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Intramuros Administration responds to “graffiti art”

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I am reposting here the reply of Atty. Marco Antonio Luisito V. Sardillo III, Intramuros Administration administrator, to my Facebook complaint concerning the existence of a graffit mural art within the historic Hispanic walls of Intramuros which people like me find out of place (and my response to it is right below):

Mr. Alas, allow me to begin my “explanation” by setting out the factual context within which I hope my “explanation” is received. First, I assumed office in August 5, 2013. The graffiti wall that you are referring to was a project that took place long before I assumed office. (In fact, if you google, you will see that this has been written about before, eg: http://www.rappler.com/…/arts…/35516-legal-graffiti-wall) Second, I believe that some/most of the explanation that you are seeking has already been supplied by Carlos, when you posted a link to your article in the Heritage Conservation Society FB page. As I mentioned, I was not around at the time, and so, this project was not something that I could have “disallowed.”

I do not have the expertise and neither am I qualified to engage in a debate on whether graffiti constitutes art; thus, anything I say about graffitis would be but a mere comment and not an “informed” opinion. As such, I am not inclined to pass judgment or chime in, as my thoughts will not add value to that “debate” (that you alluded to).

That being said, I do believe that, as we chart the path towards the “orderly restoration and development of Intramuros,” we should be able to accommodate a more inclusive appreciation of what it means to be “Filipino” — and in that process, expand and enrich our notion of it. Indeed, Intramuros, by law, should be a monument to the Hispanic period of Philippine history. I should emphasize that it is a monument “to” and not a monument “of.” What this means is that Intramuros’ “orderly restoration and development” should not be a mere snapshot or recreation based on photographs — or what others have referred to as a “disneyfication.” Intramuros, too, is about what the Filipinos have made of it, and what it has become as a result of that enriching process. This ongoing process should be able to tolerate a difference in opinion, even as we are continuing to understand and unpack the meaning and value of “Intramuros.” (Case in point: I have been in conversations with “experts” where the only apparent consensus is that they can’t come to an agreement about what we really mean about the “past.”) [N.B. Under existing laws, it is Fort Santiago that has been declared as “hallowed” ground, and not all of Intramuros. Even then, there is no specifically mandated or required form of respect or reverence. After all, respect or reverence is, essentially, an internal movement.]

As a final note, and here my personal thoughts would indicate my general inclination towards that graffiti project. Do I personally find it disrespectful of Intramuros? Personally, I don’t. The fact that that project exists on the fence of a vacant lot indicates to me that its context is not premised on permanence. As a “public policy” issue, I also recognize that (1) there is a tension between “graffiti” as art and its street cred and (2) I appreciate that having a “graffiti wall”–particularly, on a temporarily designated fence–provides a venue for expression, and a disincentive for vandalism (that could occur elsewhere). That fence can just as easily be torn down–or the graffiti be painted over or whitewashed. In the greater scheme of things, within the context of the fence of a vacant lot, personally, I can tolerate (and, on some level, even appreciate) the effort made towards transforming bare concrete–and inciting thought and debate.

If the Intramuros Administration allows the proliferation of graffiti and other similar “art” within the Walled City, then our dear Old Manila would be relegated to the status of just another EDSA and the like.

Thank you so much for taking time to reply, sir, and for stating your honest-to-goodness stand regarding this matter. I do not desire to prolong this especially since our friend Carlos regards it as a “non-issue” (if a famous celebrity activist declares it as such, then poor anonymous me cannot do anything much about it). Besides, I have already made and proven my point that graffiti, no matter how cool it looks or how much you glorify it, is not Filipino art. No art appreciation nor rocket science needed to discern it.

Anyway, I would like to clarify a few things. One of them is your remark that Intramuros is a monument “to” and not a monument “of” our country’s Hispanic past, and that the Intramuros today “should not be a mere snapshot or recreation based on (old) photographs”. But sir, I wasn’t even thinking of old photographs when I first saw that graffit on Twitter. I simply deemed it correct that it shouldn’t be there. You know, I may agree with you to some extent that we can no longer bring back the Intramuros of old (if that is what you mean by “mere snapshot”). With huge buildings such as those of the Manila Bulletin, Bank of the Philippine Islands, and The Bayleaf Intramuros (gasp!) towering over the original edifices, squatter settlements such as the one fronting the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (irony of ironies), as well as several fastfoods and other commercial establishments firmly scattered throughout the Walled City, there is this huge impossibility of ever bringing back the original Manila of our nostalgia. But my point is simply this: what little we can do to conserve what Intramuros is all about —a monument OF our country’s Hispanic past, as you said— then that is what we must do.

That graffiti art simply does not fit the above statement.

And that is why, even though it is painted on private property, I am still against it. And speaking of private property, we should even avoid using that argument. So with all due respect, dear sir, I discourage you from even saying it. Remember that it is always used as an excuse by people without any regard to heritage for them to tear down or sell their privately owned ancestral houses (case in point: the fabled Alberto Mansion in Biñán, La Laguna).

Now, just like the debate on whether graffiti constitutes art or not, there is, too, an ongoing debate on what really is a Filipino (again, not who but what) which was aggravated more when renowned historian Teorodo Agoncillo, in his book History of the Filipino People, stated that “it is difficult, if not impossible, to define what a Filipino is“, confusing many students in the process. That is why today, we have different versions of our national identity: some claim that it dates far back before the Spanish advent; some say that it is based on our Hispanic past; some say that it is an amalgam of both our Hispanic heritage and US pop culture; still others say that our identity was fully formed only after 1872 or 1898 (or even 1986). The reason why I share this to you is that, in view of the ongoing identity crisis, it is highly unlikely that we can “expand and enrich” our notion of it.

To be honest —and you will certainly find this biased— I belong to that minority who believes that our national identity was formed from our Hispanic past, the very same era which created that walled enclave that you have sworn to protect as per the IA’s mandate.

And with all due respect to your personal opinions, they really do not matter here. What matters is what the IA’s national mandate to Intramuros is, and not what its officials personally think of what should or should not constitute the Walled City. Personally, I also find graffiti art cool. But as I have already mentioned, it is simply out of place. Un-Filipino. We don’t need to use it as a “disincentive for vandalism”. What we need is stringent measures to prevent it.

Be that as it may, I would still like to thank you for your humbleness to respond to a “non-issue” (unlike current NCCA chairman Felipe M. de León, Jr. who simply walked away with his tail between his legs, completely ignoring my grievance). I am sure that you and I have genuine concern for Intramuros. The only problem is that both of us do not possess the same eye on how to approach it. I see Intramuros as our country’s “heart and soul” (the state of Intramuros is a reflection of our country). I bet you see it differently.

He dicho.

La Familia Viajera — not just another travel blog

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Finally, a travel blog that I could call my own!

Actually, not just mine, but my family‘s. :-)

LA FAMILIA VIAJERA, probably the country’s first and only family travel blog (if there’s already a Filipino blog that has claimed the title first, feel free to pinch my ears when you get to see me). The blog features our very humble exploits wherever our itchy feet take us. It was soft-launched last October 21, two days after we roamed the ancient streets of Intramuros and took photos of fancy stuff there.

Fancy stuff that is our heritage.

Since LA FAMILIA VIAJERA is a family oriented blog, I will be much tamer there. I will try my best not to sound belligerent, no anti-imperialism remarks, no clenched fists raised high above the air, and no Rage Against the Machine blurting out in the background. All that indignation is reserved only for FILIPINO eSCRIBBLES and ALAS FILIPINAS (I said I will try my best).

OK. I’ll shut up now and let my third blog do the talking. Please click here for my family’s first entry to its online travelogue.

And oh, did I forget to mention? My long-time nemesis Carlos Celdrán is featured there. Believe it or not. :D

PS: And since I’d be traveling with my wife and four kids in LA FAMILIA VIAJERA, there will be no more travel blogposts in ALAS FILIPINAS and FILIPINO eSCRIBBLES from now on.

 

What goes around comes around.

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I’m not supposed to blog yet because of a deadline. But I just couldn’t let this one pass my restless attention:

MANILA, Philippines – A Manila court found prominent tour guide and reproductive health advocate Carlos Celdrán guilty of “offending religious feelings,” according to a statement made by Celdrán himself on Twitter.

Celdrán was charged with violating Article 133 of the Revised Penal Code (offending religious feelings) after he disrupted a service at the Manila Cathedral on Sept 30, 2010. Clad as the Filipino national hero José Rizal, the outspoken reproductive health advocate held up a sign with the words “Dámaso,” in reference to the villainous priest in Rizal’s famous novel “Noli Me Tangere.”

But here’s the best part:

A copy of the decision tweeted by Celdrán shows that he was sentenced to serve a prison term of not less than two months and 21 days and not more than one year, one month and 11 days.

From Rappler.com.

This photo’s gonna get real soon. But I’ll visit you there, Twitter buddy. I promise.

 

By the way. Today is the birthday of Saint Thomas Aquinas, the Catholic Church’s greatest theologian and philosopher, and patron saint of intellectuals. I just don’t believe that today’s development coinciding with the saint’s birthday is a coincidence. It ain’t. :D

I only have four beautiful words for this ultrapositive development: justice has been served.

Lo que se siembra se cosecha, Carlos. Just ask your dad what the heck does that mean.

Various comments from Mideo Cruz’s sick art

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“If you just look at artwork and see what offends you, ambabaw mo (you’re shallow-minded).”
Carlos Celdrán

“What sick mind would think that this sacrilegious work promotes Filipino aesthetics, identity and positive cultural values?”
Manila Rep. Amado Bagatsing

“The point is simple: You want to denigrate imams, feel free to do so. You want to make fun of bishops, feel free to do so. But you want to denigrate Islam, or Mohammed, or the Koran, think again. You want to make fun of Christianity, Christ, or the Bible, think again.”
Conrado de Quiros

“It was created by law and funded by our taxes for the purpose of awakening the consciousness of our people to our cultural heritage. Is it our cultural heritage to mock and insult religious personages and icons? Is it aesthetic to vandalize a venerated representation of objects of worship and reverence? Are vulgarity and blasphemy a Filipino value? What Filipino pride can emerge for such works? Is this our national identity? And CCP promotes it?”
Jo Imbong (Executive Director, St. Thomas More Society Inc.)—

Emedeo Cruz (I.N.C.) Sumpain ka, Bakla” and “Bakla Parusahan Ka” (Curse you, fag. You fag, you should be punished).
Hate messages from vandals scrawled across various parts of Cruz’s “artwork”—

My take on this issue? Arnaldo’s recent blogpost pretty much sums up my opinion about Mideo Cruz’s arrogant ignorance and phony artistry. Also, I have this funny feeling that Inquirer columnist Conrado de Quiros, although appearing to be neutral, wouldn’t have written an article regarding this controversy if not for those who vandalized Cruz’s offensive works (“You wreak that, or condone it, what does that say about your beliefs? You wreak that, or condone it, what does that say about your religion?”). In view of his past anti-Church articles, he would have let this Cruz issue go away if not for the vandals.

Imeldific was among the first to react against Cruz's blasphemous and offensive art. CCP, where Cruz's works were exhibited, was a product of hers.

I wish I were a painter. Then I’d paint a picture of Carlos Celdrán, but his nose will be that of a monkey’s prick. Now let’s see how these “intellectuals” and “artists” wannabes will feel about their Dámaso idol being “criticized” through art. If they react negatively, i.e., if they just look at my artwork and see what offends them, ambabaw nilá.

Lucky he, I’m no painter.

Celdrán’s antics are no longer repulsive

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Garbage collectors have been accustomed to the smell of garbage. The smell of filth. That is why they are hardly repulsed anymore whenever they are confronted by a pile of rotting fish and meat mixed with soiled diapers.

Strangely, I find Carlos Celdrán’s latest caper less repulsive, too. Aside from getting used to hearing garbage news on TV, I find his recent tarpaulin controversy more comical than ever before, but still pitiful, nonetheless. This time, however, I have to side with Celdrán against allegations that he’s a “papansín” (loosely translated as a person who perpetually seeks attention from the people around him). This is in relation to what he did two Fridays ago (18 March) against a helpless anti-RH bill tarpaulin.

Check out this video from everybody’s favorite “rational hero”:

As seen from the footage, the self-proclaimed “fat bastard” (Celdrán fans, before you strike, please be advised that this is how he described himself when he commented on a blogpost of mine last year; so there’s no need to be furious, OK? blame your idol, not me) tore down the said tarp —bearing the words “Choose Life, Reject the RH/RP Bill”—, and then ran away with it like a cellphone snatcher.

Right after that, there was complete silence. He did not mention anything at all about that roguery of his in both his Twitter and Facebook accounts. Immediately after stealing the tarp, he bragged in his Facebook account that he opened up an HSBC account in Binondo as well as scrutinized the Department of Tourism’s “Tara Ná” logo.

There was no mention at all about the now controversial tarp that he stole.

So does this latest caper of his make him a “papansín“? Definitely not. Cayá ñga siyá tumátacbo sa vídeo, eh. Dahil ayáw niyáng magpahuli sa guinawá niyáng pagnanacaw. Ayáw niyáng mapansín. Eh caso nahuli.

Now, whatever happened to that no-nonsense, trash-talking, church-profaning Carlos “Fat Bastard” Celdrán that fans loved about him the most? Shouldn’t they be disappointed with their idol, instead? He did not even inform them immediately right after he stole that darned tarp (Celdrán usually updates his “respectful” and “highly intelligent” fans on his daily activities and plans, even the most mundane ones). With all that running of his instead of another no-holds-barred attack against the clergy, it can be surmised, in a way, that Celdrán has gone “soft”.

And why is that?

It should be remembered that Celdrán still has a court case hanging over his head for his unprofessional conduct inside the Manila Cathedral last year. Thus, it is but logical for his lawyer to advise him not to do anything silly anymore especially since they are negotiating for an out-of-court settlement via a pathetic apology that I do not believe is sincere (he proudly proclaims himself a “Cafeteria Catholic” and is affiliated with the anti-Catholic group Filipino Freethinkers).

Unfortunately for Celdrán, focusing too much on his “street heroics” made him forget a Bayani Fernando legacy: the closed-circuit television cameras mounted all over the metropolis. And when reporters contacted him about his CCTV video, it was too late to deny, of course. Aside from the CCTV, there were witnesses. So right after being interviewed by reporters, he posted this on his Facebook fanpage:

Seriously. They have me on CCTV and got witnesses to ‘confirm’ it was me. Dang. I did it 3 p.m. Who says I was trying to hide it?

I do. Because in the video, you were running so fast as if a hungry pack of wolves mistook you for Grimace. And you almost ran down on a motorbike, Carlos (and not the other way around; perhaps that motorcycle dude has nine lives). And just by observing your Facebook statuses and tweets (thank you for following me, by the way; I am so honored, really), it is very obvious that you would never have mentioned anything at all about that tarp you stole if you weren’t caught on CCTV. But you were. So there. Tsk.

If there was no malice intended, especially since Celdrán thought that what he did was something heroic, he shouldn’t have run. He should have just taken that tarp off then walked away with it with his head held up high. But by running away like a thief in the night, he proved to his enemies the kind of coward that he is.

And he added that he is “coming clean”. Really. But why right after being caught on CCTV? He is saying that now only when he learned that we was caught on camera.

I am aghast that his shock-value fans did not even ask him why he was running away with his tail between his legs. Yet they still shower him with praises with his “coming clean” alibi.

Anyway, If I were stupid, I would have believed him, too.

With that pending case of his in jeopardy again, he can be considered as a lawyer’s nightmare. So how to remedy it?

By pulling off another stunt, of course. And again, at the expense of the Catholic Church’s tolerance on forgiveness. So with a barrage of mediamen, Celdrán marched to the church he profaned a year ago, to attend Mass and go to confession for the first time in years.

To my knowledge, he is the only celebrity in the world who publicized in advance his Sacrament of Penance.

There’s your hero.

Let me reiterate: the Church is not involving itself in politics. To halt the creation of life —a very natural process— is not a political but a spiritual issue, something that is already metaphysical even. The Church is entrusted to protect the sanctity of life; the government has breached it. By proposing the RH Bill, the government has tread upon holy grounds, a terra incognita not understood by secularized minds in the government. In effect, the government has declared war against the Church. It was they, not the Church, who made the first volley of shots. CBCP or no CBCP, the Church was merely on the defensive end.

It is the government, not the Catholic Church, who is guilty of violating the separation of Church and State.

We do not need an RH bill. Celdrán, for instance, has been distributing condoms to squatter families in Intramuros for years yet he did not go to jail on orders from an “evil friar”. And just visit your nearest health center; it is almost rare not to spot posters promoting “family reproductive health”. Condoms, pills, ligation in hospitals, heck, they’re everywhere. Frenzy condoms even sponsor rock concerts. You see such products in newspapers and magazines. Even on TV. And that RH Bill has not even been passed yet.

RH Bill proponents claim that this bill is also meant to educate the people about reproductive issues. Come on. I still remember clearly that I first learned about pills, IUDs, condoms, and the like when I was in the sixth grade — and in a Catholic school!

We do not need the RH bill to fight poverty. This overpopulation myth and all that hot garbage are not the cause of our economic woes. As a historian, Celdrán should know better.

Think. Don’t merely grandstand.

What would have been Rizal’s stand on the RH Bill?

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Quae visa placent. —St. Thomas Aquinas—

The website Rational Hero is actually a play on the initials RH which stands for Reproductive Health. The website, launched late last year, is a venture of controversial tour guide Carlos Celdrán, Manila Times journalist Ana Santos, Elizabeth Angsioco of the Democratic Socialist Women of the Philippines, and Ryan Tani of Filipino Freethinkers.

The founders of the website Rational Hero, erroneously using Rizal's name to forward their propaganda against the Church (and not just to clamor for the RH bill's enactment into law).

At first glance, one would think that the website is just one of those numerous online sites attributed to or honoring the national hero José Rizal since it bears his familiar photo as well as the tag “Rizal alive in every Filipino”. However, upon further browsing, one will soon realize that the website is all for the support and passing into law of the controversial, divisive, and hotly debated Reproductive Health bill which originated from Albay 1st District Representative Edcel Lagmán (brother of slain leftist leader Filemón “Ka Popoy” Lagmán). And this website is using Rizal’s name to help further its cause. Worse, many articles in the said website attack the Church itself, and not just about the Church’s stand against the said bill.

Disturbingly, this website is toying around with, nay, taking advantage of Rizal’s well-known battles against the Church, a battle that is already history, and even before Rizal was executed, was already history. Nevertheless, the idea of using Rizal’s former bias against the Catholic Church seemed to be —especially among today’s youth too drunk with intellectualism and a high for romantic adventurism— an ingenious catapult for Celdrán and his group.

If they ever know anything about Rizal’s retraction, then it is obvious that, despite the overwhelming evidence of the document’s veracity, they deny it. Thus, they continue praising Rizal’s anti-Catholic stance to the highest heavens. And this they use to their benefit. They deny that Rizal died a Catholic, that he was deeply sorry for the troubles his novels had caused, and that he was even given a Christian burial (more on this in a future blogpost).

But what if Rizal were alive today, would he even support the controversial bill?

Let us, for argument’s sake, consider Rizal still steadfast to his Masonic beliefs. Let us pretend that Rizal is still anti-friar. Would he join Celdrán et al?

The answer will be in the negative.

No, Catholic or not, Rizal would not even dare support such a bill. He is too rational to commit such stupidity. And why? The way Rizal wisely admonished Pío Valenzuela in Dapitan against the inevitable failure of a bloody revolution (or should I say, rebellion), Rizal will definitely admonish the proud members of Rational Hero. To him, the RH bill will be rubbish and downright evil.

Deism was perhaps the greatest effect of Masonry to Rizal’s mind. For a brief period, Rizal left Catholicism and embraced the idea of natural religion. Rizal believed that through reason and observation of the natural world alone, one can determine that a supreme being created the universe without the need for either faith or organized religion.

When he was in Dapitan, he had a healthy debate (through mail correspondence) with one of his spiritual advisers, Fr. Pablo Pastells, S.J. In the exchange of ideas about the existence of God and of God himself (as compiled and translated by Fr. Raúl J. Bonóan, S.J. in The Rizal-Pastells Correspondence), Rizal wrote:

Even so, I venture to think of him as infinitely wise, mighty, good (my idea of the infinite is imperfect and confused), when I behold the wonders of his works, the order that reigns over the universe, the magnificence and expanse of creation, and the goodness that shines in all.

Unable to pass judgement on what surpasses my powers, I settle for studying God in his creatures like myself and in the voice of my conscience, which only can have come from him. I strive to read and find his will in all that surrounds me and in the mysterious sentiment speaking from within me, which I strive to purify above all else.

It can therefore be gleaned that, even without Christianity in his life, Rizal’s belief in an unknown deity was based on a reasonable reflection of nature. And when we speak of nature, it should be observed that all elements that make it up is filled with harmony: everything in it, from predator-to-prey “relationships” to procreation to speciation, cannot exist without the existence of harmony. And this harmony is based on a metaphysical thread called “unity”. This unity means that every real being is either uncomposed or composed of parts, i.e., if it has no parts, those parts must be united in order for that being to exist, whereas when a composed being falls apart, that being ceases to exist.

Contraceptions prevent life. Therefore, it is anti-life. To make it more simpler, it goes against the natural order of things, something that a deist like Rizal will fight against. In the metaphysical sense of the word, there is no “unity” in the prevention of the creation of life. There is no unity, no harmony, no naturalness whenever man’s baser instincts prevail over the creation of something that is natural, i.e., life.

Furthermore, Rizal’s only child died during birth. Just imagine the grief, the pain of an expectant father whose hopes had died on the day he was expecting it. And after such a traumatic experience, do you even think that Rizal would have opted for “pro-choice” methods? No, I don’t think so.

A newborn human life is supposed to please the senses, our lives. But nowadays, not anymore. In yesteryears, pregnancy is a celebration, a preparation for blessing. But today, the mere mention of pregnancy engulfs the mind with fear. How twisted.

In closing, these proud self-styled “heroes” are merely shaming Rizal by invoking on his name that is clearly anti-Rizal.

Rizal alive in every Filipino? I reckon not. Just ask Willie Revillamé.

Ban Carlos Celdrán from Intramuros!

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If you believe that tour guide Carlos Celdrán should be banned from ever entering Intramuros (“the holy of holies”) forever because of what he did last Thursday, then please do join this Facebook campaign:

Ban Carlos Celdrán from Intramuros!

In the previous century, Intramuros was ruined by the US' unnecessary carpet bombing. Early this century, a homosexual zealot profaned the Walled City's only Minor Basilica. Enough with these desecrations!

¡Un abrazo!

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