Packing up and Processing the Memories of the Manila Biennale 2018


The journey to the first ever biennale for our capital and country was insane, that is no secret. Some say the best part of the whole project is that it was actually done at all. Conceptualized only in March 2017, it was perceived as an impossible effort – a plan destined to fail in a notoriously chaotic place like the Philippines.

People called me crazy for taking this on – they really did – myself included. After all, “BIENNALE” can be such a wieldy word. It’s loaded with more than a century of cultural baggage, comparisons, and expectations. From the original Venetian exposition in 1895, the biennale has been reincarnated in many forms by the cities of Jakarta, Istanbul, Sydney, Berlin – or any other country seeking validation by the international arts and culturati machine. “Biennale” has become a term so intimidating that even if there’s been plans of producing one since the 1970’s, no one in the Philippines has ever dared to do so until now.

But trust me, this biennale wasn’t a miracle nor an accident. It wasn’t achieved through the resources of the powerful and the political. This biennale was acheived though a system that we all learned in elementary school science classes: the process of trial and error. It’s a difficult way to learn a lesson that is true, but it really is the most effective one for an artist like me who can only learn the hard way. Instead of studying templates done by biennales past, I decided to barrel forward using intuition and pure elbow grease. I used my gut feelings regarding Intramuros and my fellow Filipino artists as my basis and used practicum and application from day one. I also kept all comparisons to foreign biennales to a minimum. Truth be told, I’ve only been to two art biennales in my life and only within the past year. I’m not a wealthy man nor a connected one in the art world. I visited the Venice Biennale just last August 2017 to experience it’s context and I visited the Jakarta Biennale in November to understand how a biennale can be managed within a southeast Asian milieu. I’m a total biennale social climber.

Through this method, I learned a lot about local and international art systems, it’s intricacies and pretentions but I also learned a lot about myself. Forget grad school, produce a biennale on your own. It’s cheaper and you will learn all you need to know about artist management, human resource management, financial management, time management, and anger management. Along the way I met some great people and some terrible people. I lost the love and friendships of a few but found new souls that I would trust with my life and my dogs. There were heroes, there were kontrabidas, there were jesters and sages. Through this system, I was able to identify my mistakesn and recognise my surprise successes. I know now who to work with, I know now where to find support, and most importantly, I know now where I went wrong and how to never ever do the same mistake again.

Seriously, who would be insane enough to buy the word biennale and think it could be pulled off in 8 months? An artist like me and all the others who worked with the Manila Biennale in both curatorship and production. Don’t forget that it’s the artists who are the dreamers. It’s the artist who takes the risk of even being an artist for those who cannot. We record the times as much as we set the tone. The Manila Biennale was an artist run affair, a communal experiment in site-specific performance art/interventions where we all worked with what we had, with who was sitting right in front of us, and using whatever resources were made available at an arm’s reach. The creativity and focus of the Filipino artist is our nation at its best. Don’t forget that and don’t try to ever doubt it.

And that is all I guess. It’s time to put the logo away and reclaim my life again.

Stay posted for more information on Intramuros tours, art residencies, our performance art festival OPENCITY in 2019, and plans for the Manila Biennale 2020.

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