Seems to me artist Mideo Cruz succeeded in proving the point he wanted to make in his collage Poleteismo which was exhibited along with other works in the main gallery of the Cultural Center of the Philippines. In Poleteismo, Cruz depicted through a collection of images and artifacts representing celebrities, religious icons, and public personalities how society had become all but fixated on worship of “idols” and deities of various forms and conceptual constructs. In a Bulatlat report, Cruz expresses his view that…
“[…] Throughout history, humanity has grown to create new gods and these are not always religious figures but concepts and objects. Some have taken to worshipping money; some see politicians as godsend. People create idols and these idols whether or not theyâ€™re deserving of idolatry or worship affect our lives and how we function and see the world”
Collectively the images make a statement about Philippine society in particular, one that has inherited an addiction to the bread and circuses that its former colonial master, the United States, had made a significant chunk of its fortunes on top of.
â€œThis is how I see the Filipino way of life â€” colorful, varied, full of conflicting beliefs and values. Canâ€™t you just see these same images pasted on the walls of houses in the urban poor communities? And Filipino society, its racked with economic and political turmoil, and then thereâ€™s religion which frequently involves itself in the entire conglomeration of issues and developments,â€ he said.
Sure enough, if one does as Cruz advises â€” close your eyes after seeing the images, breathe and thinkâ€“ the walls begin to speak about the Filipino condition.
Thereâ€™s the carton poster on the alphabet with â€œAâ€ standing for â€œAppleâ€ when apples are not grown in the Philippines and â€œJâ€ is for Jeep and not for â€œjeepney.â€
Hmmm, speaking of which…
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The Jeepney. I dare say Poleteismo in its being a hodgepodge of images of ego-candy mirrors the style template of that most renowned embodiment of Filipino culture — the Jeepney. In the same way that Cruz tries to convey how we as a people idolise artifacts, icons, and concepts that are foreign to our culture (fair-skinned celebrities, Starbucks coffee, artificial American twangs — the list is a long one), the Jeepney is an omnipresent reminder of the very Filipino condition Cruz cites. Like Poleteismo, many Jeepneys would be adorned with conflicting and ironic (though said irony may ironically fly over the pointed heads of the average Filipino) combinations of imagery. Basta driver sweet lover in big bold letters alluding to the less-than-pious virility of the vehicles’ captains would be plastered alongside images of Jesus Christ or the Madonna and Child in the most typical of these uniquely-Filipino vehicles.
Perhaps, then, the Philippine Taliban should go after every Jeepney driver that offends in much the same way as Poleteismo does?
That’s only a recommendation, Padres. Go off and launch your quaint crusades if you like. It is usually the easiest targets that get preyed upon by predators — and Mideo Cruz and his Poleteismo is one big and easy target, indeed. A real class act, these Padres certainly are. Meanwhile, jeepney drivers roam free in their Kings of the Road with impunity — virtual untouchables to politicians, both in Government and in the Church. Politicians, indeed, are all the same whether they are wearing robes or business suits.
One thing that, as usual, escapes the limited sensibilities of these religious zealots is how their “offense” on this matter stems from the alleged desecration of their precious religious icons and the cherished likenesses of their revered deities. But then if they truly believe in the greatness of their gods, wouldn’t it be reasonable to think that they’d see the laughably ridiculous notion of assuming that their great and “infinite” gods would be so small-minded as to themselves be offended by the desecration of such earthly and mortal artifacts?
In this instance, idolatry does indeed stand out as the cornerstone concept of this whole circus. In exhibiting such bemusing outrage, these men-in-robes and their minions in the “laity” have exposed the primitive idolatry that has for so long persisted at the core of Filipino religious life.
Mideo Cruz, in the effect his work Poleteismo has so far had in our intellectually bankrupt society, has proven his point.
“Let the person among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”
Jesus Christ (John 8:7)
benign0 is the Webmaster of GetRealPhilippines.com.