30 August 2009

Manila Times column for 30 August 2009: "To earn and be deserving of the National Artist title"


original post here.

talagang hindi humihinto ang carlo j sa chorva niya. hay naku...



Sunday, August 30, 2009

THE SCRIBE VIBE
By Libay Linsangan Cantor
To earn and be deserving
of the National Artist title


Amid this ongoing National Artist Awards controversy, the issue as to why the honorees deserve this award came about. My question is, setting the selection process aside, did they earn to be nominated in the first place?

If we look at past honorees, I believe they all earned it. Their works speak for themselves, especially the quality, not the quantity. And no, their works are not limited to being objects of study in an academic institution as the title was also conferred to artists who are icons of popular culture. Maybe there is that impression because some of the honorees’ works, especially those in the literature category, are heavily studied in schools, and the honorees are also teachers. An example is poet/fictionist Edith Tiempo (conferred 1999), the “literary mommy of Dumaguete” because of her establishment of the writers’ workshop in that place (together with her late writer husband Edilberto Tiempo) and poet Rio Alma (conferred 2003), former dean of the UP-Diliman College of Arts and Letters. But their works, being classified under media and the arts, are actually part and parcel of our daily lives, even if we are not too conscious about it.

I myself never realized that I walk past the work of a National Artist for Sculpture during my undergraduate years (at least its replica). Now I relish that thought and smile whenever I pass by the UP Oblation made by Guillermo Tolentino (conferred 1973). I love watching stage plays and it was only now that I discovered that one of my favorite venues was named after the 1997 National Artist for Theater, Wilfrido Ma. Guerrero. For theater, I was only familiar with the titles conferred to Rolando Tinio (1997), Atang de la Rama (1987) and Daisy Avellana (1999) for I was more familiar with their contributions. I love watching Shakespearean plays translated by Tinio in Filipino (as well as his other works) as he really had that great command of our language. And when I watched the musical play based on Atang’s life, I was immediately transported back to my childhood days when my late beloved grandmother used to play vinyl recordings of kundiman songs made popular by Atang. Who would have thought that at that early, I was already exposed to a National Artist’s works? And I was lucky enough to meet Avellana when I interviewed her for a theater article I wrote for a magazine before. Although I must admit, as endearing as she is in person, I was more familiar with (and excited about) the works of her husband, filmmaker Lamberto Avellana, also a National Artist conferred in 1976, mainly because of my film bias as a film major.

The Merriam Webster dictionary defines “luminary” as “a person of prominence or brilliant achievement.” We could certainly apply that word to past National Artists recipients. Let’s see if we can apply it to future nominees, evaluate if their works have earned the nomination for them to be considered as deserving of the title.

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

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