The stirred hornet’s nest of protests and negative reactions to the recent confernment of the National Artist Awards to six men and a lone woman will snowball into an assembly of artists, including prominent National Artists, and members of academe and the youth sector who will hold necrological services for the National Artist Award as an institution at the Cultural Center of the Philippines main theater at 2 p.m. on Friday, August 7.
Expected to attend the event are national Artist F. Sionil Jose, Arturo Luz, Bienvenido Lumbera, Virgilio Almario, Benedicto Cabrera (Bencab) and relatives and former colleagues of departed National Artists, specially for visual arts, literature and film.
President Arroyo recently conferred the award to the following: Manuel Conde , for film and broadcast arts; Federico Aguilar Alcuaz, for visual arts; Lazaro Francisco, for literature; Francisco Manosa, for architecture; Jose ‘Pitoy’ Moreno, for fashion design; Cecille Guidote Alvarez, for theater; and Magno Jose Carlos Caparas, for visual arts and film.
The protests generated by this announcement centered principally on the National Artist award being conferred on Ms. Alvarez and Director and comics novelist Carlo Caparas. Protesters pointed out that Alvarez should have the delicadeza to refuse or postpone for another year the confernment of the award on her since she is now the executive director of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) which administers the awards togeher with the Cultural Center of the Philippines.
Lumbera, National Artist for Literature, who was a member of the final selection committee of the NCCA, said they did not include Caparas in the shortlist of nominees that was sbmitted to President Arroyo last May. He added the NCCA and CCP panel only submitted four names to the President and these were Conde, Alcuaz, Lazaro and Ramon Santos, for music. Santos was eventually dropped in favor of the four NA awardees approved by the President.
The director-general of the Film Academy of the Philippines, Leo G. Martinez, released te following statement anent the controversy:
Where did he come from?
Some weeks back, news was rife about the National Artist Awardees awaiting confirmation by Malacañang. Cited as National Artist for Film, albeit posthumously, was Manuel Conde. We at the Film Academy of the Philippines had nominated Director Celso Ad. Castillo, but really, nobody can dispute Mr. Conde’s place in Philippine cinema’s history. We believe that even Director Castillo who is similarly deserving of the award will graciously acknowledge the greatness of the man.
Two days ago, the confirmation was finally announced and to our surprise and to the surprise of many in the film industry, the National Artist Award for Film was also conferred on Carlo Caparas. Not only that, he was bestowed the National Artist Award for Film AND Visual Arts. So, where did he come from? Throughout the long and exacting selection process, Carlo Caparas was never ever mentioned as nominee, not for film and surely not for visual arts. All of a sudden, he is a National Artist and seemingly the most gifted of all for straddling two major art fields.
There only seems to be one answer to this mystery. Between the Awards selection panels and us, the people, the list of awardees made a stop-over in Malacañang. Someone waved the magic wand and a name appeared, a person who never went through the incisive and deliberate scrutiny that the rest of the awardees were subjected to by the Awards organizers. I believe that this is an act of blatant accommodation.
Conferring the highest award on someone who was never in the running makes a travesty of the National Artists Awards, an institution that has been looked up to, venerated even for the recognition it gives to Filipinos whose body of works or whose contribution to the Filipino people is of the highest order. We have as this year’s awardees Manuel Conde for Film and Federico Alcuaz for Visual Arts. Both are commendable, both beyond question. It has never been done before but had the Organizers wanted to give the same award to more than one person, why not consider the other most deserving nominees. Instead, and to our utter disgust, a new category was coined and the two most prestigious awards for Film and Visual Arts were conferred on Carlo Caparas.
It is a pity that the National Artists Awards has been reduced to a joke.
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