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Bicol artists protest Nat’l Artist awardees

Hold indigenous chant-and-dance ritual

By Jonas Cabiles Soltes
Inquirer Southern Luzon
First Posted 05:53:00 09/07/2009

Filed Under: Awards and Prizes, Arts and Culture and Entertainment, Protest

NAGA CITY?Artists here staged on Friday an indigenous chant-and-dance ritual called Haliya to protest irregularities in the selection of this year?s National Artists.

The ritual was held at Plaza Quince Martires, named in memory of the Fifteen Martyrs of Bicol.

About 200 persons participated in the performance, among them, three city councilors and members of the Development Institute for Bicolano Artists, a group of local art enthusiasts.

Victor Dennis Nierva, poet, writer and opinion columnist of the local weekly Vox Bikol, led the ritual, which he said was a metaphor for the way the National Artist Award eclipsed the selection process.

The artists were protesting the way Malacañang disregarded the nominees submitted by the Cultural Center of the Philippines and the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) and inserted the names of theater pioneer Cecile Guidote-Alvarez, executive director of the NCCA herself, and Carlo Caparas, among others, in this year?s list of awardees.

Two other Palace awardees were architect Francisco Mañosa and couturier Jose ?Pitoy? Moreno.

Haliya, according to Nierva, was practiced by female priestesses called ?balyanas? in pre-Hispanic Bicol to appeal to ?Bakunawa,? a mythical monster, to release the moon.

According to folklore, a lunar eclipse occurs because Bakunawa had swallowed the moon.

Thus, the ritual was a way of calling on Bakunawa to let out the moon.

Nierva said they were comparing those who participated in the supposed irregular selection of this year?s National Artists to Bakunawa, who swallowed ?the dignity? of the National Artist Award.

The ritual is to appeal to those who ?tainted? the Award to retract.

?Just as what Bakunawa should do, those who participated in the selection of this year?s National Artists, especially President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, should let go of their earlier declaration.?

Nierva especially contested the selection of movie director Carlo J. Caparas as National Artist.

?Why? The work of Caparas is not even comparable to the works of acclaimed directors Lino Brocka and Ishmael Bernal. Even some of his contemporary filmmakers are not endorsing his works, which lack thematic or technical refinement. His works do not raise awareness of Filipino culture.?

He said they also conducted the protest action ?to disprove Caparas? claim that opposition to his selection only came from elite circles.?

Nierva said Malacañang?s insistence that the selection of National Artists was a prerogative of the President?s was ?a lame excuse.?

?Procedures should be followed. Sensibility, wisdom and sound judgment must be exercised.?



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