Nic to Cecile: Why blame me?

FUNFARE UPDATE - Ricky Lo (The Philippine Star) - July 9, 2012 - 12:00am

Why are you speaking up only now? What are you up to? And why are you blaming me?

These are the questions that Nic Tiongson is asking Cecile Guidote-Alvarez after she accused him of “passionately” objecting to the inclusion of Dolphy in the list of nominees for the National Artist in 2009. Cecile made the serious accusation during an interview with radio program dzMM a few days ago, with the story picked up by some members of the print media.

A member of the Manunuri ng Pelikulang Pilipino, Nic is a former chairman of the Movies and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) and head of the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP), and is now a professor emeritus at the University of the Philippines (UP) where he teaches a course on History of Filipino Cinema and Film Theory; while Cecile is a former executive director of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), one of the two government agencies (the other is CCP) tasked with the selection of National Artists, a long process that takes place every three years.

Cecile’s disclosure came at a time when the issue is being debated upon with high emotion, with several sectors, including some members of Congress, urging the government to grant the Comedy King the much-delayed honor now that he can still appreciate it. Dolphy remains in critical but stable condition at the ICU of Makati Medical Center, neither deteriorating nor improving after undergoing another dialysis over the weekend. He’s turning 84 on the 25th of this month.

In 2009, Dolphy was nominated for what many people believe is an overdue award by Sen. Manny Villar (who claimed to be a Dolphy fan) for whom Dolphy campaigned in the 2010 presidential campaign.

“Dolphy passed the first stage of the screening process so we were happy about it,” Cecile was quoted in media reports as saying. “It was voted upon and he was voted into the list for the first stage….But in the second stage, na-shock nga ho kami dahil somebody, a former CCP president, stood up violently, or had a very passionate protest against Dolphy,” naming Nic as the CCP director, adding that Nic allegedly saw as “demeaning” Dolphy’s portrayal of gay men in his films (including Jack en Jill, Facifica Falayfay, Fefita Fofonggay, Karioka Etchos de Amerika, etc.).

Anyway, after a two-year deliberation, NCCA and CCP recommended four artists, excluding Dolphy, to Malacañang and then Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, through what Cecile called the Palace’s Honors Committee, added four other names to the list, including Cecile. The 2009 selection has been put on hold pending a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) filed by some people who questioned the qualification of some nominees.

“It’s not true what Cecile implied that I wielded so much power,” said Nic in an interview with Funfare Update yesterday. “Why would Cecile make it appear that I had so much power that I could make or unmake a National Artist when I was not even a voting member? I was just one of three resource persons invited to express our opinions on the nominees during the first and second stages of the deliberations. Sinasala ng mabuti ang mga nominees during each stage, after which the committee members would vote. After the voting the list would be trimmed down until, after the second deliberation, the short list would be submitted to Malacañang for final selection.

“During the deliberation, everything worked democratically. You express your ideas and opinions and you persuade but they (voting members) may or may not be persuaded. To say that I was responsible for eliminating Dolphy is giving me too much credit. I don’t have and never had that power.”

But Nic did admit that he found Dolphy’s portrayal of gay characters ”demeaning” because it exposed them to ridicule, (an opinion that Sen. Jinggoy Estrada dismissed as “ridiculous”) while at the same time noting that in some films Dolphy did portray a gay character in a good light, which was an exception, such as in the Lino Brocka classic Ang Tatay Kong Nanay for which, many people believed, Dolphy should have won a Best Actor Award.

“That was taken out of context,” explained Nic. “What I said was that we were talking about the National Artist contributing to the formation of a nation. So what kind of nation do we want? We want a nation where everybody is respected at walang prejudice or discrimination. Against that light, I evaluated kung ano ‘yung tingin ko, sa tingin ko lang ha, sa mga pelikula ni Dolphy where gay characters are portrayed as stereotype and that gayness is an abnormality which can be cured at the end of the movie, and that gays are objects of derision at hindi sila tao.”

Told that that was only part of Dolphy’s body of work which also includes depiction of Filipinos as a happy family despite the odds, such as the iconic TV show John en Marsha, Nic said, “My feeling is that kahit gaano kahirap ang buhay, tawa sila nang tawa, palaging masaya. Sa tingin ko, it romanticizes poverty and portrayal of poverty in that way, I think, is very misleading because poverty is ugly.”

Asked if it’s possible that Cecile, as former NCCA director, was only trying to find a scapegoat for the brouhaha over the agency’s failure to give Dolphy the honor, Nic was mum.

“But why is she speaking up only now, when Dolphy is ailing, and three years after that controversial 2009 selection?” asked Nic. “Her timing is suspicious. Besides, details of the deliberations were supposed to be confidential. What Cecile did would discourage resource persons from participating in future deliberations. Kayo na ang bahalang mag-isip kung ano ang motibo niya.”

Does Cecile have anything against him?

“I don’t know,” Nic replied. “But I heard a story that when Cecile was a nominee for National Artist, I spoke daw against her. I never did. Sinabi ko daw na hindi naman siya, kundi si Lino Brocka, ang founder ng PETA (Philippine Educational Theater Association). I never did. Why would I say that? I don’t know what her beef against me is. That’s her problem, not mine.”

(E-mail reactions at entphilstar@yahoo.com. You may also send your questions to askrickylo@gmail.com. For more updates, photos and videos visit http://www.philstar.com/funfare or follow me on www.twitter/therealrickylo.)


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