap Foundation has been a pioneer in championing young artists and making their voices and talents be seen and heard with the proper resources and platforms. This collaboration is their latest step in doing so. “This collection is just an introduction to what it could become. This is just a stepping stone for all the artists in the Philippines to have an outlet,” Apl proudly states.

And, as they tease, this is just an exciting start. Get excited as GCash brings more of these collaborations to the forefront as the frontier of physical and digital continues to meld. “Over the next several months, we’re gonna have several of these launches where we’re going to be bringing Filipino talent to Filipino customers using NFTs and other technologies,” reveals Luis.

If you want to step into this space and try your hand at phygital art and cryptocurrency, GCrypto, which made this collaboration possible, has got you covered. All you have to do is press the GCrypto button inside the GCash app to get started and open yourself to a world of possibilities.

Photos by Andre Cesar

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