It has been almost six months since President Aquino proclaimed the new National Artists, but there’s no sign they will be formally honored as required by law.
Proclaimed new National Artists were poet Cirilo F. Bautista, dancer Alice Reyes, composers Ramon Santos and Francisco Feliciano, comic book artist Francisco Coching, and architect Jose Maria Zaragoza.
Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma said six months ago that the President would confer the Order of the National Artist in an appropriate ceremony.
But none has been proclaimed yet. Meanwhile, Feliciano passed way last September without getting his National Artist medallion.
Give arts a chance
Asked what she would tell the President if she had an audience with him, Reyes said she would gently ask him why it was taking so long to hold the proclamation ceremonies.
“I will also invite the President to come to one of our rehearsals and see for himself how dancers live and what they aspire for, and the struggles dancers have to go through for their art,” she said.
“I suppose the other National Artists have questions at the back of their heads. Of course, it is sad that one of us—National Artist for Music Francisco Feliciano—had passed away without the official confirmation from the state.
“I will tell him to give the arts a chance, and that by avoiding the arts, he is actually missing a lot that is exciting in the cultural sector. I know he is a busy person and attending to the heavy burdens of the presidency. But presidents of any country acknowledge the role of artists in national development.
“My life has not changed since being named National Artists,” added Reyes, whose “Cinderella” opened at the Cultural Center of the Philippines on Nov. 28. “Like the other newly proclaimed National Artists, I still don’t have the medal. And like any other artists, I hang on to my obsession with dance regardless of whether my work does well or not in the box office. Our passion keeps us alive.
“Even with no financial support, artists thrive on moral support and I think the President can very well do that,” Reyes said.
“Nobody can live on choreographing in this country. But just reflecting on the dancers I have mentored and the choreographers I have inspired makes me want to give more after this award. Just seeing the young dancers do very well leaves me in tears. They are the reasons why artists like me are still alive.”
Pray for him
Ballet teacher Tita Radaic said the President was obviously busy with pressing state affairs.
“We believe in his herculean effort to uplift our people,” she said. “This we do not ignore, and we commend him and pray for him and our people. But not all is politics and power and money and material development. The Filipino is an innate artist, a lover of music and dance. Our visual artists can proudly compare with the best in the world. Artists do not work for money, for power, for positions, yet they bring honors to the country.
“I would like to appeal to the President: ‘Take a good look at your countrymen in the arts, and perhaps discover something in yourself that you never knew ever existed. That your concern for true artists will make you a complete man—a Renaissance man with a Filipino face and heart.’”