The 12th City Council of Manila declared Filipino drag artist Amadeus Fernando Pagente, best known professionally as Pura Luka Vega, persona non grata (“person not welcome“), in a resolution it unanimously approved last Tuesday 8 August 2023.
The declaration comes on the heels of her dance performance of a remix of the religious song “Ama Namin” (“Our Father”) at a local bar, while wearing a Black Nazarene-inspired costume. A video of the performance went viral on social media, earning the ire of devout Catholics and religious leaders who condemned the act as ‘blasphemous’.
“Ito pong taong ito ay walang habas at di man lang pinag-isipan ang kanyang ginawa…(I)sang kalapastangan po ang kanyang ginawang palabas. Hindi po dapat itong palagpasin kasi pag pinalagpas natin ito, baka maparisan po ito. Kailangan na po nating gumawa ng aksyon (This person was reckless and didn’t even think about what he was doing. His show was grossly disrespectful. We should not let it pass because if we do, it will set a precedent for others. We need to take action now)”, said 5th District Councilor Ricardo “Boy” Isip, principal author of the resolution, in his sponsorship speech.
5th District Councilor Jaybee Hizon meanwhile explained the importance of the Black Nazarene to the City of Manila, as he emphasized that freedom of speech should not be used to offend religious feelings.
2nd District Councilor Ruben “Dr. J” Buenaventura, for his part, chided Pagente for his lack of self-respect, saying: “kung gusto mong makatanggap ng respeto, respetuhin mo ang sarili mo (if you want to receive respect, you must respect yourself)”.
Many other members of the Council stood up to manifest their unqualified support for the resolution.
Manila is the site of the annual Feast of the Black Nazarene, also known as the Traslación, which commemorates the translation or the transfer of the Black Nazarene from its original location to the Quiapo Church on 9 January 1787.
The city is the fourth local government to declare Pagente persona non grata, after General Santos City in South Cotabato and the Municipalities of Floridablanca in Pampanga and Toboso in Negros Occidental.
Apart from being ruled unwelcome in these local government units, Pagente also faces criminal charges initiated by the Philippines for Jesus Movement, a coalition of Christian groups