Tuesday, August 11, 2009

National Artists' Controversy

As if the Hello Garci, ZTE-NBN and lately LE Cirque gluttony, are not enough, the current administration has yet again found itself in another controversy. As the Concerned Artists of the Philippines (CAP) said, the administration corrupted the very sacred selection process of the National Artist's Award.

I just watched the ANC Media in Focus “Corruption of Culture” and was aghast by Carlo J Caparas’ too much belief in his self and his so called “artistic ability.” Okay let’s make a short rewind at what really happened.

The Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) and the National Culture of the Arts (NCCA) are the government bodies assigned to make a list of nominees for the conferment of the National Artist. As Mr. Buthc Dalisay said, “ A National Artist Award is the highest recognition to be bestowed to any artist. He or She is the best of the best in his/her field.” And with the prestige and money involved with this award, a rigid selection process is undertaken. The two bodies made a list with 4 nominees on it:
1. Ramon Santos for his compositions
2. Manuel Urbano a.k.a Manuel Conde for Film and Broadcast
3. Lazaro Francisco for Literature
4. Federico Aguilar Alcuaz for Visual Arts, Painting, Sculpture and Mixed Media

These four lists were submitted to the President for conferment. But through her “presidential prerogative”, she slashed Ramon Santos and added four new names:

a. Jose "Pitoy" Moreno for Fashion Design
b. Francisco Manosa for Architecture
c. Cecilia Guidote- Alvarez for theater and
d. Carlo J. Caparas for visual arts and film

But the artistic community has uproar for this blatant abuse of power. While mourning for the death of Pres. Aquino, eight of the 14 living National Artists, namely: Benedicto Cabrera (Visual Arts), F. Sionil Jose (Literature), Salvador Bernal (Theater and Film), Bienvenido Lumbera (Literature), Arturo Luz (Visual Arts), Napoleon Abueva (Sculpture), Eddie Romero (Film and Broadcast Arts), and Virgilio Almario (Literature) together with other prominent artists like Jim Paredes, Armida Siguion- Reyna, Juana Change mourn for the death and corruption in the selection process. The uproar is with the two added nominees, Alvarez and Caparas. And most of all with PGMA’s so called Honor’s Committee who made the list for the 4 new awardees.

While the previous Presidents like Ramos and Estrada also have used their "presidential prerogative", it was the FIRST TIME that the president not only named One artist but FOUR who were not on the list given by CCP and NCCA and were selected because of her prerogative.

(Photo CRedit to Wig Tsymans)

ALVAREZ: Delicadeza

Cecilia Guidote- Alvarez is presidential adviser on culture and NCCA executive director. As the top officer of NCCA, one of the governing bodies selecting the nominees, she is not qualified to be nominated. The NCCC Guidelines says so.

Section 5. NCCA and CCP Board members and consultants and NCCA and CCP officers and staff are automatically disqualified from being nominated."
I don’t know if she was able to read this.

CARLO J. CAPARAS: Massacre and the Masa Divide

When he was interviewed, he back lashed to Celeste Legaspi’s remarked that he could not draw so he brought his drawings to show that he is indeed an illustrator. He keep on saying that the members of the selection committee are elitist and only chooses “sectoral artists”. He keep on saying that because he came from the “masa”/ “bakya crowd” the other National Artists are envious. Notable names of National Artists for Film are Lino Brocka, Ismhael Bernal and MIke De Leon. They are not "elitist"; they have produced classical movies that paved way for our country to known. Caparas known as the "Massacre King" for his gory movies said he deserve the award because the masses identified with him and was able to produce popular movies. I beg to disagree. Popularity is not only the point here. He keeps on telling again and again that popular consumption is the key for the honor. As the jokes keeps on circulating in the net say, if that is the category then Tito, Vic and Joey, Rene Requestas, even Hayden Kho for his famous sex flicks should be awarded!

(Photo Credit to Peachy Atilano )

The award is about advancing the prestige of our culture and the arts and serving as an inspiration for the generations. He did not pass the entire selection process and the person who conferred him do not have the credibility to do so. Caparas is an artists but he was not able to pass the second level of the screening process. He and Alvarez are known as political allies of the President. What the majority of the artists bemoan is using the National Artist's award as a political payback.

But lately as I reflected on this, I came to conclude that Pinoys are so beholden with prestige and titles. As one anthropologist aptly put it, Pinoys are CREDENTIALIST. Our society clamors for more awards than other societies do. We are very particular with titles added before our names like ATTY, DR. We wanted titles, degrees and fame even as much as giving way to delicadeza. Some people even lobbied for themselves or was awarded because of their connections. This clamor for identifying the “great”, the “star” is also like setting apart a certain group from the rest of the group. That’s stratification. That's propagating the idea of inequality. In creating this certain standard, we might also be limiting creativity of our artists.

Now I am even wondering, how about our labels such as "Diamond Star", "Star for All Seasons", "Megastar", "Comedy King", is this also a part of our being credentialists? (",)

Happy thoughts!



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