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Censored in Dubai, Carlos Celdran cancels Imelda show

March 24, 2012 6:29pm

Dubai is known as among the more liberal Arab states, but iconoclastic performance artist Carlos Celdran has discovered the limits of its tolerance.

In the middle of his critically acclaimed one-man show on Imelda Marcos at a Dubai art fair, and soon after his mirthful commentary on the special friendship between Imelda and the late Libyan strongman Muammar Gaddafi, Celdran was interrupted by policemen in robes and taken away for questioning.

"They told people to go away when I was being questioned. The audience was truly scared for me," he told GMA News Online via Facebook.

He was allowed to finish his show, but away from the public stage and near the entrance to a parking lot.

After the show, Celdran says he was brought to an office where five men from the police department grilled him for about an hour about the purpose of his show.

"They really were making sure that I wasn't talking about Arab nations, that all the issues I talked about were about the Philippines," he said.

During the interrogation, Celdran performed parts of his show, including lines which he imagines Imelda telling Gaddafi, "Islam is all about peace, and if you are funding a war in my country that is pitting Filipino against Filipino, you are also pitting Muslim against Muslim. How are you following Mohammed?"

Celdran was scheduled for another performance on Saturday, but was told by the authorities to "tone down my work and remove religious and political content in order to perform today (Saturday in Manila). That's 60 percent of my show. So I decided to cancel it."

He is scheduled to fly home this weekend.

It wasn't the first time that Celdran, who is also an advocate of the reproductive health bill, has gotten in trouble with authorities. In 2010, while dressed up in 19th century livery, he stood up inside the Manila Cathedral and held up a sign saying "Damaso" in front of an assembly of priests and bishops, which earned him a day in jail and the admiration of fellow activists.

Asked if he learned any lessons from his Dubai experience, he wrote via Facebook, "Freedom of Speech #itsmorefuninthephilippines." - Howie Severino/TJD, GMA News

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