9 to be conferred nat’l artist awards
Six of the awardees were proclaimed national artists by the President two years ago, but no formal conferment had yet been made.
The conferment of the three others was delayed even longer—since 2009. They belonged to the last batch of six people whose proclamation as national artists by then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in 2009 was not consummated after critics not happy about it brought the matter to the Supreme Court.
In a ruling issued in 2012, the high court ruled out three from the list who did not pass through the legal nomination process.
To be conferred the ONA awards from the 2014 batch are Cirilo Bautista (for literature), Alice G. Reyes (dance), and Ramon Santos (music). From the same batch are Jose Maria Zaragoza (architecture), Francisco Feliciano (music), and Francisco V. Coching (visual arts), who will be conferred posthumously.
From the 2009 batch, to be formally elevated also posthumously, are Manuel Conde (cinema), Federico Aguilar Alcuaz (visual arts), and Lazaro Francisco (literature), according to Raul Sunico, president of the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP).
The CCP board, sitting en banc with that of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), determines the final ONA nominees for the President’s proclamation.
In the past, an artist did not become a national artist despite a presidential proclamation unless he or she had been conferred the award in formal Malacañang ceremonies. Nonconferment meant that the artist could not receive the state emoluments and other benefits due her/him as a member of the ONA.
Despite the nonconferment, “the awardees and/or their families have been receiving their regular monthly stipend,” Sunico said.
Living national artists are entitled to a monthly life pension, medical and hospitalization benefits, and insurance for those still insurable. They are also given a place of honor, following official protocol precedence, in state functions and cultural events.
What Thursday’s event will confer will be the ONA insignia or medal and the cash awards—P75,000 net of insurance for posthumous awardees to be received by their spouses or kin and P100,000 net of taxes for the living.
Formal conferment of the 2014 batch did not take place after Malacañang was stung by criticisms, a few even from the Palace’s own culture officials, when he dropped the nomination of popular actress Nora Aunor as national artist for cinema.
The President defended his decision, saying that while he respected Aunor as an artist, her proclamation would not dovetail with his government’s strong stand against illegal drugs.
In 2005, Aunor was arrested in the United States for illegal drug possession. Charges were dropped after she agreed to perform community service.
In dropping the actress from the list of nominees submitted by the joint CCP-NCCA board, Malacañang invoked the 2013 ruling of the Supreme Court on the controversial 2009 batch of ONA awardees proclaimed by Arroyo.
In that ruling, the court said that it was the presidential discretion to determine whether or not to proclaim all the nominees in the CCP-NCCA list, drop one or two, or discard the list altogether and not name a national artist.
But the President, the court ruling indicated, cannot proclaim anyone not on the list.
The ruling was made in connection with a petition raised by the arts and culture sector and by several national artists themselves that questioned the 2009 proclamation by Arroyo of four names who were not nominated by the CCP-NCCA: thespian and culture bureaucrat Cecile Guidote Alvarez, “komiks” writer and “massacre movie” director Carlo J. Caparas, architect Francisco Mañosa, and fashion designer Jose “Pitoy” Moreno.
Petitioners also questioned the dropping of Ramon Santos from the CCP-NCCA list.
In July 2013, the Supreme Court voided Arroyo’s proclamation of the four artists, calling it a “grave abuse of discretion” since they did not pass muster in the nomination process set by the law.
It, however, did not find anything wrong with Arroyo dropping Santos from the list, basically upholding the presidential veto of the CCP-NCCA nomination.
It said the election of Santos by the joint CCP-NCCA board was a “nomination” and, therefore, “not binding” on the President but “only discretionary.”
It was the same discretionary power that Malacañang cited when President Aquino vetoed Aunor’s nomination in 2014.
Moreover, since Santos had been renominated by the CCP-NCCA board, the President finally proclaimed him national artist in 2014.
A former dean of the College of Music of the University of the Philippines (UP), Santos embodied the sterling creative and intellectual achievements of the 2009 and 2014 batches of national artists.
Santos is particularly acclaimed for his studies on Southeast Asian traditional music whose ethnic instrumental elements he has provocatively integrated in modern music.
Francisco Feliciano (1941-2014) was also a UP Music dean. His work on integrating Asian elements in liturgical music continues to influence new generations of sacred musicians and music scholars.
But Feliciano’s most controversial work is arguably “La Loba Negra,” an opera on the by-now apocryphal yarn of the vengeful widow of Spanish Governor-General Fernando Bustamante who was allegedly mobbed and killed by friars in the 18th century.
Also to receive the award posthumously are “komiks” artist Francisco V. Coching and architect Jose Maria Zaragoza.
Coching (1919-1998) was the writer-illustrator of the famous “graphic novel” series, “Pedro Penduko.”
A graduate of the Pontifical University of Santo Tomas who later took up higher studies in liturgical art and architecture in Rome, Zaragoza is best known as the builder of Santo Domingo Church and the National Shrine of Santo Rosario La Naval de Manila in Quezon City.
The church was named National Cultural Treasure by the National Museum in 2012, the centenary of Zaragoza’s birth.
Zaragoza was also a distinguished secular architect, having built the beautiful Meralco building in Ortigas, recently declared by the CCP as an Architectural Legacy.
But his works continued to be demolished, with the works of other national artists in architecture like Leandro Locsin (Mandarin, Intercon, Benguet Mining, Magnolia).
Just recently, Manila City Hall under Mayor Joseph Estrada, which gave the go-signal to the multistory Torre de Manila that destroys the skyline of the Rizal Monument at Luneta, “condemned” and opened for demolition the Philbanking building on Aduana Street built by Zaragoza in 1965 along the International Style of architecture.
Also from the 2014 batch is Alice Reyes, who founded Ballet Philippines, now a resident company of CCP and the leading exponent of modern dance in the country.
Reyes has carved for herself a separate distinguished career as entrepreneur. She is behind the award-winning export crafts firm, Chrysara.
Cirilo Bautista (born 1941) is best known for his epic “Trilogy of Saint Lazarus,” an imaginative modern retelling of Philippine history across the centuries and across several personas and consciousness.
The first two parts of the trilogy—“Archipelago” and “Telex Moon”—won the grand prizes in the Palanca memorial awards, the oldest and most distinguished literary contest in the Philippines.
The third and last part, “Sunlight on Broken Stones,” won the grand prize in the Centennial Awards in 1998.
Educated at UST and St. Louis University and teaching later at San Beda College and De la Salle University, Bautista is also a noted fiction writer in English and Tagalog and has been honored by DLSU with a fiction prize that bears his name.
From the 2009 batch, to be given the ONA awards are Manuel Conde, Federico Aguilar Alcuaz, and Lazaro Francisco.
Conde (1915-1985) was a film actor, writer and director who was probably the first independent filmmaker in the Philippines, having established his Manuel Conde Pictures in 1947 separate from the dominant mainstream LVN Studios where he was connected.
In 1950, Conde wrote, produced, directed and played “Genghis Khan,” which won commercial and critical acclaim in 1952 at Venice, the world’s oldest international film festival that continues to be in the Top 3 festivals of the world, along with Cannes’ and Berlin’s.
Conde was also the creator of the famous and popular “Juan Tamad,” a film series of satiric comedies that were mordant social commentaries on the follies and foibles of the Filipino everyman.
Aguilar y Alcuaz (1932-2011) was one of the foremost Filipino modernist visual artists who excelled in virtually all genres—landscape, portrait, still life and abstract—and mediums—oil, acrylic, mixed media, even tapestry.
A bon vivant and well-traveled, Aguilar maintained studios in Barcelona, Paris and Manila.
Francisco (1898-1980) was the most dominant Tagalog fictionist of his generation, particularly known for his novels of searing social commentary such as “Ama” and “Daluyong.”
Born in Bataan province and later based in Nueva Ecija province, Francisco was the highest paid fictionist of his time in Liwayway magazine, where his novels were serialized.
His house in Cabanatuan City was frequently visited by admiring readers and scholars and became some sort of a cultural hub. Today, it is a museum in his honor.
Cabanatuan has declared his birthweek in February as Linggo ni Lazaro Francisco, a cultural holiday.
Francisco had 10 children, many of them now physicians and professionals.
Frequently mentioned for the ONA when he was living, Francisco was self-effacing and humble. “We, his children, were under strict orders from him never to lobby for such honors,” wrote his son, physician Florino Francisco, in a 2012 article in Lifestyle.