Monday, July 21, 2014




18 July 2014
University of the Philippines
College of Mass Communication



Nora Aunor is the recipient of the 2014 U.P. Gawad Plaridel, the annual media award of the University of the Philippines.

Ms. Aunor (Nora Cabaltera Villamayor), said the UP College of Mass Communication which made the announcement, is being recognized for her “unique artistry and versatility as a singer,” as well as for “portraying with keen intelligence and uncommon sensitivity an amazing range of cinematic roles.”

Among the films showcasing her excellence as an artist, says the citation prepared by UP CMC, are Bona; Himala;Bakit May Kahapon Pa?; Naglalayag; Minsa'y isang Gamugamo; Fe, Esperanza, Caridad; Tatlong Taong Walang Diyos; Annie Batungbakal; Flor Contemplacion Story; and Thy Womb.

Aunor was also commended for producing “movies of notable quality” like Banaue, Alkitrang Dugo, Atsay, Mga Uod at Rosas and Tisoy. These films, said UP CMC, helped raise the bar in Philippine filmmaking.

Aside from singing, acting and producing films, Aunor also starred in memorable and long-running television programs like the Nora Aunor Show and Superstar which “showcased her skills in song and dance and set a trend in Philippine television.” She also had the weekly drama anthologies Nora Cinderella and Ang Makulay na Daigdig ni Nora which “brought to the public both fine dramatic acting and relevant narratives of everyday life.”

UP CMC also cited Ms. Aunor for using her “tremendous popularity as an opportunity to (help) the masses…appreciate films and plays that dramatized and analyzed the abject conditions of the Filipino majority and the poor and powerless characters that she played with conviction.”

The U.P. Gawad Plaridel consists of a trophy specially designed by National Artist Napoleon Abueva, which will be awarded to Ms. Aunor by UP President Alfredo Pascual and UP Diliman Chancellor Michael Tan in ceremonies on August 27, 2014 (Wednesday), 2:00 pm at the U.P. Film Institute Film Center’s Cine Adarna. Ms. Aunor will also deliver a lecture during the ceremonies.

Established by the UP CMC, the annual U.P. Gawad Plaridel recognizes Filipino media practitioners who have excelled in any of the media (print, radio, film, and television) and who have performed with the highest level of professional integrity in the interest of public service.

The U.P. Gawad Plaridel’s past recipients are Ms. Eugenia Duran-Apostol (2004, print), Ms. Vilma Santos (2005, film), Ms. Fidela “Tiya Dely” Magpayo (2006, radio), Ms. Cecilia “Cheche” L. Lazaro (2007, television), Mr. Pachico A. Seares (2008, community print), Mr. Kidlat Tahimik (2009, independent filmmaking), Ms. Eloisa “Lola Sela” Canlas (2011, radio), Ms. Florence “Rosa Rosal” Danon-Gayda (2012, television) and Mr. Jose “Pete” Lacaba (2013, print).

The award is named after Marcelo H. del Pilar (Plaridel), the selfless propagandist whose stewardship of the reformist newspaper La Solidaridad gave voice to nationalist sentiments and libertarian ideas in the 1890s. Like Plaridel, the recipient of the award must believe in a vision of a Philippine society that is egalitarian, participative and progressive, and in media that is socially responsible, critical and vigilant, liberative and transformative, and free and independent.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Portrait of the National Artist as a Filipino

By Alma Anonas-Carpio

Published in the Philippines Graphic magazine



When Filipinos talk of a "national icon," that person is, to our minds, the very image of who we are. He or she is the embodiment of our lives, our struggles, our successes, our very humanity—and, yes, our art.

Which is why there is such a strong clamor over Malacañang's snub, intentional or not, of actor Nora Aunor. Aunor was dropped from the list of National Artist nominees—glaringly so, for she was the only nominee not proclaimed a National Artist.

This is a Filipina with prodigious thespian talent, with a powerful yet sweet singing voice: La Aunor, as she is called by her star-struck following. In a nation where fame is fleeting, Aunor's fame comes with a longevity that few achieve and even less can begin to aspire to.

More to the point, La Aunor is the very image of the common tao: She is dusky, what we call "morena," in a sea of celebrities hawking skin whiteners. She speaks from the heart, in the vernacular where other celebrities capitalize on their accented twang. How much more "national" can you get?

Add that to the established fact of her innate artistry: God-given skill and talent she has honed over the course of several decades without cease. Add, too, what she has given the country's actors in terms of support and, where they sought it, mentorship. Is this not what a National Artist is supposed to do? And she has been doing this without the title for many years.


Where others rest on their laurels, Aunor takes risks to push the envelope, to add her voice to the people's voices, to tell their stories and take on social issues that need resolution. Is this not what our nation seeks to be, what every Filipino reaches for every day? And she does this using her exquisite talents paired with skills built to the pinnacle of excellence.

Hers is a fame that is, thanks to her dedication to her craft and choice of difficult but very meaningful roles, well-deserved despite all the pop culture and political addenda to her resume. Hers is not paparazzi-driven fame that burns bright and dies in the burning. It is the old-world kind of fame that is built, brick by brick, to withstand the test of the ages, as art should.

All those things should have made for a solid case to confer the title of National Artist upon La Aunor. But, wait, there is more: Both the NCCA and the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) said Aunor passed all hurdles in the selection process, too, including the most difficult part, the peer review.

As Trixie Cruz, legal counsel for the National Commission on Culture and the Arts (NCCA) put it, Aunor's “works were reviewed by experts, peers and national artists. We recognize Nora’s genius, artistry and contribution to the field and her remarkable body of work.”

No less than National Artist for Literature F. Sionil Jose nominated Aunor for the honors Malacañang has decided not to confer upon her. So why the snub?

Speculations on the whys were rife over social media and on the very streets of the capital. Some said Aunor was snubbed because she was too "masa," too "bakya," too morena. Yet others blamed her political choices: She sang and danced for former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo back in the day, and was romantically linked with outsted President Joseph Estrada during their careers as actors.

That, and a statue of Aunor from the iconic movie "Himala" was erected on the Ilocos Norte site where that memorable scene was shot, something that may link Aunor to the Marcos family that is rooted in the solid north. Politics, like bird's eye chilies, is best used sparingly. In cases like the creation of National Artists, it should be eschewed completely, for there is little to no art in politics—at least of the Philippine variety.

Yet others think it was the drug charges brought against Aunor in the United States for possession and use of methamphetamine hydrochloride—charges which were cleansed from her slate when she proved that she had kicked that destructive habit. “Morality is not part of the criteria," filmmaker Joel Lamangan had told GMA News. "It’s the body of work that matters.”

Really, the whole kit and caboodle of declaring someone a National Artist should have nothing whatsoever to do with that candidate's political choices or personal moral code or practices.

In an ideal world, in the kind of Philippines that Filipinos seek to create, the National Artist epithet would be conferred upon an artist who is exemplary at his or her craft, and has contributed to the national patrimony of art continuously, greatly and steadily.

Were that to be the basis, then, yes, Aunor would be a National Artist, no question.


Such speculations, in true showbiz fashion, run rife in the absence of an explanation from the authorities that did the snubbing. Silence on the matter only throws more fuel onto the fire.

As of the last week of June, Malacañang has yet to provide any solid statements on the question of why Aunor was not included in the list of newly-minted National Artists.

All the Palace had to say on the matter was that it does not know the reason behind President Benigno Aquino III's decision to exclude Aunor from the list of newly-proclaimed National Artists.

Both the Palace and Cruz pointed out that the choice of National Artists is, and always has been, the prerogative of the President. That said, presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said he is not privy to the President's reason for excluding Aunor from the list.

"As far as we know, the President acted within the prerogative as laid down by the law and as laid down by the Supreme Court decision on the Almario case," Lacierda told the press.

Speaking in a phone interview with the Philippines Graphic, Jose concurred with Cruz and the Palace on the President's prerogative in the selection of National Artists: "Do not make the President a rubber stamp. Do not dismiss the President, because he is the highest elected official."

The National Artist for Literature went on to say: "Since its inception, the National Artist award has been a presidential award by its very nature. The final decision rests with the President."


Jose went on to list some changes that he believes would improve both the prestige and the integrity of the process of naming the nation's national artists.

"The charter of the Order of National Artists should be changed," Jose said. "The selection process has to be improved."

"The committee in charge should make a list of at least three to five names per category to submit to the President," Jose added. "Don't remove from [the President] the right to include a National Artist in that list."

As Jose pointed out, "there are so many National Artists. My suggestion is that there should only be seven National Artists—one each from the seven arts. Only on the death of a National Artist should the committee convene to select a new set of potential
awardees for the President to choose from. This will make the awards even more prestigious."

It will also make it possible to grant larger emoluments to the National Artists who are given these honors, Jose added. Such a move will ensure that National Artists can carry out their tasks of mentorship and continue to excel in their chosen fields on the funds they are allocated.

"You have to make it really prestigious. The emolument should be more. The National Artist should have a monthly pension akin to that taken home by the justices of the Supreme Court," Jose said.

He added that National Artists should also be given ceremonial functions: "The National Artist for Literature should be named as librarian of the National Library as a ceremonial figure with no say in the day-to-day running of the library. The NCCA should be headed by a National Artist. The CCP should be headed by a National Artist."

"I want these cultural institutions to be led by people who understand the creative process," he added. "The bureaucrats should have a cultural background and should be respected by the cultural community."

Jose also tipped his hat to the issue of delicadeza that hounded the 2009 proclamation of then NCCA director Cecille Guidote Alvarez and komiks writer and massacre film director and producer Carlo J. Caparas as National Artists despite the fact they were not included on the CCP or NCCA lists of candidates sent to then President Arroyo: "Artists who are in government should not be excluded, but they cannot participate in the selection--as in they cannot vote."

Alvarez and Caparas have since been stripped of the National Artist title by the Supreme Court, which, nonetheless recognized the President's power and discretion to proclaim "all or some or even none of the recommendees of the CCP and NCCA boards" without need to justify such actions.

The High Court also ruled in this decision that the President may remove names from the CCP and NCCA selections of National Artist candidates, but the Chief Executive may not add to the existing lists from either cultural agency.


The NCCA stands by Aunor, despite the legality of President Aquino’s decision to exclude her from the roster of National Artists.

In fact, Cruz stated that the NCCA would simply use its option to resubmit Aunor's name in the next batch of National Artist nominees.

It is a tactic that the President himself uses. When the Commission on Appointments fails to confirm a member of the Cabinet, the Chief Executive merely re-appoints the Cabinet member who was not confirmed. Something, perhaps, that Mr. Aquino learned from his much-reviled predecessor.

This effort to confer a much-deserved honor upon an actor who, more than most, embodies the self-image Filipinos carry of themselves, is going to be elemental: Water dripping on stone, used in a fire to fight fire kind of way.

Push will come to shove and, while the President may have the prerogative and the authority to name the National Artists of his choice, he has also reiterated on many occasions that we, the people, are his bosses.

It is clear that many, perhaps even an overwhelming majority, of the people want La Aunor as their National Artist. It is clear she has the chops to hold the title and the responsibilities that go with it.

It is time, Mr. President, to put your money where your mouth is.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Portrait of the National Artist as a Filipino

Don't forget to buy your copies next week!

The NORA EFFECT: A Forum on the Crisis in the Order of National Art

A forum on the exclusion of actress Nora Aunor from the 2014 National Artist proclamation is slated on July 2, 2014, 4:30 pm, at Faber Function Hall of the Ateneo de Manila University, Loyola Heights, Quezon City.

Titled, “The Nora Effect: A Forum on the Crisis in the Order of National Art”, the forum features position papers from National Artist for Literature Dr. Bienvenido L. Lumbera, (University of the Philippines); Zandro Rapadas of the Nora Aunor for National Artist: The Real Journey Begins Here; Prof. D. M. Reyes (Ateneo); Katrina Stuart Santiago, (columnist for the Manila Times); and Dr. Benilda Santos (Ateneo and member of the Manunuri ng Pelikulang Pilipino).

Prof. Jose Mari Cuartero and Prof. Louie Jon A. Sanchez of the Department of English, Ateneo, will serve as rapporteurs.

For details, please contact the convenor, Dr. Jason Pilapil Jacobo at 4266001 local 5320 or 5321, or

The fault is not in our stars but in our government

By Tito Genova Valiente




IT is not in our stars (pun, pun really intended because this whole debate is dumb!) but in our being underlings, and the government knows that.

Those lines are not of lovers but from politicians, from plotters. Cassius is convincing Brutus to take the side that will benefit the public, the majority and not the side of Julius Caesar. But the lines might as well be for lovers, the lovers of arts and their value in societies. There is love in Cassius’s words, but there is also fear.

Fear grips those who are not sure what art is all about. The fear of arts is the fear of doubts. And the fear of doubts is the same fear of people who believe any form of government is the epitome of stability. What we do not realize is the fact of status quo, which props those who are in power and forgets the ordinary citizens. So long as we are kept in the dark about this ideology, then all’s well with the world. Any person who makes it his business to question or to doubt is described as a destabilizing force.

The issue that is facing the Palace and the latest act that emanates from that center is the exclusion of Nora Aunor from the list of the individuals and personalities who have just been proclaimed as National Artist. I don’t know how this decision was reached; I do not have any idea also what went on inside the heads of those people who opted to remove one name. What I do know is that it took them not one month, not two months but some eight months before they had the courage to do so.

What did the person who received the list—drawn up and submitted by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) and the Cultural Center of the Philippines after months of careful and impassioned deliberation—do in those months? If we are to assume that it is only the President who has the prerogative to remove one or all from the list, then what did this President do in the intervening period? I would like to imagine that the president re-viewed all the films of Nora and did not like them. He is perhaps not convinced at all about the genius of this former water vendor from the dusty city of Iriga in Bicol. I can also see his staff helping him out, his personal historian, his secretaries, his bodyguards giving him tips about the greatness of Nora. In the end, he finds no merit in what the critics say. Perhaps, he found Nora’s film a tad too dark. Maybe.

The problem is the law of this nation seems to be on the President’s side. This law says it is not his responsibility to explain. That is an awesome prerogative. It is so huge a power, it could only come from God or, at least, from his people, from those who made him the president. But even gods explain. The divine and the human always explain even if those explanations, those answers are in the form of riddles.
As of the moment, there is no word from the Palace, except those from the presidential lackeys.

At the other end of this spectrum is Nora Aunor. No one seems to be interested to listen to her speak about the snub. Much as it would make the ground tremble the moment she speaks, Nora has no need to speak. A multitude has assumed the task of explaining to the world Nora Aunor’s position. If the Palace meant to degrade Nora and put her down, it has not succeeded in getting the desired results. Nora’s name has even become stronger, draining any semblance of authority from those hands that are supposed to declare the artists of this nation.

In what could have been the deathly blow to her career, and her resounding eviction from the consciousness of the Filipino people, the removal of Nora Aunor’s name from that list of National Artist has caused her to ascend, body and soul, to the firmament of greatness. Her detractors must be bristling with anger, for the plot to murder the art of Nora Aunor and bury it in oblivion has now been reduced to a hapless plan. In other words, this generation is getting to know Nora Aunor, and why two National Artists have readily declared their support for her.

When the news broke out that Nora had been crossed off the list, an air of requiem filled the air around those who admire her. It took a few hours before the outpouring of support and the words of protest tore the air. The grieving stopped; the planning began. The options were weighed; the decisions were made. The Facebook accounts of many Nora Aunor fans turned black. But as quickly as the photos dimmed, the social-media space opened up to accommodate the rage of the citizenry. These were not fans anymore but citizens, Filipinos who believed they have been shortchanged—yet again—by an act of the government. Ordinary citizens ceased to be ordinary but became an extraordinary chronicler of state errors and flaws.

Bienvenido Lumbera, National Artist for Literature, called the presidential prerogative an insult to those who selected Nora Aunor. Lumbera asked his fellow National Artists in effect to protest the insult. F. Sionil Jose, National Artist for Literature, in lines that are going viral, questions the ability of the President to appreciate excellence.

The NCCA, it is said, aims to renominate Nora Aunor. Some critics believe there is no nobility in seeking reconsideration from the Palace; instead, these critics believe it is wise to wait for the next president—the right president—to declare Nora Aunor. Even as these opinions make the declaration of National Artist look like that of a confirmation from the Commission on Appointment, the general feeling is that the whole process has already been tainted.

Ever the self-effacing person that she is, Nora Aunor has remained circumspect all throughout. Which is just as well. Nora Aunor does not need now the President to declare her an artist. A group of artists and intellectuals and experts has already done that.

Nora Aunor is acclaimed by the nation. Wise men and women have already formed a circle of support around her. In the Palace, the President is also surrounded, I like to think, by advisers who believe they have given him the right advice. We do not have to count years; we only have to wait for the next election before they are all gone.
As for Nora Aunor, she will always be part of this nation, any critical sense of this nation, as an artist who has no need for presidential prerogative, and whose art and genius will live beyond elections.