Performance artist and provocateur Carlos Celdran passes away at 46

Carlos Celdran. <i>Photo: Celdran/FB</i>
Carlos Celdran. Photo: Celdran/FB

Controversial performance artist and Manila tour guide Carlos Celdran is dead, his wife Tesa Celdran announced in a Facebook post today. He was 46.

In her post, Tesa wrote, “In loving memory of Carlos P. Celdran, 1972-2019. As the family is making arrangements to bring him home, no details can be announced yet. Only that he passed from natural causes.”

Celdran found fame (and infamy, in some circles) in 2010 when, wearing a black suit and a bowler hat, he staged a protest against the Catholic Church inside the Manila Cathedral over its blocking of the Reproductive Health Bill, which aimed to provide universal access to contraceptives to Filipinos.

An ecumenical mass was being held when Celdran barged in and held up a placard with the word “Damaso” written across it — a reference to the fictional morally corrupt friar in Jose Rizal’s novel Noli Me Tangere.

For his stunt, the Supreme Court convicted him of the crime of “offending religious feelings,” and handed him the maximum sentence of almost 14 months of imprisonment, Rappler reported last year.

However, Celdran managed to evade the big house by moving, in January, to Spain, his father’s homeland. In an interview with The Philippine Daily Inquirer, Celdran said he was not allowed to work legally there for a year, and that he was “mostly living off” his savings and donations from family and friends. However, he would occasionally post on his social media accounts about Rizal-themed tours that he was organizing in different places in Spain.

Celdran is best known for the one-act play Livin’ La Vida Imelda, a presentation of the juiciest tidbits from the life of the former first lady. Prior to his exile in Spain, he also led a Manila tour called Walk This Way, in which he discussed the history of the capital — complete with theatrical music and colorful props

Celdran was also known as a vocal critic of President Rodrigo Duterte and his supporters. In one of his last tweets, in fact, he wished death upon the president, who recently revealed he suffers from myasthenia gravis, an auto-immune disorder.

Tributes to Celdran today poured in on Twitter, where his name is currently trending. Writer Gideon Lasco lauded him as “a friend, artist, and activist who used his creativity and force of personality to promote progressive ideals — from reproductive health to a corruption-free gov’t.”

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