Defining the National Artist

One of the big stories here in the Philippines is the selection of National Artists for the year.


A committee has been formed to do the task of nominating, evaluating, short-listing and eventually awarding the National Artist who will receive gets cash awards, a P1M annual funding for their projects. plus special treatments given to living heroes and leaders, such as a place of honor during national events and a state funeral and burial at the Heroes’ Cemetery.

Given that the people’s taxes pay for these expenses, plus the fact that the chosen artists represent the entire country, it is only natural that reactions arise from suspicious appointments and anomalies on the process.

Apparently, the original list for this year was altered by Malacanang, removing 1 name and adding 4 more (the president not only proclaims the awardees, but he or she has the power to veto or add names to the list).

While there are protesters who question the process done to come up with the final line-up, I think this issue boils down to the 4 additional individuals. I won’t give out names, nor question their artistic abilities, but I will give a description of a person who fits the bill, “National Artist of the Philippines”.

The Wikipedia entry explains it best:

a title given to a Filipino who has been given the highest recognition for having made significant contributions to the development of Philippine arts, namely, Music, Dance, Theater, Visual Arts, Literature, Film, Broadcast Arts, Fashion Design and Architecture, and Allied Arts.


  1. Living artists who have been Filipino citizens for the last ten years prior to nomination as well as those who have died after the establishment of the award in 1972 but were Filipino citizens at the time of their death;
  2. Artists who have helped build a Filipino sense of nationhood through the content and form of their works;
  3. Artists who have distinguished themselves by pioneering in a mode of creative expression or style, making an impact on succeeding generations of artists;
  4. Artists who have created a significant body of works and/or have consistently displayed excellence in the practice of their art form, enriching artistic expression or style; and
  5. Artists who enjoy broad acceptance through prestigious national and/or international recognition, awards in prestigious national and/or international events, critical acclaim and/or reviews of their works, and/or respect and esteem from peers within an artistic discipline.

Two of the 4 names caused an uproar among fellow artists, including living National Artists:

THEATER: Although this person has created a renowned theater group called PETA, or the Philippine Educational Theater Association, she also happens to be the executive director of the committee handling the award.

VISUAL ARTS AND FILM: He was a past nominee who was rejected twice, and has made a name as creator of comic characters and as director of massacre films (true stories of gory crimes that have happened in the past).

So, do they deserve being called National Artists, eventually having equal status with the likes of Lino Brocka (the first Filipino film maker who exhibited his work at Cannes, whose movies garnered international recognition and was the director of what is said to be the greatest Filipino film ever made) and Rolando Tinio (who introduced experimental theater to students and modernized the Filipino traditional style of writing)?

Well, one may deserve the title, but conflict of interest overshadows her contribution to the theater world.

And the other, I guess he has to wait until it is proven that massacre movies are innovative, excellent, highly respected, critically acclaimed, nationalistic works and character/storyline creations (not to be confused with illustrations) for comics really do fall under visual arts.

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