How Carlos Celdran will be remembered

Just the other day, Carlos Celdran was telling Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte to die. Today we get the news that he has died. No, not Duterte, Carlos. Carlos Celdran is dead.

When some people die, specially at such a young age, people are at a loss for words. Celdran died but there remains a lot to be said about him. He died in “exile” his fans say. Others, however, would argue that he died a fugitive. Either way, it is a sad ending for a person many would claim encouraged Filipinos to love their country and its decrepit capital city. Sad, not necessarily because he is dead, but because he died fleeing the country he claimed he loved. In the end, Celdran did not walk his talk. He is lauded for being “courageous” in publicly — and loudly — expressing his position on a controversial issue. There is a price to pay for that if you do it in a manner that is against the law, however. Fortunately for him, he possessed — and wielded the resources he had at his disposal — to opt out of his responsibility to the state as ruled by a Philippine court. That’s not a choice the vast majority of Filipinos are at liberty to make. Celdran took his liberties. Other Filipinos in similar situations lost theirs simply because they did not enjoy the privileges Celdran possessed.

Celdran could have been remembered for what could have been an honourable legacy — taking the Philippines’ Roman Catholic Church to task for keeping Filipinos imprisoned in primitive thinking. Indeed, this was the good fight he fought. Serving a few months in prison would have been an even more noble fight. Celdran, however, stormed away from that latter one and, in the midst of doing so, threw the baby out with the bath water and, in essence, gave up on the Philippines. In an Instagram post in March this year, Celdran expressed his relief from the “stress” of his life in the colonies and his gratitude for the “gift” of legal Spanish residency.

No traffic, no stress, no trolls, no haters – in both political and art arenas, no political divisions and no white sugar. I didn’t want to leave Manila, but I must admit the decision to ditch all of the toxins created by the times we live in is the best thing I’ve ever done. #muchisimasgracias Lolo Pedro for the gift of legal Spanish residency/possible citizenship and for saving my sanity and perhaps even my life.

It seems, Celdran the “provocateur” as Coconuts Manila describes him, was not up to bravely facing the consequences of provocative influencing. Indeed, he went on to tread a path that would ultimately see him squander the political capital he had accrued in his crusade against the Church for which he had already paid dearly. In siding with then 2016 elections presidential candidate Mar Roxas, Celdran divided what had once been a solid following. Like many others who supported Roxas, Celdran would be left high and dry by the Palengke King following his catastrophic defeat at the polls. As in many such endeavours, there too was a cost to Celdran’s disastrous decision. Celdran had viciously and rabidly attacked people who did not support Roxas at the time and, for that matter, anyone who held political views opposite to his. And while Celdran was good when the going was good and the following was strong, he had consistently proven to be ill-equipped to deal with challenge to his hallowed personal beliefs.

Now that Celdran is dead, it is quite interesting that his “supporters” are baffled by how so many have something “ill” to say about him. Indeed, they presume to be the judge on what is “ill” or not in what is being said of the dead. These are people who remained silent when Celdran wished death upon no less than the President of the Philippines. Do these people who are now calling for “respect” and “deference” for the dead actually think they can silence the many enemies Celdran made over the course of his ill-thought-out social media tirades? In calling for that silence, Celdran’s fans are, in essence, putting up the topic of Celdran’s misguided activities before his death as a sacred cow that is not to be touched. But, see, these people forget that Celdran himself had made a name for himself attacking sacred cows. In that we see the all-too-familiar inconsistency that is a consistent feature in the edicts of hypocrites.

Even in death, Celdran contributes to the highlighting of the fundamental hypocrisy deeply-baked into the psyche of those who adore him. This is the legacy he leaves behind.