Arts and Culture

Manila’s Patnubay awards

- Alfred A. Yuson -
A couple of days before Manila Day on June 24, Mayor Jose L. Atienza Jr. presided over the crowning ceremonies in Bulwagang Antonio Villegas at Manila City Hall.

Awardees and guests for the Patnubay ng Sining at Kalinangan 2005 rites couldn’t help but look up adoringly at the wraparound mural on the upper part of all four walls. Our fellow columnist in this paper and seatmate for the night, Manila Councilor Kim Atienza, imparted the information that the Botong (Carlos V. Francisco) mural was done in 1964, commissioned by then Mayor "Yeba" Villegas for the then princely sum of P60,000.

We both wondered: them were the Sixties all right, but would that translate into something like six million these days? Still a paltry amount for a national treasure, we agreed.

National Artist Botong Francisco unfurls his native genius all around the hall, starting with Rajah Sulaiman’s bamboo palisade in Maynilad on the right-hand corner, and coursing through Philippine history until the central panel that features contemporary Manila with "Yeba" and councilors painted in modest-sized frames below.

We recall that in martial-law days, then Mayor Ramon Bagatsing had the entire mural covered with plywood panels. But the current Hizzoner is apparently more appreciative of the arts and Villegas’ legacy. The hall is still named after the Filipinist who coined such portmanteau neologisms as "Lagusnilad" (for "underpass"). Many events under Mayor Lito’s watch continue to be held in this venue.

One of these, every June, is the Patnubay Awards (patnubay means "guide" or "escort" – but I’d make a case for "stalwart"), which honors artists and culture heroes in nine categories plus three special or grand awards.

These yearly rites were started by Mayor Villegas in 1963, with theater, sculpture, music, literature, and painting as the first five categories, plus the Tanging Parangal at Pagkilala, a sort of special award. In 1964 dance and architecture were incoprporated. In 1972, another two were added, for cinema, which had Manuel Silos as the first awardee, and a grand prize, Diwa ng Lahi, first given to sculptor Guillermo Tolentino.

Manifesting Mayor Atienza’s recognition of his predecessor Villegas’ contributions to the Noble and Ever Loyal City of our affections, he created another special award in 1998, the Gawad Gatpuno Antonio Villegas, with Helena Z. Benitez as the first recipient. Six other culture heroes of distinction have since gained the award: Carmen Guerrero Nakpil, Lea Salonga, Ligaya D. Perez, Virgilio Almario, Isabel Santos and Brenda Fajardo – three writers thus far and one each for stalwarts in theater, dance and painting.

The latest category added, in 2002, was makabagong pamamaraan or new art form. The list of winners thus far should give an idea of the kind of art innovators who are primed for this laurel: Santiago Bose (bless his comic, cosmic soul), Jose Tence Ruiz and Alfredo Juan Aquilizan. All painters or visual artists, one might observe. Ah, but wait, this year’s awardee is quite a surprise.

It’s a particularly strong crop of awardees for 2005, on the 434th anniversary of our prime city.

The Diwa ng Lahi award went to the Bayanihan: the Philippine National Folk Dance Company. It’s no secret of course that the current punong lungsod (mayor) is a product of the Bayanihan dance company. In fact that’s where he met Evelina or Beng, who was to become his "one and only" wife, as he likes to repeat before a microphone.

Ms. Isabel Santos, Bayanihan’s artistic director and costume director, who won the Gatpuno Villegas award as an individual in 2003, received the grand prize for Bayanihan.

The Gawad Villegas went to Dr. Cirilo Bautista, a Patnubay awardee for literature in 2001. What else hasn’t this giant of literature not deservedly received as distinction? Well, the National Artist Award, for which he has long been a prime candidate.

The Tanging Parangal at Pagkilala award, which spans genres, wasn’t given out last year. Its last recipient, in 2003, was Susan Roces. This year it went to Jaime Arevalo de Guzman, painter and ceramist, who has also created works for the theater.

We’re very glad that this longtime friend of ours is finally getting the recognition he so richly deserves. His crossover to pottery at the height of his success as a painter, in the late ’70s, may have abused the minds of many that he had turned his back on painting. But that’s the kind of artist he is, ready to eschew material rewards in favor of the family and the art that he created with them, in Candelaria, Sagada, Dumaguete, California and elsewhere, because that kind of private celebration is what gratifies him.

Thankfully, however, former collectors have taken notice of how he’s gone back to painting. We understand that architect Bnn Bautista of the distinguished Baguio clan, one such collector, recently acquired a major vintage work and a pair of recent ones for quite a sum. Prescient of him, as the coup was accomplished before word of Jaime’s Tanging Parangal award.

The rest of the awardees were Jose Pedro Recio for architecture, Jerusalino Araos for sculpture, Douglas Nierras for dance, Fernando Josef for theater, Antipas P. Delotavo Jr. for painting, Freddie Aguilar for music, Peque Gallaga for new art form, Dr. Marjorie Evasco for literature, and Eddie Garcia for cinema.

An outstanding crop, undoubtedly. Recio has distinguished himself with such notable architectural designs as those for Lafayette Square, Richmonde Hotel, Kingswood Makati and Salcedo Park, as well as for his leadership role in multinational projects such as the LKG Tower, Asian Star and World Finance Plaza in Hong Kong.

Gerry Araos is a wizard with wood and gardens, and in imparting his genius and inspiring the younger generation. We’ve long had a soft spot for him, even if he’s sometimes too rough on the ears. Douglas Nierras and Nanding Josef have been synonymous with dance and theater, respectively. Delotavo is a real, realist stalwart for painting. So is Evasco for literature, as refined and poised a lyric poet, writer and educator as anyone can idealize.

For his part, Gallaga may be more renowned for his film artistry, but the awards committee of which we were a part agreed that the new art form award was Peque’s for the taking. This was in concurrence with art curator Bobo Valenzuela’s inspired suggestion that Peque be honored beyond his contribution to cinema, primarily for how he orchestrated the Sunduan project – a multi-arts, mixed media celebration on a national scale – initiated by the NCCA.

Gallaga has of course also worked in theater and television, done commercials for TV, even directed the PBA sports coverage at one time. And this may not be known to many, but his poetry has been published in literary journals, and an essay is up for inclusion in a coffee-table book.

Eddie Garcia is iconic; so is Freddie Aguilar. One can’t imagine our cinema and music without them. As a unique feature of the Parangal Patnubay rites, not only are the awardees given a medal by Mayor Atienza; his better half also makes them "putong" with crowns of sampaguita. Indeed, the "putungan" is part and parcel of the Parangal.

Of course Freddie had to take off his black top hat to accommodate both medal and putong, much to everyone’s amusement. The guests at the awarding ceremonies couldn’t have been luckier, as the musical breaks during the program featured two of the awardees. The Bayanihan troupe came up with a spirited number. Then Freddie was given his guitar. And we were all gratified to tindig-balahibo levels with his stirring rendition of… what else but Bayan Ko?

A memorable night it was, thanks too to the co-chairmen of the awards committee, Atty. Espiridion Laxa, himself a Patnubay awardee for cinema in 1993 and a Gawad ng Lahi awardee in 1999, and Arles Jose O. Jimenez, the very affable and efficient head of the city’s culture and tourism office.

Mabuhay ang Parangal Patnubay ng Sining at Kalinangan! Mabuhay ang MayniLA!
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