OPINION | Blasphemy Laws are Such a Drag

Earlier this year, drag entertainer Pura Luka Vega performed at a bar dressed as the Black Nazarene and lip-synced to a remix of the ‘Ama Namin’ (Our Father). Videos were posted online and, as you probably know, all hell broke loose. The internet became a keyboard warrior’s dream come true as comments between the extremely religious and the supporters of freedom from religious beliefs started flying back and forth. There has been a constant debate over a performance that, in my personal opinion, was a.) not even that entertaining to begin with, and b.) done to a version of the Lord’s Prayer that is about as snazzy as those pop songs we only hear during family reunions when drunk relatives sing them. But I digress.

Shortly after, Pura Luka Vega was proclaimed a persona non-grata, or unwelcomed person, in the following jurisdictions: 

  • General Santos City
  • Floridablanca, Pampanga
  • Apalit, Pampanga
  • Laguna
  • Manila 
  • Bukidnon
  • Toboso, Negros Occidental
  • Nueva Ecija
  • Cebu City, Cebu
  • Mandaue City, Cebu
  • Cagayan de Oro
  • Occidental Mindoro
  • Oriental Mindoro
  • Dinagat Islands
  • Lucena, Quezon
  • Bohol
  • Marikina City
  • Palawan

So, what was it about this specific performance that set off all the fireworks? Ah yes, that good old blasphemy law in the Philippines pops up once again. Pura offended the religious beliefs of others. For the sake of today’s topic, let us pretend that the entire country is 100% Catholic or religious. I would like to point out that during the Pride March 2023 in Mandaue City, someone was dressed as the Sto. Niño, a religious icon adored in Cebu, and shimmied their way through the parade. So, perhaps it wasn’t the costume of the Black Nazarene that triggered the hostility towards them. Was it the remix of the ‘Ama Namin’ that rubbed people the wrong way? Must these songs only be one version, no matter how boring, to make it seem saintly?

Pura Luka Vega, local drag queen.

Or was it the fact that there was a club full of people bopping up and down, laughing, singing along, and enjoying the actual performance that offended the religious? If they are so angry at the artist who performed, why is there no action taken against those who participated in the act and fully supported the performer, as seen in the video? Did they not hear how the crowd cheered them on throughout the act? Why is it that only Pura Luka Vega is being charged with blasphemy and being bashed by so many online? A performer can only deliver what their audience craves and appreciates. Their performance that evening was greatly appreciated by those in attendance and people paid good money knowing what the performer was going to serve. How is this fair to the entertainer? Does the fact that more and more people are no longer quaking in their boots in fear of godly punishment somehow intimidate those in power, especially since so many of our political leaders like to present a holier-than-thou image in order to convince the masses that they are worthy of the votes they receive? 

Circling back to the fact that all of a sudden local municipalities decided that their time and energy were best spent on a drag queen’s performance instead of the rising cost of transportation and meal staples like rice, why the sudden surge in this ‘concern’? It wouldn’t have anything to do with the upcoming barangay elections, would it? I just find the timing extremely coincidental. Considering that it took a while for religious organizations to react to the videos, and taking into consideration that the Philippines is supposed to be secular, why did the abovementioned localities jump at the chance to play the persona non-grata game? The way I see it, it is a way to make a grand statement about something that is not actually going to affect the daily lives of the citizens and still appear like they are serving integrity, when the truth is they should be serving solutions to the current economic crisis and food security problems in the country.  Why do people believe whatever is presented to them without considering ulterior motives? Why don’t the people in power take a closer look at more serious issues that affect people’s morality, such as sexual, physical, and psychological abuse? Why not take a closer look at media content that exposes more skin than core values? 

Why do people believe whatever is presented to them without considering ulterior motives?

Now, a Quiapo lay group has also filed a case against the artist. These devotees of the Black Nazarene have found the time, energy and resources to pursue this months after everyone already ran full speed ahead against Pura. All while praying to the actual statue in the church and pretending that right outside its doors, there are no vendors who sell products to deliver ‘harm’ to others in the form of candles and trinkets. Once upon a time, a woman could buy what she needed in the case of an unwanted pregnancy. Did your Black Nazarene not frown upon these, or are we going to just ignore this, too? It just seems rather hypocritical to judge someone for their form of art when you devote yourself to an icon housed so near such items that are meant to cause harm to fellow man and unborn children. 

On top of all this, those filing cases are claiming it all falls under the Cybercrime Prevention Act. I suppose we should continue to ignore the endless videos that spread fake news, lewd activities, and other morally questionable content and focus on one drag queen. It has been said that the performance actually ‘wounded them spiritually, morally, and mentally’. It is said to have ‘cut into the core of their faith and belief’. Are they entitled to their feelings? Sure. Do they have a right to express these feelings? Absolutely. However, how strong is that faith if one performance can wound you so easily? What about those who send Pura Luka Vega threats and say disgusting, vile things to this human being? Do you honestly think your God would approve of this behaviour?

How strong is that faith if one performance can wound you so easily?

I think that those who are offended assume that everyone else is just as aghast. Not all religious people were as offended as the bandwagon folk think. Some simply ignored the hype because, believe it or not, their faith does not depend on what the outside world presents in the form of idols. 

Dear religious people, you do not speak for the entire nation. Many of your countrymen are too busy worrying about how to pay their bills, feed their children, and keep a roof over their heads. Speaking of which, by reducing the number of places where Pura can perform and cutting back on their livelihood options, does this please you? Do you feel better knowing that you have reduced the person to having to ask for financial help to pay for their legal fees? Please do not compare it to your own suffering because you are suffering for an entity that you speak to directly but nobody can see. When Pura made the statement that they were open to a dialogue but was met with more hostility, did you honestly think that the person was going to just curl into a ball and give up? Did you even stop to ask yourself, ‘What would Jesus do?’

Taken from the book of those who want to punish Pura Luka Vega:

 John 8:7
Jesus thought for a moment and then replied, “He that is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone at her.” The people crowded around him were so touched by their own consciences that they departed.

Leviticus 19:18
Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.

I am sure many will not agree with me and that is to be expected. However, make sure that your actions reflect that of the holiness you claim to be protecting before passing such harsh judgment on Pura. Your Lord said so in your Bible. 

About the Author

Angie Driskell

Angie Driskell is the highly caffeinated HAPI Junior Ambassador and HAPI Auditor!

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