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Finally, a new batch of National Artists!

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At long last! After a very long wait, Malacañang Palace has finally announced our country’s new set of National Artists:

Alice Reyes – Dance
Francisco Coching (Posthumous) – Visual Arts
Cirilo Bautista – Literature
Francisco Feliciano – Music
Ramón Santos – Music
José María Zaragoza (Posthumous) – Architecture, Design, and Allied Arts.

Of the six, I am only familiar with two: Cirilo Bautista, one of my favorite writers, and the late Francisco Coching, known among local graphic novelists as our country’s undisputed “King of Komiks” and as the “Dean of Philippine Comics”.

Francisco Coching (1919-1998). He’s done with “Spic” here, and is about to start with a “Span”.

Aside from being a comic book illustrator, Coching was also a writer, a craft he acquired from his father Gregorio, a novelist for Liwayway magazine. Using his skills as an illustrator and weaver of stories, Coching created memorable characters that have been etched in the imaginations of Filipinos, even to those who are not fans of comic books. Some of his well-known characters were Don Cobarde, Hagibis, and Pedro Penduko, probably his most famous creation (it even spawned four films and two fantasy TV series in ABS-CBN).

Coching’s first nomination as a National Artist was in 1999, a year after his demise. Nothing came out of it. But since then, his name has always cropped up each time there were plans of elevating new culture icons among our pantheon of National Artists. Nevertheless, I’ve always referred to him as a National Artist especially since he was one of the pioneers of the (now dead?) local comic book industry. The prestigious award was long overdue.

One of his daughters, former model Maridel, is also inclined to painting. Maridel’s daughter Valerie, a friend of mine, has also imbibed the artistic skills of both her mom and illustrious grandfather. And like her mom, Valerie also enchants the stage through flamenco; she graduated under the tutelage of renaissance man Señor Guillermo Gómez Rivera. So in a way, Valerie and I were “classmates” since both of us were trained by Señor Gómez: she under Flamenco and me under Philippine Studies.

Yeyette and sultry Valerie, the granddaughter of legendary graphic novelist Francisco Coching. My wife is forcing Valerie to smile; there’s a jungle knife on her right hand.

The second awardee who I’m also most familiar with is, of course, Cirilo Bautista, the inimitable genius behind the epics Sunlight On Broken Stones and The Trilogy of Saint Lazarus. Inspite of the daily grind and toils of teaching creative writing and literature in various universities throughout the years, Bautista still made it a point to produce books showcasing his beautiful prose and poetry, without any trace of hurriedness of a clock puncher, while maintaining a weekly column as well as being the literary editor of the Philippine Panorama (Manila Bulletin‘s Sunday magazine).

I have learned so much from that column of his called Breaking Signs (been reading it on and off since high school). In it, Bautista discusses the ways and methods of how to read a work of fiction, particularly poetry, as well as other genres of creative writing. He engages his readers on how to decipher the hidden meanings in verses (hence the name of the column), and also tackles on various topics related to Philippine Literature in particular and World Literature in general. Some of his best essays from Breaking Signs were compiled in The House of True Desire, a book which I highly recommend to all those whose passion for both ink and pen never wavers. There is some strange quality in each essay of his that frees the mind from being hampered by some unseen mental blockade. Perhaps this queer feeling is best explained in his foreword to the said book:

In writing my column, I have no particular audience in mind. I do not want my creativeness to be limited by an unseen force with its own demands on my literary act. And so to those who ask, “For whom do you write?” I answer, “If you read my column, then I write for you.” That is the closest I can get to defining my readers—not by their quality but by their response.


Cirilo Bautista, multi-awarded bilingual writer (English and Tagalog). Now a National Artist. And now he’s got The Undertaker’s urn, too.

Prior to his announcement as National Artist for Literature last Thursday, this Manileño wordsmith has already been receiving countless awards left and right. His name has long glorified various award-giving bodies such as the Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards, Philippines Free Press Awards, and the Gawad Balagtás.

I remember one special day when I gifted myself on my 22nd birthday (18 July 2001). Weeks before that, I read somewhere that Bautista was to give a lecture on Ricardo M. de Ungria’s poetry at the Philippine Normal University, if memory serves correct. With excitement, I scrimped and saved just to have something to pay for that lecture (not that it cost much, but my allowance as a student-dad wasn’t that much), and to see Bautista in person on how he deciphers the cryptic codes in a poem. It was a rainy afternoon when I got there, and the room where he was to give his lecture was crowded (Alfredo “Krip” Yuson was there, back then still sporting a rather thin pony tail). In fact, many were left without chairs. But the crowded room and the pelting rain didn’t stop us from being mesmerized by the magic of Bautista’s ideas transformed into an authoritatively poetic human voice. I’ve learned so much during that 60-minute or so lecture (and I still ended up as a blogger-slash-keyboard warrior, haha).

It is a pity that I don’t have anything to say about the other four National Artists (Reyes, Feliciano, Santos, and Zaragoza) because, admittedly, I really don’t know much about them. However, I am confident that they are all deserving, unlike the last time when the National Artist award was heavily tainted with controversy. I hear that there’s some noise going on about Nora Aunor being left out of the final list, but my only comment on that is a query: if National Artist Nick Joaquín didn’t go “baquiâ” on her, why did the Palace?


The perfect words to describe Mideo Cruz’s garbage

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For his somewhat immature and juvenile views regarding Philippine History, I don’t have a liking for F. Sionil José even if he’s one of the late, great Nick Joaquín‘s dearest friends. I may have a preference for José’s prose. I bought his famous Rosales novels as well as his other books, and I think they’re OK. But like I always say to other like-minded people, he’d better stick to fiction where he’s good at. Just like Ms. Bárbara González should stick to writing about the comforts of life.

But another thing that Mr. José may be good at aside from moulding fictitious characters and circumstances from his mind is art criticism. And this is what he has to say to describe Mideo Cruz’s controversial works

Sionil José calls Mideo Cruz immature, juvenile
By: Maila Ager
2:01 pm | Tuesday, August 16th, 2011

MANILA, Philippines—National Artist for Literature Francisco Sionil José lambasted on Tuesday the controversial artwork of Mideo Cruz, who put a wooden penis on the image of Jesus Christ, saying it was not an art but an illustration that the artist was “immature” and “juvenile”

“I saw the pictures, which too many people object and I said this is not art. These pictures illustrate that the artist is immature and juvenile in his attempt to express his views,” José said in mixed English and Tagalog when he faced the Senate investigation on the controversial artwork.

“This artist is not all that good because we do it when we were kids, where you put a mustache in people… anó ba yan,” he added.

But José defended art in general, saying there was nothing “obscene” in it compared to the obscenities of corrupt officials in government.

“The obscenities in this country are the powerful Filipinos who do not do their duties, the corrupt officials, who are not responsible. These are the obscenities in our nation. There are only bad artists and bad writers,” he said, which elicited cheers and applause from the people in the hearing room.

José then called on the Cultural Center of the Philippines to be more sensitive to the definition of the art itself.

Good point. For future exhibits, how should art be defined? What are the parameters and benchmarks? Who should criticize art? These and other related questions should be answered so that in the future no more garbage will infiltrate our Cultural Center of the Philippines.

Mideo Cruz, probably mighty proud by now that he's up against Everybody's Favorite Whipping Boy (formally known as the Roman Catholic Church). But now he has earned the ire of a secular heavyweight... and a National Artist at that.

Immature. Juvenile. Probably the best, the most precise choice of words —without honestly resorting to insults— to describe Mideo Cruz’s Poleteísmo garbage.

For his age, Mr. José still has a good eye for aesthetics. So again: he’d better stick to fiction and the arts. So please, stay away from Philippine History. That would also be honoring a dearly departed friend in Nick.

Spanish for English

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Thanks to midfielding1 (a YouTube user who uploaded the video), we can now listen to President Manuel L. Quezon giving a speech in Spanish! See video below (at 3:02):

President Manuel Quezon learned English in only 18 days (and not three months as I wrote in the comments box of that video in YouTube, my mistake; three months was actually the time it took for another great Spanish-speaking Filipino, Claro M. Recto, to learn and MASTER the English language). Quezon’s primary languages were both Spanish and Tagalog. But like most Filipinos of his time, he was more articulate in Spanish.

Yes, I said MOST Filipinos. Because you see, it is not taught in our classrooms that when the US invaded (not saved) the Philippines in 1899, they killed around 1,250,000 Filipinos — that is about 1/6 of the population during that time! And they murdered more Filipinos in such a short span of time compared to those who perished in more than three centuries of Spanish rule! And worse, more Spanish-speaking Filipinos also perished in the last world war. Those who survived either migrated to Spain or to the US. And the few remaining are now regarded as a very small and almost forgotten minority.

Today, there are more or less 3,000 Filipinos who use Spanish as their primary language, i.e., they think in Spanish (the 1990 census declared that there were 2,660 Spanish-speaking Filipinos).

In my family, there are only two of us who use Spanish: me and my dad’s sister, María Rubia E. Alas. Before us, the last member of the family who spoke in Spanish was Tía Rubia’s maternal uncle, Windalino Évora y Bonilla of Unisan, Quezon province. Uncle Carding was also fluent in French (another cognate of Spanish); he died in 1997, the last Spanish-speaker of Unisan town. Sadly, the rest of the family seem not to care about the language anymore. But I am trying to conserve it by teaching it to my children: my nine-year-old daughter Krystal is already conversational; my five-year-old son Momay can speak and understand the language moderately; my second son, Jefe, who is already two, can comprehend the language (I can already give out orders to him in Spanish); And I plan to make Juanito, who is barely a year old, a pure Spanish-speaker. Actually, my children’s primary language is Spanish. But since their playmates and our neighbors and my wife’s relatives all speak in Tagalog, I’m having a hard time maintaining the language up in their psyche.

Going back to President Quezon, one main reason why he learned English that fast is because of his Spanish. Although English is a West Germanic language, it is also a cognate of Spanish. Countless words in Spanish resemble those in English. Take the following words for example:

Biblia / bible
botón / button
mantener / to maintain
mártir / martyr
política / politics
responsable / responsible
sufrir / to suffer
teléfono / telephone
televisión / television
tolerar / to tolerate

Many proper names in Spanish also have their English counterparts:

Jesucristo / Jesus Christ
Clara / Clare
Juan / John
José / Joseph
María / Mary

That is the reason why the first generation of Filipinos under the American Occupation were much better speakers and writers in the English language compared to our generation. National Artist for Literature Nicomedes “Nick” Joaquín (1917-2004) is regarded as the greatest Filipino writer in English. But his primary language was Spanish. The quintessential poet in English and another National Artist for Literature, José García Villa (1908-1997, son of Simeón Villa, a physician of President Emilio Aguinaldo and a close associate of General Antonio Luna), also had Spanish as his first language. The Philippine Star’s Máximo Solivén (1929-2006) also spoke in flawless Spanish. And who could ever forget playwright and thespian Wilfrido Mª Guerrero (1917-1995) whose “Wanted: A Chaperon”, among other plays, is now considered a classic? Guerrero is a descendant of Lorenzo Guerrero (1835-1904), another native hispanoparlante. He first wrote in Spanish before shifting to English. And many of his plays were even staged in the US!

The abovementioned great men of Philippine letters had previous notions of Spanish, a daughter of the Latin language, therefore a basis by itself of English. That is why the English of the early 20th-century Filipinos were much superb compared to ours.

And that is why teaching Spanish in Philippine schools is crucial to the government’s efforts to make Filipinos fluent in English. The 24 units of Spanish should be brought back to colleges and universities. Imagine… Spanish has been with us for more than three hundred years. English for just a hundred or so. But why put so much importance to the latter? Isn’t it that Spanish is a global language, too? English was never ours in the first place. But Spanish is something that is already ours…

“Spanish is a national, Filipino tradition, for not only has it seeds in our history but roots that saturate the very core of our national soul and being, for it is the “open sesame” to the enchanted cavern that keeps like enduring treasures the highest thoughts and the deepest feelings of our race since the dawn of civilization.” –Claro M. Recto–

What are you lookin' at?

Special thanks to Inu Yasha (a reader of FILIPINO eSCRIBBLES) for sharing the MLQ video to us! =)

Gregorio del Pilar: a victim of Tirad Pass?

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Today, the Philippines, particularly the people of Bulacán, Bulacán, commemorate the birth anniversary of the boy general of who died at Tirad Pass…


If the ancient Greeks had their valiant King Leonidas and the Battle of Thermopylae, Filipinos have their General Gregorio del Pilar and the Battle of Tirad Pass.

General del Pilar, youngest officer of Emilio Aguinaldo’s revolutionary army, met his gallant death defending Tirad Pass on December 2, 1899. With only 60 men under him, del Pilar held the pass against pursuing American troops until an enemy bullet felled him, ending a brief but brilliant military career, but giving Aguinaldo much precious time to escape.

A nephew of the illustrious Marcelo H. del Pilar, Gregorio was born on November 14, 1875, in Bulacán, Bulacán, the fifth son of Fernando del Pilar and Felipa Sempio. He was a student at the Ateneo de Manila when the revolution broke out.

His exceptional feats of valor in the battles of Malíbug and Kakaróng de Sili earned him his generalship. He was only 23 when he was struck down by a sniper’s bullet at Tirad Pass. –Jesús C. Guzon (Eminent Filipinos, National Historical Commission, 1965)–


One of his men saw him killed instantly by a sniper's bullet -- but that was due to his carelessness!

Some fastidious students of Philippine History, however, treat his heroism with some doubt and a lot of questions. And with regard to Guzon’s comparison of King Leonidas to del Pilar, National Artist for Literature and historian extraordinaire Nick Joaquín has this to say:

“The wrong thing to do about Tirad Pass is invoke Leonidas and Thermopylae, because we would be invoking to our hurt another people fatally flawed with the inability to unite and organize. Besides, the parallel with Leonidas, king of the Spartans, is neither exact nor flattering: it was not Aguinaldo who fell at Tirad. Moreover, the annals of war show that in mountain warfare, especially in actions on a mountain pass, the advantage is with the defender, not the invader, and victory must be expected from the defender.” (A Question of Heroes by Nick Joaquín, Filipinas Foundation, Inc., 1977)

Joaquín went on by citing several other mountain battles which happened in other parts of the globe. And he showed that in all those mountain battles, it was the defenders who always won. And there was this particular case that happened in World War II when the British took two years to dislodge the Japanese army from the mountains of Burma.

“But Tirad Pass was taken in six hours.

“There were, you will say, only 60 men to defend it. Precisely. And that was the stupidity. Our improvidence always forces us in the end to improvise, when it’s too late even to improvise. We will not plan ahead, we will just muddle through, and then at the last hour we send men to die for our blunders, our lack of foresight. If there were any justice, it’s Aguinaldo, it’s Mabini, who should have perished on Tirad. But so that Aguinaldo can flee in futile flight, 60 men are sent to pay with their lives for the monstrous botch he has made of the Revolution. And now we read Tirad as a symbol of heroism, not stupidity.

“A few more Tirads and we’ll be the most heroic people in extinction.”


Tirad Pass: Thermopylae it is not.

And according to the diary of Telésforo Carrasco y Pérez, a Spaniard enlisted in Aguinaldo/del Pilar’s army, the boy general, who in stories was said to have died heroically and fighting to the last bullet, died due to his own carelessness:

“At dawn we saw the enemy climbing the slope and moments later the firing began in the first entrenchment, which was under Lieutenant Braulio. At around nine in the morning two Igorots climbed to the peak and told the general that the Americans had suffered losses at the first entrenchment and could not advance. Heartened by the news, the general decided that we were to descend in his company and take part in the combat.

“This we did and an hour later found ourselves where nine soldiers were defending the left flank of the mountain in the second entrenchment. Hardly had we got there when we saw the Americans climbing up, only fifteen meters away, whereupon the soldiers started firing again.

“The general could not see the enemy because of the cogon grass and he ordered a halt to the firing. At that moment I was handling him a carbine and warning him that the Americans were directing their fire at him and that he should crouch down because his life was in danger — and that moment he was hit by a bullet in the neck that caused instant death.”

But this “stupidity” is just the tip of the villainous iceberg.

In the classrooms, it is not taught that Goyo del Pilar was actually one of Aguinaldo’s high-ranking hatchetmen. The blood of assassinated general Antonio Luna’s friends is upon del Pilar’s hands. Murdered under the boy general’s helm were Luna’s allies such as Manuel and José Bernal. And some of Luna’s staff were harassed, tortured, and ordered arrested.

I wonder most of the time what the word heroism really mean in this country. Marami tayong mga bayani na hindí namán dapat tinítiñgalà. What should be the attributes of a true national hero?

As an ardent observer of Philippine History, there is one shocking fact that I’ve learned: countless villains in this country are regarded as heroes; and the integrity of the true heroes of the nation are perpetually besmirched. This will not stop until we have freed ourselves from the fetters of neocolonialism and the blind hispanophobic rage that we have against our glorious past.

That is why if only I have registered for the 2010 Philippine National Elections, I would vote for the lesser evil whom the current administration have unjustly incarcerated for six years.

Mindanáo: When Will The War Ever End?

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Certainly not in my lifetime. But neither am I happy about it.

Mindanáo, particularly the terrorist-infested regions, will continue to be drenched in blood and fear as long as we have complacent government leaders who wine and dine like monarchs while their tired and hungry and lonely soldiers fight a never-ending war against godless psycopathic criminals who pretend to be Muslims.

Very recently, more than 20 Filipino soldiers were brutally murdered by these motherless cowards who brazenly call themselves the Abu Sayyaf. The war against these scumbags has been ongoing for many years with almost no end in sight. They were almost wiped out from the face of the earth during President Joseph Estrada’s term. But –and strangely– when Gloria Arroyo usurped power, their number ballooned once more. And their killing and kidnapping spree has soared to new heights, enough to grab the attention of Washington, D.C. and the European Union. But even with the presence of the US military in Mindanáo, these self-proclaimed Muslim extremists still seem like roaches; you keep hitting ’em with your sandals, but they keep on coming back to crawl toward a safe, dark corner.

Perhaps if we still have a leader like Sebastián Hurtado de Corcuera, the tide would’ve turned much differently. Fortunately for these terrorists from hell, Hurtado de Corcuera’s already resting up there in the firmament.

Sebastián Hurtado de Corcuera (Gobernador General, 1635-1644). Without him, there would have been no Mindanáo in the Philippine map.

Sebastián Hurtado de Corcuera (Gobernador General, 1635-1644). Without him, there would have been no Mindanáo in the Philippine map.

Sebastián Hurtado de Corcuera was the 22nd Gobernador General during Spanish-era Philippines. He presided over archipelagic matters from 25 June 1635 to 11 August 1644. During his reign, the then Philippine military had one of its most glorious days as it has defeated its Muslim enemies from the south.

And yes, without Hurtado de Corcuera’s amazing military efforts, the late nationalist musical performer FrancisM would’ve been rapping Two Stars & A Sun instead of three. In one way or another, Hurtado de Corcuera was able to keep Mindanáo as part of Philippine territory. He even participated in the battlefield. Thus, in the words of National Artist for Literature Nick Joaquín, the “once separate and warring kingdoms of Manila, Cebú, and, yes, Joló were steadily projected as a single entity: Las Filipinas. Divide and conquer? The Spanish policy seems rather to have been: ‘Keep ’em one! Keep ’em together!’ There were any number of times when the Spanish could have dropped Mindanáo –or, at least, Sulú– from their empire; but (at the cost of much headache) they opted to keep Mindanáo and Sulú Philippine”.

If we were only able to make our present leader stay where the action/problem is, bloodshed would’ve been mitigated, if not totally avoided. To say that Arroyo should also take up arms and go straight to the battlefield like what Hurtado de Corcuera did is indeed ludicrous. But the point is that precious time should’ve been allocated more into this centuries-old “Mindanáo crisis” as compared to her recently concluded and almost nonproductive thirty-minute meeting with US President Barack Obama which focused mainly on US interests and not our own.

In contrast, Hurtado de Corcuera had a goal, a vision, a mission: to unite the archipelago against all odds. And he even earned the respect of his Muslim foes. Such passion should be inherent among our present-day national leaders in order to make sure that Mindanáo remains on our map. But the contrary is true. Alas, what Hurtado de Corcuera almost died fighting for was almost lost when the Arroyo government unconstitutionally gave way to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front’s lack of historical and ancestral logic last year. Thank goodness Lady Justice never slept on it.

For having added and kept Mindanáo as part of our patrimony, it is correct to say that Sebastián Hurtado de Corcuera was the last of the conquistadores to have ever set foot on our shores. He physically toiled –sweat, blood, and all– to make sure that Luzón and Visayas will remain a threesome together with Mindanáo. May the present-day Filipinos respect Hurtado de Corcuera’s efforts to keep the Philippines complete.

But that’s another problem — almost everything from our Spanish past is considered as worse as the present administration.

The Shameless Massacre of the National Artist Award

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Many years ago, during the Marcos regime, Filipino diplomat Carlos P. Rómulo received the National Artist Award for Literature. Rómulo, allegedly a plagiarist (he was accused of plagiarizing a famous 1952 speech of US politician Adlai Stevenson), was also said to have had ghost writers who wrote some of his most famous speeches during his prime. That is why when news came out that he was to be awarded the highest literary prize in the land, National Artists for Literature José García Villa and Nick Joaquín were so disturbed that they reportedly tried to return their National Artist medals to the government.

But the awards were non-returnable. Thus, the two legendary poets were forced to remain in the league of Rómulo.

This controversy, however, was not made known to the public. Unlike what’s happening right now to the current crop of National Artists. For this year’s batch, there seems to be a new Rómulo…

The master of true-to-life Pinoy “slasher films” (aka massacre films) finally made it to the cut (no pun intended).

New National Artist Caparás: currently receiving heat from true artists. (photo from

New National Artist Caparás: currently receiving heat from true artists. (photo from

Last month, Magno José Carlo Caparás, better known as Carlo J. Caparás in the entertainment circuit, was named National Artist for Visual Arts and Film. This elicited vehement disappointment and disbelief from many artists from various genres. How could a film director be conferred the National Artist award when his works could be defined as sleazy when compared to the obras of local film giants such as Lino Brocka and Ishmael Bernal?

Could his violent B movie “The Marita Gonzaga Rape-Slay: In God We Trust!” hold a candle to Brocka’s critically-acclaimed “Maynila: Sa mga Kuko ng Liwanag”? How about Caparás’ forgettable “The Vizconde Massacre Story (God Help Us!)”? Could it be placed in the league of legendary Filipino films such as Bernal’s “Himala”?

The above mentioned Caparás films —and more— were commonly called as “massacre films” during the 90s. The comic strip writer-cum-movie director capitalized on such films at a time when Metro Manila’s bloodthirsty psychopaths and sex-starved perverts were having a grand time eluding anti-crime busters. In fairness, his massacre movies were well-received in the box office. However, these films were not artistic, nor did they elicit any form of beauty at all (beauty should be inherent in any art form).

The National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) in its website listed a set of criteria in selecting a candidate for the award:

The Order of National Artists shall be given to:
1. Living artists who are Filipino citizens at the time of nomination, as well as those who died after the establishment of the award in 1972 but were Filipino citizens at the time of their death;
2. Artists who through the content and form of their works have contributed in building a Filipino sense of nationhood;
3. Artists who have pioneered in a mode of creative expression or style, thus, earning distinction and making an impact on succeeding generations of artists;
4. Artists who have created a substantial and significant body of works and/or consistently displayed excellence in the practice of their art form thus enriching artistic expression or style; and
5. Artists who enjoy broad acceptance through:
– prestigious national and/or international recognition, such as the Gawad CCP Para sa Sining, CCP Thirteen Artists Award and NCCA Alab ng Haraya;
– critical acclaim and/or reviews of their works;
– respect and esteem from peers

From the above criteria, I’m confident that Caparás —a vocal supporter of Mrs. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo— should have failed the second, third, and last items. His works, particularly his films, never contributed in building a Filipino sense of nationhood; nobody will ever see any patriotism in “The Lilian Velez Story: Till Death Do Us Part” nor in his “The Maggie dela Riva Story (God… Why Me?)”. Not even his Panday films will generate any sense of nationalism at all, even if it starred cultural icon and National Artist for Film Fernando Poe, Jr.

He never made an impact on succeeding generations of artists; I have yet to hear a filmmaker who claims to have followed his footsteps nor to have mentioned that Caparás was a stylistic influence. And as far as I know —and I’m pretty sure of it— he never won any major award proclaiming the artistry of his films nor his comic strips. And are there any intelligent reviews written regarding his films?

In addition, Caparás started out as a comic strip writer/creator. But he never drew his comic strips. He had artists for them; he merely wrote the stories. So what’s the logic in conferring him the National Artist for Visual Arts Award?

On the religious side of things, Caparás has the knack (or the nerve) of inserting Eloi,-Eloi,-lama-sabachthani-like tag lines in the title of his crime movies (“God…Why Me?”, “God Help Us”, “In God We Trust!”, etc.). But were they really necessary? If you’d ask me, I say they’re next to blasphemy. In one way or another, Caparás is taunting God whether he denies this or not. Is this the kind of National Artist that the government wants to be proud of?

Aside from Caparás, another National Artist awardee is receiving flak from having been included in the prestigious list.

Cecille Guidote Álvarez is currently the Executive Director of the NCCA. Together with Caparás and five others, she was named as National Artist for Theater. She may or may not deserve the award, but for the sake of delicadeza, she should not accept it because of the fact that the NCCA (together with the Cultural Center of the Philippines) oversees the selection process of the National Artist Awards.

Many respectable figures from Philippine Arts and Culture, from writer Bienvenido Lumbera (National Artist for Literature) to film actor Leo Martínez (Director General of the Film Academy of the Philippines) expressed disbelief over the selection of both Caparás and Álvarez. Truly, this is the bleakest period yet for the National Artist Awards, if not Philippine Arts and Culture as a whole.

It appears that the Arroyo regime’s misgovernance of things have even trickled down to (gasp!) the country’s art sector. Does this mean every Philippine bureaucracy is no longer safe? Because not even Philippine arts and culture is spared from this sickening corruption that has been ravishing the archipelago since 2001. Tsk.

For more information about the controversy behind Carlo J. Caparás conferment as a National Artist for Visual Arts and Film, you may visit the online petition which seeks to block him from receiving the prestigious award (Carlo J. Caparás is Not Qualified to be National Artist). For the sake of Philippine Arts and Culture —and not for anything else— I signed up myself.

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