Meet a Freethinker: Yllang Montenegro

No two freethinkers are exactly alike; a group of freethinkers contains a great diversity of perspectives, so there is no one, official perspective shared among all of them. This makes the freethought community a truly vibrant source of ideas and opinions!

In this light, Meet a Freethinker is our series featuring freethinkers of all backgrounds and perspectives. We want to introduce you guys to the people who make up the proverbial melting pot of this growing movement.

Our next freethinker is Yllang Montenegro. She has been working with Filipino Freethinkers and the Philippine Safe Abortion Advocacy Network on the Telling Truer Stories campaign and the Pasya Music Album.

  1. Can you briefly introduce yourself (one short paragraph/bio)?

I am Cecille Pauline S. Montenegro but I love to be called Yllang. 

Yllang is a nickname given by my grandfather, I really don’t know why did he give me that name, but I love it.
I am a migrant worker and independent artist, most of my friends said that I am a feminist because it reflects on my works, so I embraced it.

  1. How would you define a freethinker?

open-minded, liberated

  1. What belief system do you subscribe to?

I think I believe in spirituality but not religion. I believe that living things and nature are connected and it has power.

  1. What’s your freethinker story?

My mother was a protestant and my father was a catholic then converted to Islam then now he is part of Dating daan religion.

I was raised in the conservative system influenced by my grandparents from my mother’s side of the family. I can’t forget the Sunday school, DVBS at even joined the church choir. Then from being a protestant baptist the church itself changed to born again, so from singing hymnals to rock and roll praise and worship. Yes, I am still part of the band, which influenced my interest in guitar playing and singing.

On the other side of myself, I always think about creating my own band, so after church, I go out with my other group (the rock band that is not connected to the church) from singing hallelujah to Pinoy alternative rock like Wolf gang’s Halik ni Hudas, Yano’s banal na aso, santong kabayo and my favorite Ska band Put3ska.

Going to church didn’t last long because I fall in love with music not praise the lord songs but the Pinoy alternative rock. I remember I was also writing songs at that time, then my uncle who is the pastor in the church told me that I am a backslider.

They said that I am part of the satanist group because I always wear a black shirt and ripped jeans with tattoos. I hated them for judging me, I came to the point that I don’t want to be connected with them anymore. I really didn’t understand why they hated me for expressing myself. 

Since then I knew that religion is not my thing, I thought that religion was not the basis of life, although I do respect people for whatever they believe in.

  1. What was the funniest or most interesting reaction you got from a person after you told them that you were a freethinker/atheist/non-religious?

It was from a talk, I was invited to talk about my life experience as a migrant worker. There was this professor who asked me about my religion.

So I told him that I don’t have a religion, but I believe in humanity, nature, and the power of art.

He shrugs his shoulder as if he doesn’t believe me, he said that unlike in Japan, if you say you don’t believe in anything you don’t go to church, he assumes that I go to church, so I told him that, he is right, yes. I do go to church sometimes, but not as a place for my spirituality, I go there to look for art inspiration, it’s like a free museum for me.

I think that people from other countries think that because the Philippines was and still colonized they think that many of us are still Roman Catholics.

  1. How did you get to know Filipino Freethinkers?

I met FF. from PINSAN exhibit since then I became connected with Kristine.

  1. What are some of your initiatives in the realm of human rights or the betterment of society?

I am an artist, so basically my life is all about art-making. I think this is an innate resource that I can share with others.

I use art to empower others, to promote awareness and change in the issues that I believe in.

Personally, I use the art in any form for my own spirituality, because what is art anyway? it was and is always a question,  I think the definition depends on the artists and it cannot be explained in words but can be felt.

There you go, I think that is how I define art. haha!

  1. Is there anything people can do to help these initiatives?

Collaborations and collective work.

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