IT was quite fitting that Madonna—the best-selling female music artist of all time, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, seven-time Grammy winner, Golden Globe awardee, humanitarian and longtime gay-rights advocate—would arrive in Manila, just as this islands republic was reeling from the hateful comments made on national TV by a much-admired, but terribly flawed boxing professional regarding gays and same-sex marriage. Comments which, offhand, one might be tempted to allow to roll off one’s back as an unfortunate byproduct of the statute of free speech that is enjoyed by everyone, but which should not go unchallenged, given that this boxer is running for a seat in the Senate.
Not that anybody expected this global superstar multihyphenate to wade into all this ugliness in the few days that she will be in these parts to dazzle her fans and lovers of spectacular theater with Rebel Heart Tour, Madonna’s ongoing live-music extravaganza, which has taken her all over the world—and which communications giant Globe Telecom, played no small part in bringing to Manila.
Still, to every “different” boy and girl who grew up finding refuge in her music and her politics, Madonna’s presence in Manila could only have been comforting. The girl who was taught to be ashamed of her sex and sexuality while being sexualized herself by her community and the media; the boy who was fearful to “express himself” because of the patriarchal prejudices that informed every aspect of his everyday life—and continue to inform modern life no matter the great advances that the sciences and societies have ostensibly made since the 19th century. Such boys and girls found not only shelter in her music and in her person, but also courage to own their sexualities and pursue their potentials.
But as it’s been said, the more things change, the more they stay the same.
Madonna may have become one of the most successful and most powerful women in entertainment, but the wars that she has fought throughout her career continue, society’s inherent misogyny now manifested for her in ageism with the neverending snickerings about her in-your-face sexuality given her age (she’s 57), as if women should just retreat into some dark corner and shrivel up to die when they reach a certain age—this, while nobody so much as raises an eyebrow at the sight of some powerful man pushing 70 cavorting in public with a starlet barely half his age.
And then there are men of the cloth who—admittedly with no small provocation from Madonna—continue to damn her for risqué music and her appropriation of religious themes in her imagery and performances. Not long after the singer arrived in Manila, a bishop lambasted her and went so far as to huff that “Madonna” was not even her real name and was using it only to taunt the Virgin Mary. Needless to say, it has long been established that “Madonna Louise Ciccone” is what appears in her birth certificate, and that “Madonna Louise Veronica Ciccone” is her Catholic confirmation name.
Instead of getting into, yet, another tiresome verbal tussle with the clergy, Madonna simply shrugged off the attack and visited some shelters in Manila that were devoted to the care of orphans, street children and young victims of abuse—and, yes, it was a visit that she kept from the local media.
On her Instagram account, the singer shared some snaps from the 45 minutes she spent with the kids. “Chillin’ with my Homies at the Bahay Tuluyan Foundation Inc. giving shelter to Orphans street children trafficking/abuse victims in Manila!!” she captioned one Instagram entry. In another, she writes: “Celeste gives me the guided tour of Hospicio de San Jose. Run by nuns with love!
” Another photo showing her sitting on a mat surrounded by children is captioned: “Hats off to the Bahay Tulyan Foundation in Manila for taking so many kids off the street and providing food and shelter!”
And in yet another lovely photo showing Madonna carrying a baby in a pink onesie while looking over another in a crib, she writes: “Everyone needs a tickle!! Even at the Hospicio de San Jose in Manila! We are so blessed”
One is understandably tempted to ask when will churchmen here and everywhere else apologize for the sexual abuses that priests have committed against the innocents, as freely as they routinely demonize Madonna, but that’s altogether another discussion.
Madonna took to the stage at the Arena in Mall of Asia, Pasay City, past 10 pm on Wednesday, for the first of her two concert dates, performing for the first time ever in this islands republic for her legion of fans. The concert was supposed to start at 8 pm, but we didn’t mind the wait. As soon as she descended from the ceiling in a cage for her opening spectacle “Iconic,” it was clear enough:
She came, she saw, she conquered.
Image credits: Photos from Madonna’s instagram account, Gerard Ramos