16 August 2009

Manila Times column for 16 August 2009: "Encounters with real National Artists"

o, napanood niyo na yung mga pinagsasasabi ni carlo caparas? hehehe. now read my column today.

original post here.

ang hirap talaga whenever i have to condense to 500 words and below all of what i want to say about a certain thing. this is one example of that.

happy reading nonetheless.

ps saka wala akong column post last week simply because the newspaper webmaster forgot to upload it. fail!!! buti na lang sa print meron. hay...

Sunday, August 16, 2009

By Libay Linsangan Cantor
Encounters with real National Artists

It’s hard not to give an opinion on the hottest talk of the artistic community—the National Artist controversy. But I’m not going to; a lot has already been said. This controversy instead made me think of what it’s like to interact with National Artists up close. I had a blast thinking about my encounters; I never knew some of my fondest memories involved some of these creative geniuses we hailed as National Artists, and these encounters surely contributed to my skill, art and craft as a writer today.

I can start as early as 1990 during my college years in UP Diliman. One of the very first teachers I had was already a National Artist as he was conferred in 1976. As a na├»ve fine arts freshman, I never knew he had such a title simply because I didn’t even know these titles existed back then. All I cared about was making it to this man’s afternoon class in time, held inside this rickety-looking “studio” he called The Foundry. Each time I entered that foundry, I felt like I was entering a sacred secret museum full of world-class sculptures that were really alive, as they were all thought-provoking, captivating and of course aesthetically stunning. My classmates and I had fun passing by our favorite called The Bridge of Love, where a life-size sculpture of a naked man bent to reach the sculpture of a naked woman opposite him, who was also depicted as trying to reach the man, therefore making an impression of a bridge. We joked that each time we passed, it seemed like the man and the woman were getting nearer to the body parts of the other that they wanted to reach. That piece alone made me admire the man who made it, and his name is Napoleon V. Abueva.

Fast forward to five years, and I found myself a graduate of the first filmmaking course in the country (yes, I shifted). My co-film majors and I always hung out at this humble-looking roadside bar-eatery near Kalayaan Avenue in Quezon City called Kasalo especially whenever we couldn’t sleep and we wanted to deconstruct films we just saw in theaters over cheap beer and satisfying pulutan. But rarely did we see the simple bar’s owner, the future National Artist for Cinema in 2001—the late great film director Ishmael Bernal, whose films we admired and watched over and over even if they weren’t required in class. When we finally had an Ishma sighting, we shyly pushed each other as to who should approach him first, and hopefully engage him in some cinematic small talk, maybe ask him about the metaphors of Nunal Sa Tubig or something. But when we saw him, he looked haggard and tired, probably from dealing with prima donna actors and overbearing producers, so we left him alone.

More National Artist encounters happened in my life when I decided to take a graduate degree in creative writing. I’ll share those stories next week.

Comments? Suggestions? E-mail libay.scribevibe@gmail.com. She is also at libaycantor.multiply.com.

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