The following is a note on the forum entitled Dakdakan: Kulo, which was held last August 5 at the Cultural Center of the Philippines’ Main Gallery regarding the controversy surrounding Mideo Cruz’s artwork. It was written by the CCP’s Visual Arts Officer-in-Charge Karen Ocampo Flores, who has permitted us to publish it on the site.
Maraming salamat. I’m certain there were true believers there who simply came to express their reactions. This forum was formed to hear you out.
Maraming salamat, artists, students and other supporters. Your presence helped achieve balance.
Kaso, SIMBAHAN PALA ITO! It wasn’t about art. It wasn’t about religion. It was really about politics.
We expected devotees coming in with their grievances. But this group was something else. They came ready, they were organized (clapping cues included) and they are well-honed bullies.
I agreed with Precious Leano, our moderator, that to prevent tensions, she will regulate the forum by allowing only one-way talks by each speaker. The rule was: no responses, no debates, no profanities.
Even with that, we were surprised by the first burst of rudeness. We were in effect told to shut up as we opened the forum with slides about “Kulo” and some points on the VA policies for exhibit proposals. We shouldn’t make them wait. Did I say, “Ayaw nyo ba ng forum?” They were eager beaver for it. “This is about that work, anyway” one began impatiently, pointing to “Poleteismo.”
Thus the Mideo-bashing and all the horrors and sins of the work in question began. They had their statements in print (same things they’ve been giving out in media). And they were performing to the cameras. Fire, brimstone, ice, meron ding boses na matubig, na malumanay. They worked with every ingredient laced with intimidation.
Good thing, I could hardly speak anymore (dry mouth and sore throat had set in). Good thing, Precious was an assertive moderator. It was so hard to follow the rules.
But some people seemed to be very used to these people’s (because they keep calling us ‘you people’) antics. Thank you for coming, Filipino Freethinkers, you helped meet the first barrage. Thank you, Concerned Artists of the Philippines for reading your statement of support.
So why did this forum turn into a tacit skirmish? Because it was for them a takeover. They ARE really telling us what to do. It’s not a debate about art, it’s not a debate about religion: it’s about imposing their power on the CCP. Mandates on art and culture, easy enough to subject to their virtuous interpretations, then yup, dig up an old 70s law. Same with VA policies replete with niceties– oh yes, so bad of us not to be so nice to 85% majority. There, may the fear of prision mayor or the ombudsman be with you for risking the rights and welfare of the dominant religion. CCP is fair game for their strategies to frame the RH stance within this great drama about art attacking religion.
We have seen riskier art with religious images at the CCP and other galleries; people complained, but never at a scale such as this. Why? Because back then only the artist gains from the attention.
Now they have a big stake once they establish that the CCP as a government institution made a mistake in the same way that RH should be a big mistake. So that’s why we keep getting that from out of the blue; that’s why they keep insisting that we’re doing RH even if it was an exhibit that identifies with Rizal’s conflicts with the UST. If we were presenting RH, we would say so.
Hence the ultimatum was not simply to stop the exhibit. They kept repeating the need for amends, for apology; that we should admit we made a mistake. They didn’t need that from Mideo. They want it from CCP. And good old CBCP need not even make a statement. It simply had to take the artist’s hand gently and ask him: why?
Am I offending a religion? Oh, I was simply reflecting on a forum.