Performance artist and cultural activist Carlos Celdran has passed away, his family confirmed Tuesday. He was 46.
“As the family is making arrangements to bring him home, no details can be announced yet. Only that he passed from natural causes,” his wife Tesa said in a Facebook post.
Celdran, known for his “Damaso” stunt that hit the Catholic Church, was a visual artist, writer, and activist who began his career at 14 as a cartoonist for Business Day. He graduated with a fine arts degree from the Rhode Island School of Design in the United States in 1996.
In September 2010, Celdran, wearing a black suit, staged a protest inside the Manila Cathedral during an ecumenical service attended by Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales, the Papal Nuncio, former Philippine Ambassador to Rome Henrietta De Villa, and leaders of different Christian denominations.
His stunt was directed against the position taken by the Catholic Church against the then Reproductive Health Bill, now passed into law.
Damaso is one of the villains in national hero Dr. Jose Rizal’s novel “Noli Me Tangere,” originally written in Spanish, which speaks of the iniquities of Roman Catholic Church priests and the leadership during Spain’s colonization of the Philippines.
In 2018, the Supreme Court upheld the decision of lower courts convicting Celdran for “offending religious feelings,” a crime punishable under the Revised Penal Code.
Prior to his “Damaso” stunt, Celdran was known for “If These Walls Could Talk”, a performative experience in the guise of a walking tour in Intramuros, Manila which ran for 17 years.
“It is a show that fuses historical narratives, video art, and immersive theater to enlighten viewers about Manila’s history between the 14th century until World War II,” Celdran said in his official website.
A sequel titled “Livin’ La Vida Imelda,” an hour-and-a-half long monologue, was featured in New York, Toronto, Copenhagen, Penang. It, however, was censored at an art fair in Dubai in 2012, where his show was canceled for alleged “un-Islamic” content.
In 2018, Celdran launched Manila Biennale art festival in Intramuros.
Vice President Leni Robredo gave her condolences to Celdran’s family and friends.
“I will always be grateful for his support and appreciative of his contributions to raising the awareness of our fellow Filipinos regarding our history and culture. He will be missed,” she said.