Condoms, costumes and Damaso

Posted on 04. Oct, 2010 by in Men with SAS, Reproductive Health Bill, Safe (Sensible) Sex

“I’ve got the costume and the condoms, sweetie. See you later. ;-)”

If it were any other person I was sending that message to, one could easily conclude that that person and I share a particular kinky fetish of sorts.

But since I was texting Carlos Celdran, I think that statement is somehow put into context.

Oh yes, long before September 3o, which will now go down in the annals of history as a day of infamy, when  Carlos Celdran dressed as Jose Rizal, complete with the drawn on mustache and hat, marched into the Manila Cathedral with a placard that yelled out, “DAMASO”, he already had – shall we say a predilection for costumes and condoms?

Actually, it’s also because of condoms that I met Carlos Celdran and have over the years, developed a friendship bound together by RH advocacy work and yes, fondness for costumes and satirical play.

I first read about him giving out condoms during his tours. Carlos would spend his own money (about P15,000 each year) giving out condoms to the slum communities of Manila.

I introduced myself to him and did a story about his efforts for Xinhua News, the largest news/wire agency in China.  During that first meeting, I found out that the City of Manila promotes only natural family planning methods, so in government hospitals and clinics (except those that still fall within the jurisdiction of the DOH), pills, condoms, tubal ligations and vasectomies are not available to residents.

When Mayor Lim came back into power, he still refused to allocate local government budgets for family planning, but he did allow women’s groups and other NGOs to hold family planning clinics using their own funds. Carlos would take advantage of these little pockets of opportunity and sponsor the Php75 cost of a tubal ligation for mothers. These were the mothers who had as many as 10 children and didn’t know how to stop getting pregnant.

When I met people from Trust Family Planning, the makers of Trust Condoms and I told them about Carlos’ condom giving advocacy, they were more than happy to give him boxes and boxes of condoms to give away.

Over the last two or so years since we met, condoms kept our friendship going. That sounds like a condom ad tagline, but it’s the absolute truth.

Of course, there were the rallies and email/Twitter blasts in between, but we were always looking for ways to hand out condoms, de-stigmatize their use and make more people aware about the need to practice safer sex and create a better understanding of the RH Bill.

Actually, that’s what the text message about condoms and costumes was about.

Carlos was planning Transitio 1945, an annual event held in Fort Santiago to commemorate the estimated 120,000 people who died when the City of Manila was completely destroyed in a battle between the Japanese Imperial Army and US Armed Forces during World War II.

We decided that we would again distribute condoms during Transitio 1945 and we were racking our brains thinking about how best  to do so considering that the event was a historical one.

We finally decided on Maria Clara, the paragon of virtue and decorum.

I dressed up as Maria Clara and handed out condoms and he was in a barong. People were more than slightly amused by the idea and started having their pictures taken with us.

We laughed to ourselves when we saw that our little stunt was featured in several newspapers with a headline: Maria Clara gives out condoms and talks about the ABCs of Reproductive Health.

Beyond that, we were hopeful that this was the start of more and more people were coming out to show their support for the RH Bill, seeing how it could only benefit people.

I was in a taxi when I got the text that he was arrested last September 30.

At the Ermita Police Station with Ryan Tani of Filipino Freethinkers. Photo courtesy of Giney Villar.

With our RH friends Beth Angsioco, Giney Villar, the Filipino Freethinkers and other supporters, we trooped to the Ermita Police Station and found him there still in his Jose Rizal outfit, and true to form, making friends with the inmates and sharing cigarettes.

Carlos interviewed after being arrested for "offending religious feelings". Background: Democratic Socialist Women of the Philippines (DSWP) Chairperson Beth Angsioco. Photo courtesy of Giney Villar.

But we also knew that he was tired, angry and frustrated. Weeks earlier, the city of Manila denied our request to host a family planning party for its residents. Hours before his arrest, Carlos tweeted about a report on the sexual abuses of Filipino Catholic priests.

When the DAMASO story broke out, Carlos made headlines — literally. There was an overflowing wave of support for Carlos. Yes, some did not agree with this methods (which he apologized for), but majority could relate to his message. After 300++ years of colonial rule and centuries after our supposed liberation, our faith was still being used to bully and subjugate us and control the way we view having and raising children.

In history, events like this were tipping points – catalysts that paved the way for change.

DAMASO put RH on the front pages of newspapers; people were discussing it, asking questions about it and craving for a better understanding of the RH Bill.

Let it not stop here – no one needs to get out a costume and shower others with condoms, but let us all make this the start.  The start of asserting our right to informed choice.

What was true centuries ago, is still true today: informed choice is everyone’s right; not a privilege.

In line with the times, we created a new look for the Sex and Sensibilities.com avatar, whose name is  appropriately enough, “Angel”, by the way. Our own sexy, SASsy version of a DAMASO protest.

Sexy, SASsy Angel designed by Michelle Marchadesch-Roxas.

Carlos, this one’s for you. : )

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