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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.

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Vandalism in Mount Batuláo!

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Now THIS is an OUTRAGE!

The vandalized boulder you see in the two photos above is not an ordinary boulder. It is one of those iconic boulders you encounter in Monte Batuláo’s breathtaking peak (Camp 10). Tapos ganitó, binaboy ng mg̃a tarantadong itó, masabi lang na nacaratíng silá sa taás ng Batuláo.

And who did this desecration two days ago? Thankfully, the idiots were stupid enough to leave more evidence of their environmental CRIME.

Click on their names below to get to their Facebook accounts:

1. Janet Páyad

2. Robert Paul Ador

3. Ermel Atendido

4. Eduard Palima

5. Erland Fajardo

6. Mark Anthony Abarracoso

7. Rocy Flores is one lucky scoundrel because I couldn’t find his (or her?) Facebook account.

To you who read this, I encourage you to send these filthy animals some “love”.

I’ve been to Batuláo’s peak only once and that was many years ago. Yet the  spellbinding beauty of its surroundings makes me feel as if I just climbed there yesterday. That’s how unforgettable the place is.

And now this?! I never thought that these bozos from View Park Hotel had the tendency to revert into cavemen-like behavior.

To the management of View Park Hotel: what do you intend to do about this? Because each time we pass by your place, or even just hearing your hotel’s name, we will always be reminded of this vandalized mountain boulder of majestic Monte Batuláo.

*F*I*L*I*P*I*N*O*e*S*C*R*I*B*B*L*E*S*

Special thanks to my mountaineer cousin Paolo Raphael Balicao and his group for sharing these photos. May the protection of our mountains against brainless scums such as those from View Park Hotel be every mountaineer’s advocacy and responsibility.

Batangas City’s basilica was vandalized on Christmas Day!

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Last Sunday, Christmas Day, the parishioners of the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Batangas City were shocked to find out that a seemingly crazed man, armed with a metal candlestick, attacked the altar and the image of the Santo Niño. Photos (with captions) of the carnage were immediately posted by Fr. Leonido C. Dolor, the basilica’s Director of the Archdiocesan Commission on Social Communication and Mass Media, on his Facebook page and has since become viral on the said social networking site.

As of this writing, the album already has 103 shares.

The description on Fr. Dolor’s album reads:

At around three in the afternoon, Christmas day itself, a man for reason not yet assessed, took hold of one of those big candelabras at the altar of the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, Batangas City and laid waste the marble altar (see photos) and then took a swing at the altar of Sto. Nino, breaking the glass panel and deforming the crown of the Child Jesus! Is this his way of saying “Happy birthday, Jesus?” He later fought the “tambays” outside the Basilica who tried to apprehend him.

This crime is a concern not only for the Catholic faithful of Batangas City and elsewhere but for heritage advocates and travelers/tourists as well. Whenever me and my wife visit an old town, we make it a point to stop by the town proper’s old church. And although no religious services were held during the times that we get to visit these churches, we almost always gain easy access to their interiors, including the bell towers. Many of these churches’ caretakers are hospitable and accommodating whenever we request entry for photograph sessions. But this crime which happened in Batangas City’s basilica last Sunday is not just a case of vandalism but can also be considered a security breach, thus it might set a precedent: future church visits might become a pain in the neck for tourists. Many churches might even have their doors locked after a Mass.

And to make matters worse, it coincided with the gruesome bombings of about five churches in faraway Nigeria.

Via Facebook, I inquired for more details from Fr. Dolor. He replied immediately, saying that the vandal had a “brief psychotic reaction due to deprivation of food and sleep”. It was later learned that this man walked all the way from Macati City to Batangas for five days without food nor sleep! Further inquiries also revealed that this man was a Pentecostal, but that he was “angry at God”; Fr. Dolor did not elaborate further. What is sad here is that one of the “tambays” (bystanders) who tried to apprehend him was injured during the commotion (he was hospitalized; please pray for him).

On a positive note, we should still be thankful that this crazed man was in no way a terrorist, and that the damage he had wrought upon the basilica’s altar was minimal compared to what had happened to those churches in Nigeria. But as mentioned above, this might set a precedent regarding security measures. There is no problem to that. The Catholic Church as well as all the other religious denominations should really plan more about this (especially during these days when not even banks are in danger of being attacked by mindless scum). But hopefully not to the detriment of a social-networking-starved and a digital-camera-wielding public. Why, even Fr. Dolor himself has a Facebook account.

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.

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