Cerezo says the church is a familiar place for the Filipino diaspora to gather. (Photo: Rydel Cerezo)

Topics: Spirituality | Culture

Queer Filipino artist explores his Catholicism in photos

Rydel Cerezo captures the church spaces that had a key role in shaping his identity

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When Rydel Cerezo was 10, his family moved from Baguio City in the Philippines to Vancouver. And like most Filipinos, he grew up Roman Catholic. These experiences inspired him to explore what he calls the “complicatedness” of being Filipino, Catholic and queer.

For his photo essay Am I a Sea, Cerezo captures church spaces, since they had such an important role in shaping his identity. His 11-year-old brother acts as a stand-in for Cerezo, questioning things in the church. His grandmother also features prominently, representing the multigenerational inheritance of religion and its deep roots in community, especially for the diaspora.

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Now 22, Cerezo is not against the church, but he is in the process of unlearning certain teachings, such as that being gay “is not right.” He is also fostering his own spirituality and relationship with God. “I’m basically a product of all these histories,” he says. “And I am still grappling with that.”

— Amy Van Den Berg

Holy water: Through his photographs, Cerezo explores his relationship to Catholicism.
Re-enactment: Cerezo uses his brother as a stand-in for himself.
Transgressions: His grandmother represents the inheritance of teachings and traumas from the Catholic Church.
Mirror image: “He’s in the process of questioning things in the church,” says Cerezo about his brother.
Accessory: A wooden prayer bracelet, like the one Cerezo often wore as a child, shows devotion and is said to protect the wearer from evil and misfortune.

This photo essay appeared in Broadview‘s March 2020 issue.

Broadview is an award-winning progressive Christian magazine, featuring stories about spirituality, justice and ethical living. For more of our content, subscribe to the magazine today.

Rydel Cerezo is a Filipino artist living in Vancouver.

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