Prenup shoot at Libingan ignites online firestorm

Tasteless. Crass. Outrageous. Disrespectful.

These were just some of the words by Internet users describing the creative prenuptial photos of couple Ruskin and Priscilla taken at the Libingan ng mga Bayani in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City, resting place of Filipino soldiers and dignitaries.

There appears nothing wrong with the couple's choice of a unique venue — it does, after all, offer scenic views and comely perspectives of white crosses sprawled against Bermuda grass — but they took the shoot a notch up with unusual poses.

In the prenup's gallery posted on the website of East Digital Studio, commissioned by the couple to do the shoot, the two were frolicking in the cemetery grounds seemingly oblivious to the field of crosses that lay behind them. (As of this posting, the controversial photos have been taken down from the studio’s website, except for a couple of images.)

In one photo, Priscilla — toasting with a glass of wine on her right — is sitting atop one of the crosses as three bottles of expensive spirits are on a small table in front of her.

In another picture, Ruskin was photographed sitting on a cross and puffing on a cigarette, but the two had switched garbs — he was wearing Priscilla's long black dress, she was in Ruskin's traditional Barong Tagalog.

Ruskin and Pricilla pose for the camera after switching clothes at the Libingan ng mga Bayani. East Digital Studio
Still, in another shot, the groom-to-be is hugging tight a cross, a wide grin across his face, as if posing for a "wacky" shot.

The photos seemed meant to break the conventions of prenuptial shoots where couples are often photographed in sweet, mushy moments that draw a chorus of "Awwww..." from women.

Netizens unimpressed

Filipino social media users and forum posters, however, were not impressed by the couple's "stunt."

View "Desecration or Creative Expression?" on Storify"Unfortunately, a lot of Filipinos absolutely have no sense of love of country," lamented PinoyExchange user _Bahay_Kubo_.

Said user ransom on the Philippine Mac Users Group forum: "I haven't quite decided myself. Part of me finds it original, another part can't help but think this was done in rather bad taste. These are the graves of our soldiers around which they're frolicking and striking funny poses."

"The cemetery being labeled as 'Libingan ng mga Bayani' deserves respect. If they just wanted a cemetery for a photoshoot they could just have picked other cemeteries," argued user toophakeen.

Esoteric concepts

Others, however, saw nothing wrong with the whole thing.

User boybastos15 of PinoyExchange forum said he wasn't offended by the shots. "Picture lang naman...they didn't vandalized or made the place dirty naman e," he said.

"Unless we are actually affected, as in personally offended, we shouldn't bash... others. "honoring the dead" and "honoring heroes" are esoteric concepts made-up by the mind which these two strangers may not believe in," argued fightingmaroon on

In a comment on social networking site Google+, Commission on Elections spokesperson James Jimenez said the outrage against the act can limit the allowable spectrum for artistic expression.

"If someone did something that someone else thought was outrageous and that someone else mounts a social media shame campaign and stampedes a gov't agency to buy into the campaign, then what form of expression is safe? Only the ones we like?" Jimenez asked.

Comedian Gabe Mercado, one of those who first posted about the issue online and whose tweet garnered more than 90 retweets on Wednesday, argued that while artistic expression is an accepted idea, expressing oneself distastefully in a place deserving respect defines the limit of self-expression.

"In the same manner that we sing the national anthem a certain way and we fold the flag with respect, it is my belief that the same courtesy should be extended to the Libingan ng mga Bayani," Mercado said.

Mercado and Jimenez were, however, united against calling for a boycott of the studio.

"Please, no to boycotts. Let's be proactive and just ask for more stringent applications of rules already in place at the Libingan," Mercado stressed.

It happened once before...

Online users pointed out that the couple was probably trying to replicate an earlier prenup shoot involving Jay Contreras of the band Kamikaze and Sarah Abad, sister of actress Kaye Abad.

In this earlier photoshoot, the couple was seen in similar unusual shots taken at the Clark Veterans Cemetery in Clark Field, Pampanga.

There was no outcry against them.

Responding to the outcry, the studio offered an apology to those who were offended.

"We are agreeable with your empathy on the reverence of our beloved remains at the Libingan ng Mga Bayani and it is our utmost apology to had conducted a prenuptial pictorial in that holy ground," the company said.

It was the couple's idea to hold the shoot at the Libingan ng mga Bayani, and the studio and its photographers just heeded the client's requests, according to East Digital. — VS, GMA News