#30DayWritingChallenge: The weirdest thing about my family.

Day Fourteen: The weirdest thing about my family.

I can probably count in one hand the number of times our family went to church. The last one was maybe three years ago, during my sister’s wedding.

My father could not care less about religion. He is as nominal as nominal a Catholic can be without calling himself atheist. I doubt he understands the term; but even if he did, he probably think it’s too much of a bother.

My mother has always felt guilty about not going to church. Every Sunday morning, she will turn on the TV for a televised mass. She hardly watches it, but the sound from the television is probably enough to keep her satisfied enough about her Catholic obligations.

TV mass is really targeted to those who are too old or too sick to go to a church. My mother is neither of these. She is just shy about dressing up and going out in public.

So it was the kids who had to make up for the religious lapses of the parents.

I went to a Catholic school in high school and was even active in some church organizations. It was mostly for show, in hindsight, although I believed it (mostly) at that time. Church work means attending a mass and going to org meetings, leading prayers, and learning Cathechism. The latter appealed to the geek in me.

I stopped going to church around college, and like someone who has not eaten bacon in three months and realized that it was possible to not miss bacon, I realize that I won’t be smote for being a bad Catholic. Besides, I masturbated every day. Surely, I should have been punished sooner than that?

My siblings all went to a public school and so they were not pressured to exercise religious fervor the way I did. My oldest sister, as far as I know, remained religious. This is inspite (or maybe because) of living in the Middle East for the last few years.

My middle sister joined me and my oldest sister in church when we were younger, but by the time the youngest siblings were old enough to go to church with us, we already stopped going to church.

Family portrait, Maia's wedding.

Looking back at what I wrote so far, this isn’t particularly weird for an average Filipino family. The weirdest thing about our family is probably the fact that it isn’t.

The weirdest thing about our family is that how I am in it.

Imelda pwns Pnoy, and Jesus with a penis.

It seems Imelda could do something Pnoy couldn’t: shut down a “blasphemous” exhibit at the CCP:

Meet our new Philippine President: Her Excellency, Madame Imelda Marcos
By Raïssa Robles

When Imelda Marcos went to the Cultural Center of the Philippines and asked it to shut down an art exhibit, it promptly did.

When presidential spokesman Ed Lacierda was asked what the Office of the President intended to do with the same art exhibit, he washed President Benigno Aquino’s hands for him and said: “I think we should not be involved in a matter that is purely a decision made by CCP and this is about art.”

Whether the President likes it or not, he is involved because the CCP is directly under him. That’s what the CCP website says.

But this is just in. According to radio station DZMM, President Aquino has reacted negatively to the exhibit. He said it was insulting and that freedom is not absolute.

PNoy said this after Imelda Marcos had stepped in and wielded presidential power for him. I don’t know if he ordered the exhibit to be closed as well. In any case, Imelda Marcos beat him to it.

It’s an amusing incident, and the quoted Imelda Marcos soundbite was classic Imelda:

After seeing the exhibit I was really shocked because it was not only ugly, it was not true, it was not at all beautiful because there were statues and pictures of saints and Christ with horns and with his penis up and it was really a desecration of a spiritual symbol for Catholics.

But I agree with Raïssa Robles’ concern about how CCP seems to take Imelda Marcos’ opinion on what art is to be the standard to judge the merit of an artwork.

I’ve heard about the controversial CCP exhibit (titled “Kulo”, with Mideo Cruz’ “Poleteismo” as the piece causing so much furor) the round-about way: colleagues talking about how they heard it in the news, with me not really bother to see it myself. The typical reaction people have is outrage and indignation over the apparent “blasphemous” treatment of religious symbols.

One time, my manager greeted me on the floor and asked me if I hear about it. I shrugged in agreement. She said something like how it was offensive, implying that the work went beyond what is covered by artistic license.

I couldn’t agree with my manager, though. Art as a form of expression is not meant only to please its observer. Nor does it require to follow consensus or approval. It might be truer to say that art is meant to elicit reaction; whether it is a positive or negative reaction is beside the point.

That is not to say that we should abandon notions of good or bad art. Everyone is free to criticize the merits of an artwork, such as on the basis of technique or context or relevance. But that also means everyone should be given the right to view an artwork should they wish to.

The removal of the CCP exhibit purely because it offends some people’s religious sensibilities was censorship. This country has always believed censorship to a way to protect the minds of its people against corrupting influence.

Raïssa Robles went on to point out how reactions from various personalities over that exhibit was a display of religious fundamentalism. And I could see her point. I may not use that word myself since I think the reaction was a knee-jerk protectiveness over what we think is our religious pride (how ironic), but it might as well be the same thing.

It’s the same way we Filipinos violently react over some foreigner making an apparently racist remark against us while ignoring the casual racism we ourselves practice. We really are a country of narrow-minded jerks sometimes.

I’ve now seen photos of the “Poleteismo” online. Really, I’ve seen worse.

More links from the Interwebs:
Meet our new Philippine President: Her Excellency, Madame Imelda Marcos
Official CCP Statement on Closure of ‘Kulo’ Art Exhibit
Mideo Cruz’ “Poleteismo”: When Art is Condemned

The middle-aged woman who sat next to me in the jeep.

This morning, the woman next to me in the jeep looked like a church lay worker: Long hair in a simple pony tail, plain blouse and skirt, neat in an almost severe way. Even her voice, when she hailed the driver to stop, sounded deferential, well-meaning and pious.

I could think of several religious stereotypes and begun applying them to her. And then I thought that was really mean of me. She seemed genuinely nice, if perpetually anxious. Like God still does not approve of her simple life, no matter how much self-denial she did (which would never be enough).

I don’t know her. Could I even see the world from her perspective? Does she even allow herself that bit of pride to think she has a perspective? Even when I was religious, I was not too religious. It was always partly for show; mostly, it was a show for myself. I wonder what a truly religious person’s inner life is like.

Happily never after.

In a few hours, I’ll be attending the wedding of a co-worker in Dasmariñas. With my usual approach to these events, it took me some time to decide on what gift I should be giving to the couple and what outfit I will be wearing when I attend the ceremony.

I thought it’s also fitting to write about another wedding mentioned in the news in the last few days.

Last week, several same-sex couples exchanged wedding vows in Baguio in a mass wedding officiated by the Metropolitan Community Church of Metro Baguio. Same-sex marriage is not legal in the Philippines. The wedding is a ceremony celebrating the couple’s love for each other, and is not presented as a legally-recognized union.

I find ceremonies like these sweet. I applaud the Metropolitan Community Church’s efforts to provide same-sex couples the chance to experience a public celebration of love and commitment that is otherwise reserved only for heterosexual couples in this country.

While the cynical part of me thinks “what’s the point, though?” when I consider the fact that these couple will not get the same privileges of legally wed couples, the more optimistic part of me thinks that seeing same-sex couples getting married will show Filipinos that same-sex weddings aren’t at all different from “normal” heterosexual weddings.

Predictably, the negative reactions to the mass wedding came a few days later. The unsurprising reaction from the Catholic Church condemned the event as an “anomaly“. The local social media was abuzz with talk after Bishop Ted Bacani was quoted to describe the weddings as “kadiri” (disgusting):

Bishop Bacani

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) earlier tagged the weddings as an insult to the Roman Catholic Church.

Bacani described the weddings as, “Napangitan ako talaga, kadiri, para tayong gaya gaya puto maya. Laban ito sa salita ng Diyos.”

Bacani added that people who would be invited to future same sex marriages should not attend.

“Dapat i-boycott iyan at hindi na dapat magpunta ang mga iimbitahan. It is not right for people to participate, against moral grounds,” he said.

It’s disappointing to hear a popular Church leader give out statements so lacking in tact and gravity. It is expected that the good Bishop will be against the ceremony, but his choice of words does not befit his supposedly respectable position.

Rev. Ceejay Agbayani of the MCC gave a succinct comeback to Bacani: “Walang kadiri sa pagmamahal.

That was a wonderful reply that could be used as a slogan in the demand for the equal rites of the LGBT community.

Some time later, the local clergy was set with a different controversy after it was revealed how several bishops and a priest were given luxury sports utility vehicles by the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office.

Talk about irony. If God exists, He has a really wickedly vindictive sense of humor. To quote Alec Mapa: God must be gay.

While the Church reaction was totally expected (if a bit colorful, thanks to the good bishop), the reaction from the Baguio city council was disheartening:

The city council will investigate the wedding ceremony on Monday and identify those who took part in it, according to Councilor Richard Cariño.

The results of the probe will determine if those who got married will be declared persona non grata, he added.

“Ang basis natin para gawing persona non grata ang isang tao ay kung may nilabag silang batas, sagabal sila, kontra sa prinsipyo at ordinansa at oppressive ang kanilang ginawa o ginagawa sa paningin ng mga tao,” Cariño said. “Kaya we have to investigate kung yung ginawang pagpapakasal ay oppressive sa community ng Baguio.”

Richard Cariño obviously isn’t thinking beyond his narrow, conservative box.

He shouldn’t put a stop to same-sex weddings in Baguio; he should encourage it. Think of the benefits to tourism: they could promote Baguio as an ideal destination for LGBT tourists (as if it isn’t already) because it is a city of tolerant and open-minded people.

While I will leave it to lawyers to decide if the wedding was against the law (MCC does not make claims that the same-sex weddings they perform in the country is legally recognized), I don’t see how the wedding was contrary to the public good or is oppressive to anyone in Baguio. It seemed like a solemn and happy occasion to all those who attended.

My mother had already mentioned in passing how she expects me to settle down soon, and some of the neighbors from my old neighborhood assumed that I’ve already married and moved somewhere else.

Of course, in many ways, I am settled down. And I kind of see myself as already married (happily) to someone, even though I suspect I’m not the marrying type. It’s merely trivial how that other person is also a guy.