Livin’ La Vida Imelda is back!


The bitch is back! Don’t miss this limited engagement of Carlos Celdran’s 2014 Off-Broadway hit, “Livin’ La Vida Imelda”! Reviewed as “Gleefully gossipy… Mr. Celdran’s charm and showmanship turn it into genuine theater” by Anita Gates of the New York Times, this energetic one man show is a hackademic tour de force of history, humor, high hair and high drama. He’ll gab about all things Filipino from the 1970s; the shoes, the hair, the architecture, and the fascism that was so in fashion at the time.
The show returns home to Pineapple Lab​:
December 7, Thursday at 8:00pm
December 8, Friday at 8:00pm
December 9, Saturday at 8:00pm
December 10, Sunday at 6:00pm
For tickets and reservations/show sales:
Call: +63(2)8345763 (landline)
Php1500.00 regular
Php900.00 for students.
Group discounts available.
Pineapple Lab
6071, R. Palma Street, Barangay Poblacion, 1210 Makati.
We recommend taking UBER, GRAB, or a cab to the venue. So much easier than finding parking anywhere in Makati.
Livin’ La Vida Imelda is brought to you as a fundraiser for the ​first ManilaBiennale:OPENCITY2018 coming to Intramuros in February 2018. #mnlbnl2018 #manilabiennale #opencity #livinlavidaimelda

Iloilo Here I come.

I’m thrilled to be going to Iloilo next month to check things out for myself. Some can just believe what they read online and stay silent, I like to double check things in person and start discussions. I’ll be there the first week of October to check out what the city is really all about. Recommendations for restaurants and places to see are most welcome! Salamat Gid in advance. 🙂 Thank you AGBOI for the photo.


The Filipino is Worth Whatever he Thinks He’s Worth


This was my ride home. The Filipino is worth driving for said James Deakin. That probably goes for motorcycling for, pedicabbing for, kalesa riding for, and swimming through baha for as well. This city is terminally ill. If our roads were arteries, Manila would be in the midst of a stroke as we speak. Each private car a cholesterol molecule with the MMDA acting as an enabler with a plate of lechon. But as I said yesterday, the problem is not the fault of the government anymore. It’s ours. We simply and overwhelmingly choose this situation each and every time. We prefer being the center of the problem. We prefer being driven. Ever since the Tranvias were blown up in WW2, we’ve given up on the idea of a public transport network. We love cars and the ease and individuality associated with it. We love the aircon, we love being dropped from point A to the doorstep of point B, and this goes for all social classes. Even the jeepney panders to their passengers. Right now, I’m on Zombie Apocalypse mode. I’m gonna hitch hike, walk in the rain, or use a motorcycle driver named Mac to take me home from work instead of using a car. Yes I used a helmet. Yes the LTFRB would probably consider this tandem as illegal. But I used a helmet, I don’t give him money for the journey, and I advised him to drive as slow as a lola on a Sunday morning. Let’s work it, fellow Filipinos. What’s your most desperate public transportation moment and what did you do to solve it yourself?


A tour of Escolta and Old Manila.

August 27, 2016 – Sunday – 3:00PM
Meeting point: The El Hogar Building, Muella dela Industria, Binondo, Manila.
Location of El Hogar Building on google maps:

Directions: Follow the google map provided above, bike there, walk there, or take the LRT, cab or Grab. Parking is non existent so be creative.

Cost: Pay what you wish.
Recommended Php1000.00 but I’ll take whatever you can give. Barter the tour with a bunch of bananas if you must.

To reserve:
Please include your cell number in case we cancel because of rain.
Text: 0920 9092021 (Lesley)

Manila needs love right now. As part of the Escolta Block Party – August 26, 2017​ and Artkitektura​ festivities next weekend, I’m bringing back the “Love Parade: Making the Invisible City Visible”, a performance art project I developed with First United Museum and 98BCollaboratory back in 2016.

The Manila mindset lives in malls. The Love Parade project aims to remove that mindset from the mall and return it to the street where it rightfully belongs. By taking a walking tour through Manila’s original high streets like Escolta, Ongpin, and Muella dela Industria by the Pasig River, we will articulate a sense of place for this city. We’ll visit heritage buildings like the Juan Luna Building, First United Building, Calvo Building, and the stunning El Hogar by the Jones Bridge. We’ll check out bakeries, bazaars, take photos, collect souvenirs, and stick tiny little hearts all over this city.

If you wish to do cosplay for this tour, do your own performance project, or just freely express how much you love yourself and your city – please do! The more stuff we try to pull off, the better. Feel free to join me at Fred’s Revolution bar at HUB: Make Lab after the tour to party and chat.

Note: PLEASE save the LOVE Parade photo album below on your cellphone before the tour, this will act as your map and your visual guide.

The LOVE Parade album is here:

Thank you to 98B Collaboratory, First United Building Community Museum,
#98Bcollaboratory #vivamanila #loveparade #holaescolta #EBParty #TheHub #FUBMuseum #OpenCIty2018 #artkitektura

A Reflection In The Dark

One year ago. I was an absolute mess over the change that was coming. I had an online mental meltdown on a level that would make Sinead O’ Connor seem composed in comparison.
For most of 2016, I lashed out at the online world with all my might. I ranted, I raged, I insulted people, unfriended them, and became an aggressive asshole before and after the 2016 elections. Why? It’s because I saw the Philippine state standing on the edge of suicide. I sat ringside as social media morphed from being a platform for the agendas of Arab Spring, marriage equality, and the RH Bill into a stage where polarized, weaponized and poisoned mobs ruled by fake news, fake profiles, and hate. I saw our seas about to be brazenly stolen by China. I saw that the economic efforts of the past administrations (all of them – NOT just Noy) at risk of being replaced by a cloudy agenda that remains cloudy until today.
On a personal level, I saw the administration’s social media machine succeed in tearing apart my beloved family. It’s no secret that most of them decided to vote Duterte, some even secretly. And why not? I ranted in a far maniacal manner online than Digong himself last year. I was irrational, unapproachable, enraged, and an embarrassment to them. I was reflecting the fear, hate, and death threats that they didn’t see on their feed and in their emails so who can blame them for being distant and confused? I was distant and confused too. Sadly though, this situation was exploited by online personalities like Mocha, Sass, and Krizette. My family’s political division was transformed into a merry-go-round of fake news attacks and memes in order to neutralize and humiliate me. And it worked.
But worst of all, I saw that killings were going to come. I knew of the Davao Death Squad from people in Davao and I knew he was going to apply it on a national level. I saw that this drug war would be used as a cover for a darker agenda. I saw that the poor would be the first to be punished in the name of discipline, peace and order. The price they would pay and their rate of death would be high and without compromise. And sadly, since I was the only one online committed to fighting Duterte with all my might, I fought alone and I reaped the rewards: a mental breakdown, a broken family life, and a tarnished name.
Today, we’re now 15,000 EKJs deep, more than 40 in Manlla in the last three days. The peso is Php51.00 to the dollar. Judy and Gina were thrown to the wolves, and China has not only taken our waters but has us hostaged in debt.
And what do I think? I think I’m over it.
Now, don’t think that I’ve turned callous. My politics haven’t changed. I condemn the lack of political will to solve the EKJs, China problem, and lifting of the TRO on contraceptives. I condemn the administration’s toxic social media machine and their jesters. I condemn the culture of death, the lack of a solid economic and social development plan, and the plain and simple incompetence that I see day to day.
But why should I rant? I’ve done that already. One more rant from me would be simply boring if not inutile. I’m moving on to a life online and offline where my skill sets can be best utilized. I stopped posting political rants because I have discovered that my powers for change are most effective in real time and space and not on the web. And I learned it the hard way.
I want to be the change that is needed in this world. I want to be everything that is NOT the ugliness that surrounds me. I believe in art, Intramuros, love, life, human rights, really good red wine and that’s where I’m going to concentrate most my efforts. Be what they are not. Bend. Don’t strike.
And so far, it’s working for me. I salvaged my mental health, I resumed my career and advocacies, and best of all, I have repaired the damage done to my family. They apologized publicly for not defending me and allowing the social media machine to divide us. In return, I apologized for being incommunicative, arrogant, distant, and causing my beloved parents so much pain.
Ironically, politics united my family in the end. The Celdrans have moved on and we are ready to give back to the world in the best way that we can. And if this family unit can move on and get over the horrid times we live in. You all can too.
“The Times we Live In” Multi-media installation, May 2016. Carlos Celdran

The Nude Revisited

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

by Carlos Celdran
September 2003
Bare Magazine (Editor-In-Chief: Lexi Schulze Berenguer Testa)

I grew up around naked women.
Sorry. Nude women. An entire house full of them as a matter of fact.

Nudes Descending Staircase
The home I grew up in was filled with walls of nude women. Nude women in pencil; charcoal; oil; watercolor; pastel. Dozens hung salon style along the staircase of my parents’ home. Among the collection were nudes by artists like Cesar Legaspi, Manansala; H.R. Ocampo; and BenCab. Silently they hung there, forming a greeting line for any guest who entered our home. But in a room away from the public areas was a nude not meant for the visitors eye. It was a portrait of my very own mother, sitting in the buff, executed in oil pastel by the nudie master himself, Vicente Manansala. It was a image that became so familiar to our family, we almost didn’t notice it at all. “It was done in 1973, right after you were born.”, my mother told me. “Mang Enteng wanted to paint me as a portrait of motherhood.” An odd thing to say since she wasn’t pregnant in the scene. But whatever the case may be, it was early on that I realized my family was different from those of my friends simply because of nudes being such a ubiquitous part of our home. It was taken so lightly that there was even a Manansala watercolor with my father’s handwritten words “June 1971. Happy Birthday to my darling wife, Love Mike” scribbled across the models lap. It was a move my father probably regrets, but not too much. It was 1975 after all, and the nude in Manila was at it’s golden age. Skin and the showing of it was really no big deal and the compulsion to do so was apparent.

Bomba Ka Day!
In 1970’s Manila society and media, the move to shed inhibitions as well as clothing was gaining momentum. Perhaps it was a reaction to martial law era repression; a rationalization that since we were not allowed to speak our minds, we would bare our breasts instead. It was a period when the “Bomba” Star (our local and gentler term for “Porno Queen”) reigned at the box office, the popularity of the “Wet Look” (and the wet T-shirt) was at its peak, and Gloria Diaz, former Miss Universe and the embodiment of the ideal Filipina, showed her nipples off to the entire country in a movie that hailed her as Ang Pinakamagandang Hayop sa Balat ng Lupa – loose translation: “The Most Beautiful Animal on the Skin of the Earth”. It was a time when the micro-mini was all the rage and prim colegialas wore their Catholic School skirts hemmed so high that it established “making boso” or “sneaking peeks at panties” as the schoolboy pastime of choice. On the other side of the spectrum and in a different part of town, the honky-tonk bars of downtown Manila also reached a belle epoch. The daring Ermita Girl and her deft abilities with ping-pong balls and beer bottles (ask around for this one), confirmed Manila as the standard by which other third world red-light districts would measure their own strip joints.

The Mood for Nudes
Yes, the sexualization of Philippine society was on and it was shifting to high gear. At the fore was the relationship between the flourishing Philippine art scene and the Manila based culturati class. All pumped up on the steroids of Imelda’s state sponsorship, together they set the mood for the nude in mid-1970’s painting and sculpture.

In the years preceding World War II, the arts were dominated by the philosophy of a group of self-proclaimed “conservatives”, found in the likes of sculptor Guillermo Tolentino, painter Fernando Amorsolo et al. Their portrayals of the naked human form was in strict keeping with western (read: Greek) ideals of formal classical beauty. From the time of Juan Luna (late 19th century) until the era of Vittorio Edades (mid 20th century), the exposed human body in art was a firmly analytical-slash-metaphorical enterprise. It was used either as a subject of academic study or as a mere instrument to express a larger idea. The nude, in all it’s copied western proportions, was usually depicted as an allegory for life, death, agriculture, terpitude, or what have you – or merely plopped down like a lawn ornament amidst a bucolic Philippine landscape.

But thanks to a group called the “modernists” (painters Vittorio Edades, Vicente Manansala, et al) whose experimental forms rebelled against the conventions of the preceding “conservatives”, the nude had expanded it range. By the 1970’s, with the establishment of the sexual revolution and the Marcos martial law culture machine, the nude was eventually stripped of all of its preconceived notions and given the opportunity to run naked. Some artists approached the nude purely as a subject, an icon to manipulate as freely as a can of soup. Others saw it as a pure art. An investigation of basic forms from which to draw out further inspiration. Sketching the body became an almost religious act. An exercise in the foundations of art. Definitely a logical place to start for a country obsessed in establishing it’s own cultural identity.

Naked Lunch

Naturally, Manila’s alta sociedad, spurred on by the validations of the cultural community, was quick to get in on the act. Sessions for sketching nude models (which usually had a young proportionally pleasing woman as the centerpiece, never men) were all the rage. It became as common as the lunchtime fashion show and was held in eclectic places like the Taza the Oro coffee shop, and the Rustan’s Department Store (at their Galerie Bleu). The art of the nude had somehow elevated itself to a social event. Many prominent figures showed their support by hosting sessions in their very own residences, yachts, or business establishments. “Yes, I hosted the Saturday Group in my Greenhills residence,” quipped former Miss Philippines Myrna Borromeo. The Saturday Group, of course, being the most famous of these naked luncheoners, counting painters Cesar Legaspi, HR Ocampo, Manuel Rodriguez Sr, and Alfredo Roces as members. “I had an appreciation for the arts”, she finalized, “even though I wasn’t really into the nude.”

On the flip side of all this happy nakedness, the trend seemed to have had a backlash. It created a lot of mediocre copycat groups which produced works that were unspectacular to say the least. Held as often as once a week, the titillation of these bare events soon wore out their audiences and Manila’s famously fickle patronage class moved on to the next big bright and shiny thing.

The Matron as Model for Manansala
Naturally, alongside the rise of the nude art form was the act of nude modeling itself. Both had found acceptance by the blue haired crowd with some of them even willing to shed it all themselves. The artist of choice for many a Manila matron was definitely National Artist Vicente Manansala. It was the combination of his affable character, propriety, and impeccable use of line and space which drew ladies all the way to his studio in SanFrancisco del Monte (then Binangonan) just to pose. In the early 70’s, it was Chona Recto Kasten, daughter of Nationalist Senator Claro M. Recto and Lucy Cruz, wife of the late Ambassador to the Court of St. James JV Cruz, who pioneered nude modeling as a fashionable activity. Although Mang Enteng and his wife Aling Hilda, maintained a friendly relationship with many models of this period, he was especially intimate with Mrs. Lucy Cruz, the Ambassor, and their family. Altogether they would fulfill the roles of model, patron, and talent scout for Mang Enteng. “On and off for many years, I would drive my friends to model for him right after a night of partying” says her son, Louie. “I had to because his studio was very hard to find.” Ironically, Mang Enteng was just getting up to start his day as they were wrapping up theirs. “Most of the time, they would just fall asleep on a bean bag in his studio as he sketched them.” It was a perfect relationship that only the 70’s could create.

The Declining Nude
By the mid-1980’s, with the departure of the Marcoses and the death of Manansala, the decline of the nude sketch as a society collectible was evident. Tastes were changing all around and the immediacy of photography was being opted over the allure of a charcoal drawing. “Yeah, I posed in the nude, everyone was doing it. But I was also one of the few with the guts to actually exhibit it.” says Evelyn Lim-Forbes, social activist and Tai-Ping Rugs heiress. “But I was of a different generation, this was the early 80’s, these were photographs.” Out went the long sittings for a sketch as the works of photographers Jaime Zobel de Ayala, Wig Tysmans, Neal Oshima, and Butch Baluyot became the names of choice when it can to preserving ones posterior for posterity.

The End of an Era
Its now the year 2003, and an odd mix of neo-conservatism and commercialized sexuality has now taken over the land. Gone is the Bomba Star of yore and in her place, we are given the “Prosti” appeal of Aubrey Miles and the pedophilic fantasies of Maui Taylor. The school skirt hem has fallen to an all time low; the honky tonks have long since moved to more shopping mall-like environments by EDSA; and the nude portrait of the society matron has become practically extinct as a whole. The nude figure itself, although still edgy in the works of painters like Kiko Escora and Jojo Legaspi, has finally been crowded out by the larger voices of abstraction and alternative media. Only three years past the millennium and the nude has become just one subject among many battling for the patron’s peso. And just like the portrait of my mother – which is now stashed away in a closet – the nude movement, despite all it’s freshness and idealism, has become just another icon to be stored with the rest of one’s memories from the 1970’s.