Arts and Culture

Ricky Lee snubbed in 'Himala,' dedicates National Artist award to fellow suppressed writers

Kristofer Purnell - Philstar.com
Ricky Lee snubbed in 'Himala,' dedicates National Artist award to fellow suppressed writers
Screenwriter and National Artist Ricardo "Ricky" Lee
The STAR / file

MANILA, Philippines — Screenwriter Ricardo "Ricky" Lee hopes after being conferred as a National Artist for Film and Broadcast Arts that more writers like him will get the recognition they deserve.

Before the Parangal ng mga Pambansang Alagad ng Sining ceremony yesterday, Lee spoke to Philstar.com about the uphill battle he faced as a Filipino writer.

The screenwriter used 1982's "Himala" that he penned as an example, which was directed by the late National Artist Ishmael Bernal and starred fellow newly-conferred National Artist Nora Aunor.

"I was the one who concepualized it, who chose the director and Nora Aunor, naglako sa kanya for five to six years, nagsali sa kanya sa contests para manalo siya. And nakita ko 'yung poster — ang ganda-ganda — wala pangalan ko," Lee said, expounding on the notion that "naiitsapuwera ang writer."

At that time, Lee did feel any sadness, rather just happy to see the poster came out well. It was during his writing workshops when he looked back and realized that writers are mostly invisible.

ABS-CBN produced a restored version of "Himala" in 2012, 30 years after it was released, and in doing so also made a new poster that included Lee's name along with Bernal's and Aunor's.

"[That's when] I felt na finally nabuo ang nagawa ko kasi... pangalan ko 'yun eh, pangalan namin," Lee said. "I think 'yun ang kahulugan [ng pagiging National Artist ko ngayon]."

'Para sa mga manunulat'

In his tribute speech during the Parangal program, Lee dedicated the honor to all writers alongside his family, workshoppers, and the institutions he is affiliated with.

"Ito ay para sa mga manunulat na hindi nakalagay ang pangalan sa credits, na hindi naimbita sa film festivals dito man o abroad, sa hindi nabayaran," Lee said, the latter portion eliciting laughter and applause from the crowd.

Lee also dedicated his conferral to writers who had to stop writing to find other ways of earning money, like mortgaging their laptops, just to carry on.

"Sa mga nagbenta ng kaluluwa para magka-break, sa mga laging narereject at hanggang ngayon ay nangangarap pa rin maging scriptwriter," Lee continued in his speech, honoring those who continue writing about truth at the risk of being censored, suppressed, and erased.

Joining Lee and Aunor in the 2022 batch of National Artists are writer Gemino Abad, choreographer Agnes Locsin, musician Fides Cuyugan-Asensio, and posthumously filmmaker Marilou Diaz-Abaya, playwright Tony Mabesa, and fashion designer Salvacion Lim-Higgins.

RELATED: Nora Aunor, Ricky Lee among newly named National Artists for 2022





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