Tuesday, July 23, 2013

what national artist?

Four National Artist awardees of 2009 being invalidated broke news just recently. The order issued to the four by then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was nullified because it “disregarded the rules of the National Commission on Culture and the Arts (NCCA) and Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) in giving ‘preferential treatment’ to the four in the selection of awardees.” (The Philippine Star). 

The one who spearheaded this case was Commissioner of NCCA, National Artist for Literature Virgilio Almario. In a capsule, it stated that all was made without proper procedure. And being the most vocal and more visible in the media among the four, Carlo J. Caparas retaliated on national television.

“Kilala ako sa buong bansa. Itong mga tula ni Almario, walang bumabasa,” Caparas said (I’m recognized all over the country. These poems by Almario, they’re not read).

As a practicing writer, his words struck a nerve. Being mostly unread by the mass is always a given to those who toil for literature. It is a lonely craft, so they say. Though this is more of a personal claim, I believe writers do not aim to please, as compared to Caparas and his body of works. His profession doesn’t make him less accomplished on what he must be oh-so trying to do for many years.

Cartoonists or comic book artists can be as revered as ballerinas, architects, or even poets. But here’s the catch: He’s not the artist of Panday or Bakekang. Never has been. He’s only the brain behind it. Thus, the title of National Artist for Visual Arts bestowed upon Caparas is beyond comprehension. That fact alone makes the conferment null, void, and overtly embarrassing.

Besides, the National Artist award requires a certain gravitas, a respect mined not by measures of fame but of influence. A National Artist brings ripples to society with his or her introspection of the human condition, may it be through dance, lyric or sculpture. A National Artist never brings attention to himself (hopefully).

But he is right on one point. Almost everyone knows him in the country. And I guess here rests the problem of his logic: Popularity entitles quality.

It is sad Caparas keeps this myth close to his heart. All hopes for progress would certainly go down the drain if anyone’s thinking goes in line with this. With his statement, it seems we have to agree that what brings more applause, what is trending on Twitter, what is consistently shoved on our faces is the one that truly matters, the one thing that we must not ignore. For heaven’s sake. These so-called Minions are famous, but that doesn’t make them food for the soul, right? Junk food is famous among children but that doesn’t make it healthy, right? Right.

I will not argue any further.

The point is, if Carlo J. Caparas insults another National Artist who does deserve the title, demeans the rest of the pantheon of Philippine letters, then to the Gates of Hell with him. Because on the bright side, that would be a fantastic comic book story for many writers.

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