the personality of the writer from the work, after all, the art IS the artist and I think the notion that they could be separated
is just incredulous. Rainer Maria Rilke, my favorite poet, is quite enchanting and mystical, but similarly intense, almost existential.
I find the imagery of Cirilo’s Archipelago quite acerbic and somber but I couldn’t imagine it to be otherwise, after all, the fleet
of Magellan went through hell in the ironically named Pacific Ocean, landing in an unfamiliar island and eventually becoming entangled in local politics.”
“I read a lot of books and poetry but I am not a writer. Occasionally, I do write essays but I’ve chosen to use non-verbal means to communicate. I didn’t want to directly appropriate his words and re-present them in another form because I didn’t want to butcher his lyrics. Instead, like how ancient Hebrew priests retold the stories of Enuma Elish from the clay tablets of the Sumerians which came to us in the form of Bible stories, I decided to create a sort of off-off-broadway fiction which happened alongside the historical setting of his work. After all, artists and mythologians are weavers of fiction to make a point
I want the viewers to see my work as a response to the erasure of queer and feminine identities in Filipino history. For a long time, before the “Age of Exploitation”
by European powers, the babaylanes, the priestesses of the different tribes in the archipelago held positions of power in lowland society. They were either women or men
who were made to wear female clothing. It was up to them if they preferred to have a male husband and a female wife. It fascinated me how socially progressive our pre-Christian society was. The feminized male babaylans weren’t lynched or ostracized. The work I did imagines how these effeminate priestesses might have reacted upon the arrival
of a foreign power, and their eventual demise when the Cebuanos, the Warays etc. converted to Christianity.”
“Having the courage to do my work in a predominantly Catholic society is a challenge. People don’t like it when the very foundation of their society is being challenged, to question the rigid and oppressive binaried standards of gender, these unscientific and outdated notions on the psychology of human gender and sex. The fragmentary history of the babaylans offered me a glimpse
of how the current gender constructs were not as “natural” as what we are forced to believe. The human soul is much more complicated than we’d like to believe. As an artist, I am morally obligated to sacrifice myself
and speak loudly for the things I stand for.
Apart from imagining the life of a babaylan in the 16th century, I was able to also reconstruct an imagined pre-colonial temple based on cultural influences from the Nusantara civilizations, the Japanese, as well as Buddhism, Hinduism and native Polynesian folk beliefs. The recent discovery of homo Luzonensis in a cave in Rizal is evidence that there have been people in these islands
for 700,000 years. It’s rather sad that the textbooks on Philippine history used in primary education begins with the Spanish Colonization. This project offered me the opportunity to imagine and construct a queer historical fiction about a transgender priestess before the systemic erasure, and one that still happens to this day.”
“As a borderline or transitional millennial, I grew up playing video games. Video games are not just child’s play as the previous generation would like to think. A lot of games since the late 80s have complicated storylines with overarching themes
that can teach compassion, love, the ambiguity of morality, justice, the value of nature etc. Even frightening horror zombie games can teach you about the danger of the abuse of biology by the military industrial complex. So I decided to play a video game
and use it for my work. I was working while at the same time relieving myself from the actual horrors of this world
during this pandemic.
I used the Sims 4 game. It’s a very interesting platform for me because it was initially developed to be an architectural modeling program where you can simulate how the users react or feel about the design. Of course the characters in the game are not real people but it’s interesting for me how you can create a generative narrative which can be unpredictable. It’s like creating your own novel that has its own agency. By using the game, I wanted to highlight how the game developers, in 2017, decided to create
a more diverse and inclusive options on gender expressions or identities.