Artist/activist Carlos Celdran died of cardiac arrest says wife

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CARLOS CELDRAN and Tesa J. Celdran

ARTIST, cultural activist, and tour guide Carlos Celdran died of cardiac respiratory arrest in Madrid and he did not die alone, said his wife, Tesa J. Celdran, in a statement released on Wednesday evening.

“Thank you for your kindness during this terrible time. I have always known that Carlos was an extraordinary individual, and it is comforting to see how many people think so,” she wrote.

“Many of you have asked me about the circumstances of his death. Carlos died of cardiac respiratory arrest in Madrid. He was always surrounded by friends, and he did not die alone. On Oct. 8 I was on the phone to Madrid just as the paramedics were attempting to revive him. They reported no evidence of foul play; they pronounced him dead of natural causes at 4:07 a.m. The full autopsy report will be available in one month,” she said.

“We are grateful to the Philippine Embassy in Spain for helping us to bring Carlos home.”

His passing inspired Albay Representative Edcel Lagman to file House Bill (HB) No. 5170 to repeal the crime of “offending religious feelings,” which Mr. Celdran was the only person found guilty and convicted of since it was put on the books in 1930.

Mr. Celdran was arrested after staging an impromptu protest against the Church’s interference in the efforts to pass the Reproductive Health bill in September 2010 at the Manila Cathedral. He entered the cathedral dressed as Jose Rizal and held up a sign saying “Damaso,” referring to the character of Padre Damaso in Rizal’s novel Noli Me Tangere.

“Carlos used to say he had a big mouth, but he also had a heart that contained so much love and passion for country, for art, and for people. He will not be forgotten, we will make sure of that,” Ms. Celdran’s statement continued.

Mr. Celdran was the force behind Manila Transitio in Intramuros, Manila, “a yearly commemoration defined by a public picnic, an art exhibition, a community ritual, and an open air concert held inside one of the many gardens of Intramuros,” said the Intramuros Administration, held in remembrance of the 100,000 civilians who died in the Battle of Manila in 1945. This year’s commemoration, the 10th, was the only one that Mr. Celdran was not in charge of as he was already in self-exile in Madrid after the Supreme Court upheld his conviction.

He also staged the first Manila Biennale in 2018, which brought together artists, both local and international, and ordinary people like the calesa drivers of Intramuros, for a month of art, performance, and parties in the old walled city.

“He left behind a large body of work in the performing and visual arts, history, and writing, and plans for much more. At present we are assembling his archive to determine how best to proceed. Rest assured that his legacy will be preserved, protected, and continued in the years to come,” said Ms. Celdran.

“Only weeks ago Carlos and I were discussing our next steps. I called it our second act, or maybe the third, and he said only operas have three acts. Whatever comes next, he said, ‘we can’t f*** it up.’ Carlos was a one-man show, and as long as we remember him, that show will go on.” — AAH