director@kapisanan: Inspired dissent

Carlos Celdran holds up a placard that reads "DAMASO" in front of a row of Catholic Bishops in the middle of mass at Manila Cathedral. A few months ago Carlos Celdran, a Philippine-based performance artist, did something so brilliant and inconceivable, the whole country was a-twitter.  *See above photo. Yes he did: Dressed up as Philippine national hero, Jose Rizal, holding up a placard that bears the name of the evil and abusive Catholic friar in his novel, Noli Me Tangere (the very novel that some would argue, incited the Philippine revolution against Spain). Mind you this was in the middle of a FULL Manila Cathedral during mass, with the bishops taking the best seats in the house. Holler! And holler he did. Carlos also yelled out,"Stop getting involved in politics!"

Celdran stands beind bars still wearing his Jose Rizal costume

Celdran was arrested and charged under Article 133 of the Revised Penal Code: "The penalty of arresto mayor in its maximum period to prison correccional in its minimum period shall be imposed upon anyone who, in a place devoted to religious worship or during the celebration of any religious ceremony, shall perform acts notoriously offensive to the feelings of the faithful." Let me just be clear, there is a law in the Philippines against hurting the feelings of the 'faithful' -- which really means the Catholics, since 90% of the country is baptized Catholic. I bet they wouldn't arrest anyone for hurting the feelings of the Muslims (who make up more or less the other 10% of the Philippine population).

A crowd of people holding placards "Free Carlos Celdran" stand outside the precinct where Celdran is detained. The press with tv cameras are in the foreground.

Within a few hours there was a FREE CARLOS CELDRAN FaceBook group. Within 12 hours there were 12,000 members (now 31,000+!). To make a long story short, Celdran combined performance art and activism to get the world talking about the problem of over-population in the Philippines (projected 2010 count is upwards of 90 million people), never mind the country's losing fight against poverty. A long time advocate of the Reproductive Health Bill, Celdran's intention was to bring the public's attention to the Church's threats of a civil disobedience campaign if the bill is passed as law. Ok let me just make this really simple, the Philippine Catholic Church is saying that using a condom is a sin. Contraceptives are ILLEGAL in the Philippines : o (so is divorce btw).

Over the last few months, Celdran  has been all over the local and international news in the Philippines, including other OMG intriga. He's even been named one of Forbes Magazine blog's "Names You Need To Know In 2011"!

a triptych of images featuring t-shirts to support Carlos Celdran's cause

But this one is really my favourite: "A new campaign to encourage readership of Rizal’s classic novel, Noli Me Tangere, aims to show the novel’s characters have a life of their own."

Starring Carlos Celdran.

Celdran holds a placard that says "Maria Clara" with a girl on a laptop in the foreground.

Celdran hold up a placard that says "Sisa" with a destitute woman sitting on the sidewalk in the foreground.

Celdran holds up a placard that says "Dona Victorina" the a well dressed lady standing with a smug expression in the foreground.

The campaign slogan "Born in 1886. Still alive today" has a double meaning for me. As the Noli FB page says, "The publishers say the campaign emphasizes the timelessness of the novel and its relevance to contemporary life." -- but I am thinking, this means history is repeating itself, or --we haven't learned much from when this book first came out over 200 years ago.

If any of you are interested in reading this book, we have copies here at the Kapisanan library. You can borrow it. Read it. Learn from it. Be inspired!

p.s. Kapisanan is bringing sexy back, I mean, Carlos Celdran back to Toronto in May 2011 as part of our K.A.R.P. exchange and to collaborate with our resident artists and perform his tour "Living La Vida Imelda" -- Imelda Marcos that is, who, despite her reputation of hoarding an obscene amount of gorgeous designer shoes, actually implemented a national family-planning program to reduce the country's population growth. Bet you didn't know...