Arts and Culture

INKCANTO | Damaso and other outrageous acts of love

It’s the love month so why not get our groove early on for Valentine’s Day?  Filipinos are suckers for love, really. Just look at what sort of Filipino movies become blockbusters:  nearly every single one is a fluffy, feather, romantic heart-tickler (for those vulnerable to said metaphoric cardiac stimulation) featuring gorgeous actors playing characters who get into all sorts of trouble, simply because their common sense has been irredeemably and hopelessly impaired, if not rendered comatose, by love.

(Here’s a great title for a pseudo-intellectual rom-com flick for avant-garde-ists on rehab from high-concept art: “Common Sense in a Coma: A Modern Pop Romance”)

Even some of the most outrageous acts of recent trend on the Internet and other mass media may be blamed, ultimately, on love—at some level, okay, at some level.


Inkcanto believes that Carlos Celdran should have waved this sign, instead of “Damaso,” at the bishops. Image sourced from Facebook.

Cultural activist Carlos Celdran costumed himself as our National Hero Jose Rizal—complete with bowler hat (like Lena Olin in Unbearable Lightness of Being but minus the gorgeous, dangerous nakedness that will forever ruin the marriage of the characters of Daniel Day-Lewis and Juliet Binoche)—went inside the Manila Cathedral and…you know the rest of the Damaso Caper.

Celdran did what he did out of love. Love for the welfare of the Filipina women who would benefit from the RH Bill. But wait! The bishops were angry at Celdran out of their love for the Mother Church. That love for the Mother Church, and the rest of us Catholics, is also driving the bishops to keep on fighting the RH Law. So what we have here is a clash of loves. What happens when loves clash?

That happens all the time, you know, for example, when a husband falls in love with another woman—coincidentally, a new trend in Filipino blockbuster romantic dramas, complete with tiring and forced witticisms that could only come not from the character mouthing it, but from the scriptwriter referencing “The Gay Manual of Hopefully Witty Lines for Movies Meant to Make Money—A Book that Gays Themselves Rejected but Scriptwriters Still Use Anyway”.


The song “When Love and Love Collide” would have been the greatest rock song of all time in the whole world... unfortunately, Def Leppard changed the second “Love” to “Hate” so only the British liked it—and the Pinoys, too, so it’s okay. (Image source:

When a clash of loves occurs, the law offers a solution. Maybe. The wife can sue her husband and his mistress for adultery. The mistress, if physically violated by the wife, may sue the wife for battery.
The husband, in turn, should sue the wife and the mistress for emotional and psychological damage from the stress of having to make excuses-appease-avoid-fend off both women, just so he could resume his formerly happy life, when he enjoyed the love of both while deceiving one and treating the other like a sex object.

So, Celdran got sued for violating Article 133 of the Revised Penal Code, the law against “Offending the religious feelings”. Sued by whom? We don’t know. The bishops deny suing Celdran, who may now go to jail after being accused by no one and for committing no crime.

Yes, Inkcanto believes that Celdran did disrespect—and he did it hardcore—the bishops and the Church. The question is: does he deserve to be punished with imprisonment?

My view on it is very similar to my perspective on libel. Both laws may be allowed to exist but ought to be decriminalized. Make them carry civil liabilities.

Do you think you should be jailed for a year for offending religious feelings? Wow. You can be jailed for hurting people’s feelings. Seriously? Are other people’s feelings so precious that—even though you did not rob, kidnap, assault, or kill anybody—your freedom should be taken from you if those feelings are not made to feel a good feeling?

“Offending the faithful” is also too broad a requirement. Practically anything can offend the faithful. What about the offenses committed by religious leaders against their faithful? Bishops who say stupid, uncharitable, un-Christian, illogical things offend the faithful. Muslim religious leaders who support terrorism offend the faithful. Priests and pastors that engage in pedophilia and abuse women offend the faithful. So do we sue them based on Article 133?

If Celdran deserves to go to jail then so does every single teacher who taught Rizal’s novels to students. Why? That’s because the Rizal novels are where the supposedly offending “Damaso” reference comes from. Okay, so we passed the Rizal Law back in 1956, which mandates that we teach the Life of Rizal and his novels to high school and college students—with the full versions to be taught at the collegiate level only—but this did not repeal Article 133.

So now we have the curious situation where Rizal Course teachers in high schools and colleges are legally compelled to teach Rizal’s Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo, novels that say offensive things about the Catholic clergy and rudely criticize Catholic teachings as well… but if enough “faithful” find this offensive, they can send these teachers to jail!

This may not be a totally bad thing, considering that students hardly pay attention to Rizal classes. Prisoners, at least, may find that Rizal’s novels–about a people abused and shackled by an unjust society that sends poor criminals to jail while the rich criminals go free–strike a poignant chord in their hardened hearts. Rizal teachers convicted under Article 133 will finally have students that care about what they teach.

Interestingly, the whole conflict at the center of Rizal’s Noli is borne out of love. Crisostomo Ibarra is totally in love with Maria Clara. Maria Clara loves him absolutely. But wait, their love is being sabotaged by the friar Padre Damaso.

Padre Damaso, of course, secretly loves Maria Clara, too—because, oh my God, she’s his daughter through an adulterous relationship with her mom, Doña Pia Alba. Damaso disapproves of Ibarra because the young man is a heretic and the son of a heretic—so much worse than an adulterous religious leader under a vow of celibacy.

In short, Noli Me Tangere was, in fact, material for a potential blockbuster Pinoy romantic drama. We’ve never moved on from that! Never! If Mother Lily or Star Cinema were around during Rizal’s time, they would have had Rizal sign over the novel’s rights to them, maybe even right before he was executed. Instead of hiding his poem, “Mi Ultimo Adios” (My Last Farewell) inside the gas lamp he gave to his sister—thereby allowing its publication after his death—he would have hidden a movie contract. “Sis, itago mo. Datung yan,” he would have whispered to her.

This brings me to Padre Salvi, another Spanish friar in the novel. Padre Salvi is thin, elongated, and very, very creepy. He’s in love with Maria Clara but not in a paternal way. He hides behind a tree, watching her splashing in the river, during a bathing session with her friends.

(Why don’t female office workers have bathing sessions anymore—or maybe they do, I dunno. Maybe that only happens during Team Building to improve productivity.)

In his hiding place, Salvi sees Maria Clara, body wrapped in cloth but with legs (from the knees down), arms, and neck exposed. He sees her bare feet. At the sight, Salvi sweats profusely while “arousing in his poor person strange feelings and evoking new fantasies in his feverish conscience” (Translated into English from the Spanish-to-Tagalog translation of Pascual Poblete).

If Rizal were a slasher film writer, he would have included a scene where Salvi finally gets to see Maria Clara stark naked—and he explodes from a multitude of desire-versus-conscience-induced bursts of aneurysms all over his body. Then Maria Clara gets sued for homicide and for violating Article 133.


An excellent discussion of Celdran’s case is given by Interaksyon’s resident legal expert Atty. Mel Sta. Maria. I suggest you read it because he does a far better job than me. Check it out here:–maria–though-deserving-of-censure-carlos-celdran-is-no-criminal


Senator Pia Cayetano has gone public about her next “ambition” after she successfully passed the Reproductive Health bill into law. After doing what no other Senator had done before—it took more than a decade for the bill to pass—her next ambition, she says, is “to fall in love.” That’s because, one may suppose, after you pass an RH Bill, the next thing you want to do is exercise your reproductive health rights.


Inkcanto says: “Thank you, Justice de Lima, ahem, Justice Secretary de Lima—we love you. XXX-OOO” (Photo by

Until further notice we should love Justice Secretary Leila de Lima. We should love her outrageously and shout this to the rooftops, scaring pigeons and causing them to poop in mid-air. This is because she ruled in favor of the release of artist-activist Ericson Acosta, who was jailed for two years in a military prison despite the lack of sufficient evidence for his arrest and detention (according to de Lima’s ruling).

Ericson was a classmate of mine back in high school and even then he displayed an immense talent for theater (practically all aspects of it, from acting, scriptwriting, directing, to production design), impromptu performance, and song-writing. It was no surprise for me to learn, later on, that he had taken up poetry as well.

From the accounts that I’ve read, Ericson’s love for the masses—from farmers to even his fellow inmates—is highly-regarded by those who know this first-hand. I’m glad that he’s free. I feel very happy for his family. I’m happy for him because he can now bask in their love.

I can’t help but wonder if his former classmates, myself included, did enough to help him get out of jail. But that’s just my Catholic conscience on guilt mode again, maybe. What I’m pretty sure of, though, is that Ericson understood his Rizal classes more fully than I did.