THE nation is delighted to announce the winners of this year’s National Artist Award. The Order of National Artists is the highest national recognition given to Filipinos who have made significant contributions to the development of the arts – music, dance, theater, visual arts, literature, film, audiovisual arts, architecture and related arts.
The order is jointly administered by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts and the Cultural Center of the Philippines and conferred by the President on the recommendation of both institutions. In sum, the rank and title of National Artist is bestowed on Filipino citizens who have helped define our national identity.
Malacañang issued Proclamation 1390, declaring eight outstanding individuals in Filipino culture and arts as the country’s National Artists for 2022.
Literary critic and poet Dr. Gemino H. Abad of the University of the Philippines is the National Literary Artist. Abad edited monumental anthologies of Filipino poetry and English short stories and wrote important books of poetry and critical essays. His teaching and his books have shaped several generations of writers.
The soprano Fides Cuyugan-Asensio is a national artist for music. She is also an actress, director, teacher, librettist and translator. She has written the librettos of several composers, including Ryan Cayabyab, Lucrecia Kasilag, Francisco Feliciano and Rey Paguio, and made her debut in several operas on the national stage.
Twice bypassed for the National Artist Award for Film, actress Nora Aunor finally joins the list of augusts. Called “The Superstar”, Aunor used her own money to finance the production of the now classic films: “Bona, Ina Ka ng Anak Mo” and “Tatlong Taong Walang Diyos”. Along with “Himala” (chosen by CNN as one of Asia’s Top 10 Movies), these movies will live on.
Aunor was one of three named National Artist for Film and Broadcast Arts, the other two being the late director Marilou Diaz-Abaya and screenwriter and novelist Ricky Lee.
Diaz-Abaya went to London Film School and Loyola Marymount Film School in Los Angeles. She learned the techniques that made her films polished, but back home she studied the Filipino soul. The feminist impulse is shown in “Brutal, Karnal and Moral”, while her search for Filipino identity is shown in “Bagong Buwan”, “Muro-Ami, Sa Pusod ng Dagat” and “Jose Rizal”.
Pioneering fashion designer Salvacion Lim-Higgins, known professionally as Slims, is this year’s National (Fashion) Design Artist. She founded Slims, the pioneering school of fashion design in the Philippines, and is best known for reinventing the terno (Filipino dress). In her hands, the fade terno took the form of sleek waves and had well-defined silhouettes.
Writer Lee crafted such masterpieces as the screenplay for “Himala” and was director Diaz-Abaya’s favorite screenwriter. His writing is marked by social commitment and complex characterizations. He also held free workshops for aspiring writers.
The choreographer Agnès Locsin was declared National Dance Artist for her major works which “have aroused a growing interest in the neo-ethnic style among young artists”. Technically polished performance and native sensibility are hallmarks of his work.
The late Tony Mabesa was a stage, film and television actor and director whose career spanned 70 years. He also taught at the University of the Philippines and was considered, along with Wilfrido Maria Guerrero, one of the founding fathers of college theater, which refined the careers of many of the Philippines’ finest actors.
No National Artist Awards were given in the previous two years due to the pandemic; that’s why there are several winners in certain areas this year. Some have raised the question, why is there no national artist for visual arts? There are three stages of deliberations in the selection of the National Artist, as stated by the Supreme Court, and presidential discretion is no longer allowed. It is said that there were candidates for visual arts, but they did not pass the three stages of the deliberations. They can be nominated again in two years.
As with many things in life, the devil is in the details: nomination letters must show evidence that the nominee has indeed “helped to forge in the forge of his soul the uncreated consciousness of race”.