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Violence and Setting Fire Inside CCP Understandable?! Is PDI sick?

Tuesday, August 9, 2011 comments powered by disqus

The public fury against Mideo's artwork in the Cultural Center of the Philippines is understandable. We are in a country that majority of citizens are Catholic. Politicians riding the issue is understandable. They always do that! Congressman Bagatsing, the same lawmaker that pushes the legalization of jueteng, wants CCP Chairman Raul Sonico and other officials to resign. Ilocos Norte Representative Imelda Marcos said she was considering filing administrative charges against CCP officials. She called up Manila Rep. Amado Bagatsing twice on Monday, to express her displeasure over the exhibit. Yes, Mam Imelda is the right person to define what is right and wrong in this country. Forget the abuses, martial law and human rights violations!

We can all understand that. It's in the system. But what I find very disturbing is yesterday's editorial of my favorite broadsheet -- Philippine Daily Inquirer. Amidst this latest issue, it said that violence, vandalism and setting of fire inside CCP is understandable. This is the paper that I read each day, trust and adore. This is the same journal that champions the poor, criticizes every corrupt politician of any party affiliation, always seeking truth, always condemning big crooked fishes, always logical, fearless and has sound judgement.

I might not agree with Inquirer's every stand but I always respect their views. Always a source of intelligent and intelligible opinion. But yesterday was a different case.

We might like or not like Mideo's work. It is art, as defined. Not an exact science. Others are calling it a sham. They say Mideo is tarnishing the names of true artists. But who defines what? Who holds the monopoly of truth and standards? If you don't like it, then you don't. If you are offended, then you are. If you don't want to go to this exhibit inside the CCP, then don't. Nobody's forcing us! It's not in EDSA where anybody can see billboards of half-naked men. It's not in the street where all can see our politicians' smiling face declaring that this and that project were initiated and funded by him. "Dito ko ginagastos ang buwis nyo.. Para ikalat ang mukha ko!" "This is where your taxes go -- my face, to show!" 

By all means let's argue to our heart's content! Let's debate, voice our concern and perspectives, be emotional and get mad at some point. Because we are in a country where arguments are symbols of our dynamic democracy. We are not in a theocracy where there is a danger of eternal damnation should we not adhere to the authorities' belief. We are in a democracy where freedom of expression is a fundamental human right!

We can get its drift if the remark came from a run-of-the-mill tabloid or some sensationalist TV news program. Because they badly need it -- the readership and the ratings. And nobody cares! But from a reputable broadsheet to say that it is understandable to be violent, vandal and set fire inside CCP is not only disturbing and illogical. It is wrong!

When I read it yesterday, I wanted to cry. There's a strange feeling inside. It is like the 1st masturbate, or that snap second of pain during circumcision, or the 1st time I saw vagina, or the 1st time I was punched in the face, or the 1st heartache, or the pinatubo ash-fall, or those times that we sleep before dusk and wake up at night.. It's odd.

To say that they lost one reader in me is not only hypocritical and painful, but untrue. Of course, I will still be reading PDI each day. Inquirer for sure will still be informative and my primary news source. But I will always have this lingering thought that what if my last bastion of democracy is starting to succumb to church's whims and is loosing its sound judgement. I can only hope that my all-time favorite and trusted columnist Conrado De Quiros has a different take on this. Because if he too can say that it is okay to be violent and set fire inside a building, I must say this country is doomed!


An update: [4pm aug 9]

In case you haven't read this yet.. CCP or Cultural Censors of the Philippines issued a press statement just minutes ago regarding the issue. Yes, they are closing the exhibit. Just when I thought they have the balls to say no to theocracy. Anyway, here's the statement:

August 9, 2011

Due to numerous emails, text messages and other letters sent to various offficers of the CCP, and to the artists themselves, with an increasing number of threats to persons and property, the members of the Board of the Cultural Center of the Philippines have decided to close down the Main Gallery where the Kulo Exhibit is on display. This decision was made amidst controversy and deliberation by the Board as to what steps are necessary to avoid future similar incidents.

In the light of the foregoing developments and recent experience, the CCP management has reviewed its policies and are now taking steps to enable its officers and staff to make more informed decisions in the future.

The CCP shall continue to act as catalyst for free expression of Filipino artists. It thanks all those who have, in one way or another, contributed to the dialogue about art, and the different ways it affects society today. 


KULO' opened on June 17 at the CCP Main Gallery, a compilation of work by 32 artists, meant to be part of the Center's celebration of the 150th anniversary of Jose Rizal. Because all the participating artists had a common educational background, all having studied at the UST, they felt it fitting that the theme of Jose Rizal also reflect the heritage and culture represented by the 400-year old university.

Each artist participated with one installation. It was curated by J. Pacena II.

In keeping with previous practice to evaluate merits of art works on the basis of established parameters, the CCP Visual Arts Division, headed by Karen Ocampo-Flores, approved the proposal to exhibit on the basis of an evaluation of their proposal as well as the background qualifications of the participating artists.

Publicity on the exhibit only happened after a major network covered it in the news. Particular focus had been put on one specific art work, "Politeismo." By Mideo Cruz. Politeismo has been exhibited since 2002 in such venues as the Ateneo de Manila, UP Vargas Musueum and Kulay Diwa Galleries.

Threats to security became most alarming on Aug. 4 when Security reported that a couple had vandalized the art works and attempted to set fire to the exhibit but had been unsuccessful. Subsequent hate mails and threats to members of the Board intensified following this incident.

Following serious discussion, the Board members agreed on the common objective, to nurture freedom of artistic expression, while recognizing the responsibilities that go with it. 

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