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Paris-based Filipino artist Gaston Damag accused of sexual misconduct

November 29, 2017 ·  By Eloisa Lopez for www.rappler.com

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(UPDATED) ‘Hindi madadaan sa sorry yung mga ganitong bagay kasi if we let it slip, it’s only gonna feed that type of culture. They’ll always find ways to cover things up and just water things down,’ says artist Judy Fugoso

ARTIST. Gaston Damag in his studio in Paris. Photo from Dama's Instagram

ARTIST. Gaston Damag in his studio in Paris. Photo from Dama’s Instagram

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – It was a night like any other for Judy Fugoso except that this one ended with trauma.

On October 26, after attending an event with a friend in Makati City, 22-year-old artist and entrepreneur Judy Fugoso was invited to hang out in the home of fellow artist and friend Jigger Cruz in Parañaque City. Cruz was with his girlfriend and his house guest Gaston Damag whom Judy had just met that night.

Damag, who is based in Paris, France was staying in Cruz’s home temporarily before the launch of his exhibition the following month.

The night passed with “loose discussions” on everything from plants, to art, and activism as they sipped on glasses of whiskey. At one point, there was even an impromptu “jamming session”, which Cruz suggested they record properly the next day. It was way past midnight when he asked Judy to sleep over.

Before each went to bed, Judy volunteered to prepare breakfast for the group the next morning. But her plans were immediately scrapped when in the morning, she woke up to find the 57-year- old artist Damag beside her, unbuttoning her blouse.

In fear and frustration, Judy ran to Cruz’s room and confessed what happened. She asked if she could stay in the room for she felt unsafe and uncomfortable.

Cruz went back to bed, as his girlfriend led Judy to another room, gave her clothes and water.

Not long after, Judy’s friend John (not his real name) came to pick her up and confronted Cruz and Damag. It was then that the renowned sculptor admitted that he had done more than unbutton the young woman’s blouse.

Damag admitted that he had already kissed and touched Judy while she was still unconscious. But he reasoned that he had touched her for only 3 to 4 minutes anyway. “Magso-sorry dapat ako, kaso tumakbo ka na,” Judy recalled Damag as saying. (I was going to apologize but you already ran away.)

Cruz defended the artist as well, claiming that Damag was not the type to harass women. Cruz is an acclaimed Filipino artist who has gained international audience from his “tactile and sensorial paintings.”

They pleaded with Judy not to let the story get out of hand. She left without saying a word.

Damag has not responded to Rappler’s requests for a statement and for him to air his side.

Later that night, Judy went back to Cruz’s house with Parañaque City policemen to properly file a report about the incident. Damag refused to join the authorities and exclaimed that he might be shot. “Baka Tokhang ‘yan (That might be Tokhang),” he supposedly said, and called for his own lawyer.

As of posting, Judy Fugoso has already filed her complaint with the Women and Children Protection Desk of the Parañaque City Police, while Damag has yet to face authorities. He hasn’t even given a statement.

Judy showed Rappler several text messages from Cruz requesting her to settle the issue within the group, and not to go through the legal process.

Extortion?

She also heard stories from friends that she was being accused of extorting money from Damag.

“It’s just annoying how these things, palaging pinapalagpas lang, (they always let it pass) like they would say sorry and then try to silence the women,” Judy said.

“Kahit naman bayaran yun, (Even if that’s paid) that doesnt change anything. Violated ka pa rin, traumatized ka (You’re still violated, you’re traumatized). It’s not about the money, it’s about marking and not letting these things happen again and again,” Judy added.

EXHIBITION. Gaston Damag's exhibit 'Subverted Mythologies' in The Drawing Room, Makati City. Photo from Damag's Instagram

EXHIBITION. Gaston Damag’s exhibit ‘Subverted Mythologies’ in The Drawing Room, Makati City. Photo from Damag’s Instagram

Damag launched his exhibition, Subverted Mythologies on Saturday, at The Drawing Room in Makati City. Originally from Ifugao, Damag grew successfully as an artist when he moved to Paris in the 1980s. He has been featured in major exhibitions around the world, including Thessaloniki Biennale in Greece, the Dexia Banque Internationale, Luxemborg, Miam Museum in Sete and Topaz Arts Center in New York.

More than due process, Judy hopes to encourage women victimized by sexual offenders to speak up, no matter how powerful.

“Don’t be afraid to speak up about this, and take legal actions against incidents like this,” Judy said.

“Hindi madadaan sa sorry yung mga ganitong bagay kasi (These things can’t be excused by a mere ‘sorry’ because) if we let it slip, it’s only gonna feed that type of culture. They’ll always find ways to cover things up and just water things down,” she added. – Rappler.com

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