New batch of National Artists enrich and redefine the forms
SUBLIMINAL - Carlomar Arcangel Daoana (The Philippine Star) - October 29, 2018 - 12:00am

The new batch of National Artists, conferred by President Rodrigo Duterte in formal rites at the Rizal Ceremonial Hall of Malacañan Palace last Oct. 24, are acknowledged to have indelibly contributed to their respective fields by redefining their parameters, breaking new grounds, and creating an immense body of work that exemplified the best of the Filipino identity and imaginary.

They are Larry Alcala (visual arts), Amelia Lapeña-Bonifacio (theatre and literature), Ryan Cayabyab (music), Kidlat Tahimik (film and broadcast arts), Francisco Mañosa (architecture and allied arts), Resil Mojares (literature), and Ramon Muzones (literature). Alcala and Muzones, who passed away in 2002 and 1992 respectively, were honored posthumously. Nora Aunor, touted to be a shoo-in for the award and long considered as a treasured icon in cinema, is not included in this year’s roster.

Alcala, who may not have been honored for the conventional media of painting and sculpture, was a towering figure in editorial cartoons. In more than half-a-century, he created over 500 characters and 20 comic strips for a variety of publications. Marked with humor, his most notable work, Slice of Life, chronicled the different aspects o the Filipino culture. It became the nation’s pastime to look for his cameo — a man in a profile with a moustache, sideburn, and glasses — cleverly hidden in the cacophonous details that became his visual signature.

With the honor bestowed on Mojares, the concept of literature is expanded beyond the poetry, fiction, and play to include the reflections of these forms. A cultural and literary historian, he is one of the country’s most prolific writers, penning his insights into wide range of discipline that include literature, history, biography, and cultural studies. His seminal books include Origins and Rise of the Filipino Novel and Interrogations in Philippine Cultural History.

Considered as the Father of Philippine Independent Cinema, Kidlat Tahimik (Eric de Guia) began as a firebrand with the release of Mababangong Bangungot in 1977, which revolutionized cinematic language as an exploration of postcolonial experience and identity. He is known for his “imperfect” style, known as “Third Cinema,” which is critical of — if not fundamentally opposed to — neocolonial exploitation and state oppression. He has also created installation art that is reflective of his Cordilleran roots.

Cayabyab, known in the industry as “Mr. C,” may have entered public awareness through his many hits, such as Tuwing Umuulan at Kapiling Ka and Kay Ganda ng Ating Musika (aside from being the long-time host of Ryan Ryan Musikahan and a judge of the first iteration of Philippine Idol), but his contribution and influence reaches beyond the borders of pop  to include work in religious music, symphonic work, art song, opera, and concerto. For instance, he created the music for Ang Larawan, both the theatrical production and the film. This award caps a prodigious output unmatched by any other Filipino musician.

What Cayabyab is to music, Mañosa is to architecture — the most respected name in the field. He pioneered what is called “tropical architecture,” which is reflective of vernacular forms, details, and materials seen through a modern aesthetic. From designing his initial project, Sulo Hotel, the architect has exceeded himself through his successive works such as the San Miguel building in Mandaluyong and Coconut Palace. For generations of architects who came after him, he is seminal, elevating the style of the “bahay kubo” into something grand and worthy of pride.

For having contributed a prodigious body of work in the field of children’s theater, Lapeña-Bonifacio is rightfully considered as the Grand Dame of Southeast Asian Children’s Theatre. At the age of 88, she still creates plays and productions that combine puppetry, children’s literature, folklore and theater. She has served many roles in the arts, such as being the founder and playwright-director of the Teatrong Mulat ng Pilipinas as well as the director of the Creative Writing Program at University Philippines, Diliman, where a literary award is named in her honor.

Equally formidable is Muzones, the premier  poet, essayist, short story writer, critic, grammarian, editor, lexicographer, and novelist from Western Visayas. Writing in Hiligaynon, he is said to have authored 61 novels that include the feminist Ang Bag-ong Maria Clara, the roman a clef Maambong Nga Sapat (Magnificent Brute,1940), the comic Si Tamblot (1946), the politically satirical Si Tamblot Kandidato Man (Tamblot is Also a Candidate, 1949), and the 125-installment longest serialized novel Dama de Noche (1982-84), among many others. He is the first National Artist for Literature who wrote primarily in a regional language.

NATIONAL ARTISTS RODRIGO DUTERTE
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