CHRISTIAN Aguilar, son of Federico Alcuaz; Cirilo Francisco Bautista; Filomena Coching, wife of Francisco Coching; Manuel “Jun” Urbano, son of Manuel Conde; Rebecca Feliciano, wife of Francisco Feliciano; Raphael Francisco, son of Lazaro Francisco; Alice G. Reyes; Ramon Pagayon Santos; Loudette Zaragoza-Banson, daughter of Jose Maria V. Zaragoza PHOTOS BY KIMBERLY DELA CRUZ
Art for art: Celebrating the new National Artists from A (Aguilar Alcuaz) to Z (Zaragoza)
THERE is no better way to celebrate lives devoted to art than with the performance of more art. Last April 14, President Aquino formally conferred the Order of the National Artists on nine artists in Malacañang, the first conferment since 2006.
That evening, the new National Artists were feted by their peers and followers at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP).
In powerful, moving presentations and performances, audience members became familiar with the honorees’ long careers in Gabi ng Parangal para sa Mga Bagong Hirang na Pambansang Alagad ng Sining.
Of the nine honorees, six were named in 2014: Cirilo F. Bautista (Literature); Alice G. Reyes (Dance); and Ramon P. Santos (Music), who were all present; and the late Francisco V. Coching (Visual Arts); Francisco F. Feliciano (Music); and Jose Maria V. Zaragoza (Architecture).
Also honored posthumously were three awardees from 2009: Federico Aguilar Alcuaz (Visual Arts); Manuel P. Urbano, aka Manuel Conde (Cinema); and Lazaro A. Francisco (Literature). Family members represented the posthumous awardees.
It is, thus, only proper that CCP president Raul Sunico referred to the evening as “a culmination in honor of the National Artists.”
Sunico said it was the mission of agencies such as the CCP and the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) “to perpetuate the legacies of the creativity of the National Artists,” whose output is both “a source of inspiration and emulation for future generations” and “the search for our national identity.”
NCCA chair Felipe “Jun” de Leon said that, unlike those who study rational disciplines such as science and medicine, “people who study the humanities never follow the path of violence.”
“Those who focus on the arts are able to accept multiple answers and develop a strong sense of empathy,” De Leon said.
“We are forever grateful” for all the National Artists have given the country, he concluded.
Paul Morales directed the evening’s performance, with a script by Nick Pichay and musical direction by Jed Balsamo.
Audiovisual presentations chronicled the life and achievements of the National Artists, with production numbers melding the art forms. Gracing the stage were actors Noel Comia Jr., Liesl Batucan, Remus Villanueva, JK Anicoche, Lhorvie Nuevo, JV Ibesate, Hannah Tolentino and Isay Alvarez.
Providing the music was the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of Herminigildo Ranera and the Philippine Madrigal Singers with choirmaster Mark Anthony Carpio.
Ballet Philippines turned creativity into lucid action in the CCP Main Theater, the Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo.
The performances and presentation were extraordinary in how they created a union of forms: poetry read out loud with music, paintings and illustrations covering the backdrop, film images and novelistic passages coming to life while music became motion.
Through these performances and presentations, the audience members became a part of the National Artists’ stories: how Alcuaz painted modern images of the Philippines in becoming an internationally recognized artist; how Bautista overcame poverty to engage in five decades of creative writing; how Coching engaged the readers to stand testament to the important place of komiks in Philippine culture; how Conde opened the way to new worlds with a social conscience as the first “indie” film director; how Feliciano sought to glorify God in his compositions; how Francisco’s novels brought about crusading change; how Santos’ maverick music fusion changed the very concept of Filipino music; how Reyes gave birth to modern Filipino dance; and how Zaragoza injected new life into the structures of commerce, faith and healing he designed.
The evening ended with a glorious moment: The new National Artists and their representatives on center stage, all lit up, with confetti falling from above as they received a standing ovation and applause.
It was also a fittingly warm moment when the new National Artists received warm congratulations from three National Artists who sat with them: Virgilio Almario (Literature, 2003); Benedicto “BenCab” Cabrera (Visual Arts, 2006); and Bienvenido Lumbera (Literature, 2006).
An enthusiastic crowd filled the Main Theater—a crowd that paid rapt attention and broke into ebullient applause at just the right moments—which included 1973 Miss Universe Margie Moran-Floirendo and senatorial candidate Lorna Kapunan.
After the ceremonies, the new National Artists were overwhelmed by emotion, unable to summon words to describe how they were feeling.
Surrounded by guests who took selfies with him, Santos said, “I feel very happy. It’s just amazing.”
Reyes, who was a very popular choice judging by the audience reaction, was exuberant: “I’m so glad I’m alive! I’m just enjoying it. It’s just beyond words.”
Gabi ng Parangal, by channeling the continuum of creativity and congratulations—art for art—gave the nation the first public opportunity to give thanks to the 58th, 59th, 60th, 61st, 62nd, 63rd, 64th, 65th and 66th National Artists, from A (Aguilar Alcuaz) to Z (Zaragoza).
The quality of the performances thus reminded all who came to bear witness to that all-important inheritance Sunico spoke of: “We have the responsibility of maintaining this high level of artistic excellence.”