The Artist Abroad

The Strange Case of Citizen Celdran, Part II

/ 11:55 PM August 16, 2019

“Offender of religious feelings” Carlos Celdran. CHANGE.ORG

NEW YORK—Carlos Celdran may be the only man to be convicted of what may only be very loosely described as blasphemy in Manila, an ironic example of the late historian Renato Constantino’s apt phrase, the “continuing past.” Here is the second part of my online interview with Celdran, edited for clarity:

  • How do you support yourself in Madrid? What activities are you engaged in?

 

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I can’t work legally for a year. I am selling my drawings and old artwork, selling off stuff I have at home but mostly living off the last bits of personal savings and the kindness of my family, friends and strangers.  I’m especially lucky to have friends like Genny who crowdsourced out of her own volition.

The departure was rather abrupt so I am totally not liquid right now. I do acknowledge that I am more privileged than other Filipinos, so I really can’t complain. Others aren’t as lucky to land on their feet in such circumstances.

Right now, aside from the daily grind of keeping myself alive, bathed, fed and out of trouble, I’m learning Spanish, making new friends, applying for grants, tracing a walking tour and researching about the life of Jose Rizal in Madrid, revisiting and revising the “Livin’ La Vida Imelda” and “Intramuros Walk This Way” scripts for the nth time, and getting back to doing visual art. I was lucky to have a couple of speaking engagements in Germany last June and finally, I’m finalizing plans to perform “Livin’ La Vida Imelda” in Madrid, Berlin and Hamburg before the end of the year.

I start doing the Rizal walks again in September after this infernal summer ends. Frankly there isn’t much writings on his time here available in print. Most stuff I just research online or have friends send me excerpts from books. Sounds like a lot, but I do have a bit of too much spare time sadly.

Carlos Celdran is in exile in Spain. GOFUNDME

  • There’s a substantial amount of irony in your legal case.

 

The irony that an antiquated Spanish law somehow sent me to exile in Spain? It’s just part of the delicious absurdity of being Filipino. Philippine history is so surreal, it practically writes itself sometimes.

  • Here is Carlos’s diary entry, dated January 6, 2019:

 

Now I can finally talk about what just happened. It was a crazy weekend to say the least. You see, just last Thursday (January 3), the Supreme Court of the Philippines ONCE again sent my lawyer another decision upholding my sentence of one year one month and one day in jail for “offending religious feelings.” They ignored our request for oral arguments about the constitutionality of Article 133. This struck panic in me and in the people around me for the following reasons.

A.The speed of the decision: The fact that we filed the last appeal only in August – and the letter sent indicated that they made another decision only a couple months later in November was alarming to say the least. For the Philippine courts, this move was practically done at lightning speed.

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  1. The figures behind the decision: It’s no secret that the current Philippine Supreme Court is completely fragile as we speak. The former chief justice has been removed by her peers. The assembly isn’t in order at all. So it’s really curious to know WHO really is doing these quick decisions? The justices? The clerks below them? It’s really a point to wonder.
  1. The timing of the decision: Despite the fact that the ruling was made in November (way before I announced I was leaving the Philippines), the letter was sent to my lawyer’s office only on December 21 – right before the Christmas break. A week or so later, my lawyer received the letter on January 3 and since I’m only given two weeks to make an appeal again – the deadline fell the next day on January 4 – a sneaky move perhaps for me to miss the appeal deadline.

Now who wouldn’t panic given these considerations? This is a totally crazy country we are living in right now where wrong is right and where it is better to be in the majority than in the right. Who would want to take the risk of hanging around long enough to see if the appeal would be accepted? I am an outspoken critic of this damned administration and freedoms are being curtailed on all fronts. They got Leila, they’re trying to get Trillanes, Leni and Ressa. If an arrest warrant would be issued and I am ultimately taken into

custody, what chance does a freaking small fry like me have in Manila City Jail? A sentence of one year may be twisted into two, four, or who knows? Dutertopia is real.

So it was decided at midnight on January 3 that I take the first flight out of Manila in the morning to wait out the deadline and see what would happen. I literally had my clothes on my back and bag of random things that I put together just so I could get to the airport by 3 a.m. Plans were made for me to stay in a third country until I had to leave for Spain.

But much after much meditation and a plea out into the universe, I was informed today, Sunday, that my lawyer was able to lodge the appeal AGAIN and on time and I am in the clear for now. He assured me that the appeal will hold tight and there will be no hold order at all and no movement on my case until I depart for Spain as originally scheduled. I am free to come home to say my goodbyes properly and see my wife, my family, my dogs, my friends, finish my shows and pack my clothes properly. I will arrive back in Manila at the end of the week.

I will move to Spain on January 22.

Copyright L.H. Francia 2019

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TAGS: blasphemy, Carlos Celdran, exile, offending religious feelings
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