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National Artists of the Philippines (Filipino: Pambansang Alagad ng Sining ng Pilipinas) is an order bestowed by the Philippines on Filipinos who have made significant contributions to the development of Philippine art. Originally instituted as an Award, it was elevated to the status of Order in 2003.
Pursuant to Proclamation No. 001 dated April 27, 1972 and Republic Act No.7356 the Order of National Artist if the highest national recognition conferred upon Filipinos who have made distinct contributions to arts and letters upon the recommendation of the Cultural Center of the Philippines by virtue of President Ferdinand Marcos’s Proclamation ? 1001 of April 2, 1972 and the National Commission for Culture and the Arts. The first award was posthumously conferred on Filipino painter Fernando Amorsolo.
The National Artist for Historical Literature, created under Executive Order No 451 date October 9, 1997, is subsumed under the Order of National Artists.
The Order is the highest state honor conferred on individuals deemed as having done much for their artistic field. Deserving individuals must have been recommended by both the Cultural Center and the National Commission on Culture and the Arts prior to receiving the award. Such people are then titled, by virtue of a Presidential Proclamation, as National Artist (Filipino: Gawad Pambansang Alagad ng Sining, “National Servant of the Arts Award”), and are inducted into the Order.
Recipients attend a conferment ceremony at Malacañang Palace, where the President bestows on them the insignia of the Order: an ornate, gilt collar and a small pin, both depicting the Order’s emblem. In addition to the collar, each new Member is given a citation that is presented during the conferment ceremony. The Cultural Center of the Philippines then presents a Memorabilia Exhibit of the recipients’ works and holds a Gabi ng Parangal (Night of Tributes) for the National Artists at the Tanghalang Pambansa.
Categories under which National Artists can be recognized originally included:
However, national artists have since been honored under new categories. The NCCA ‘created’ the category of National Artist for Fashion Design when it nominated Ramon Valera, but subsumed that category under “Architecture and Allied Arts”. President Fidel V. Ramos issued an executive order creating the category of National Artist for Historical Literature before conferring the honor to Carlos Quirino.
Nominations for National Artist of the Philippines are based on broad criteria, as set forth by the Cultural Center of the Philippines and the National Commission on Culture and the Arts:
Nominations are then submitted to the National Artist Secretariat that is created by the National Artist Award Committee; experts from the different art fields then sit on a First Deliberation to prepare the short list of nominees. A Second Deliberation, which is a joint meeting of the Commissioners of the NCCA and the Board of Trustees of the CCP, decides on the final nominees. The list is then forwarded to the President of the Philippines, who, by Presidential Proclamation, proclaims the final nominees as members of the Order of National Artists.
According to Sabangan, in August 2009,” artists protested to Pres. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s decision to confer the National Artist Award to an official of the agency that screens the nominees for the prestigious title and a movie director whose nomination had been rejected twice”. It was revealed that musician Ramon Santos had been dropped from the list of nominees short-listed in May that year by the selection committee, and that four other individuals had been nominated via President’s prerogative: Cecilia Guidote Alvarez (Theater), Magno Jose Carlo Caparas (Visual Arts and Film), Francisco Manosa (Architecture) and Jose Pitoy Moreno (Fashion Design).
Members of the Philippine art community including a number of living members of the Order-protested that the proclamation politicized the National Artist Award and made it away for Pres. Arroyo to accommodate her allies. Specific protests were raised regarding the nomination of Guidote-Alvarez, who was also the Executive Director of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts, because it was allegedly a breach of protocol and delicate and Caparas the director on the grounds that he was unqualified for nomination under both the Visual Arts and Film categories. National artist for visual arts Ben Cabrera agreed with Lumbera that the four additional awardees did not go through deliberation. There used to be prestige but already tainted by controversy and political color. Since the presidency of Ramos, there has been an understanding that the President is given a choice to add one there was Carlos Quirino (historical literature), Alejandro “Anding” Roces (Literature), and others. During the time of Arroyo, she exceeds because she has chosen four instead. The artists at that time protested and feel that the awards have been degraded.
On July 16, 2013, the controversy finally ended after the Supreme Court of the Philippines voided the President’s proclamation of the four artists calling it “a grave abuse of discretion” since it did not pass muster in the nomination process set by the law.
On June 20, 2014 five years after he was originally shortlisted in 2009, Dr. Ramon Santos was finally conferred National Artist for Music by President Benigno S. Aquino III together with five others namely Alice Reyes for Dance, Francisco V. Coching (posthumous) for Visual Arts, Cirilo Bautista for Literature, Francisco F. Feliciano (Music), and Jose Maria V. Zaragoza (posthumous) for Architecture.
The National Artist Award should be true to its criteria in choosing an awardee. Aside from the criteria that they have set the artist should be a role model for the next generation. Being an awardee in this prestigious award by the word “National” itself represents something bigger the whole Philippine nation his/her contribution to the world of artistic excellence. It embodies the whole person, one that has a good reputation here and abroad. The award is granted to those who have made a significant contribution to the country’s arts scene, the title National Artist of the Philippines is the highest recognition a local artist can be given. It’s a title that every Filipino artist aspires to have. There will always be controversy regarding the choice of whom to award the title but what is important they have maintained its standard of excellence. The President has also a big role in choosing the right artist based on the recommendation of officials from the Cultural Center of the Philippines and the National Commission on Culture and the Arts, before the proclamation of the said award.
According to Lumbera (National Artist for Literature), “It’s rather an unusual situation because the title National Artist brings with it a certain power your name becomes prominent, people will listen more closely to what you say because it gains the weight of authority.” This also brings a sense of responsibility which comes with a great power that needs to be maintained in perfect equilibrium. This is an instance which creates a problem for one who is an activist. Adjusting to a great deal of freedom to express views against institutions, gives a huge impact on the development of the country. Freedom is power but also a responsibility to carry.
It is likened to the US National Medal for the Arts, and the Order of Culture in Japan, the honor is given to recipients who exemplify the highest ideals of humanities and aesthetics and ideal expression of Filipinos as represented by their outstanding works and contributions. The award is one of the highest distinctions presented by the Republic of the Philippines that encapsulates the country’s goals in the humanities. As what President Aquino said in his speech, “Over the years you have served as a bright example and inspiration for the next generation. Though you have reached the peak of your endeavor this does not stop you from pursuing excellence in your chosen field or profession.
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