Nora Aunor, National Artist

By Katrina S.S.

In the middle of writing today’s column, sad sad news stopped me in my tracks.
Nora Aunor is not included in tonight’s announced National Artist Presidential proclamations.

And while I’m glad that Alice Reyes (Dance), Francisco Coching (Visual Arts), Francisco Feliciano (Music), Ramon Santos (Music), Cirilo Bautista (Literature), and Jose Ma. Zaragoza (Architecture) have finally been proclaimed National Artists, there is a real sadness about not seeing Ate Guy on that list.

Read on…


  1. A very difficult issue. I reflect on the decision of whether or not to bury President Marcos in a cemetery of honor. Any special designation for someone puts the nation’s values and dignity on the line, and if the selection is “stained” (evidently by drugs and tax evasion, in Nora Aunor’s case), the stain passes to the state.

    I think the suggestion that the President sign the list with Nora Aunor’s name on it, then deflect criticism by pointing to the nominating committee as having “done it”, would be a cowardly way out for the President. He made his decision and can be blamed or credited, directly. He’ll get criticized either way. Comes with the job.

    I can at least understand why the President would do all that he can do to protect the Philippine state from any more tarnish than it already bears.

  2. “The grapevine had it that it was the issue of drugs, and tax evasion, and lesbianism, all of which are in Ate Guy’s icon, that was making the President hesitant about signing off on the National Artist list delivered to Malacañang in November.”—Katrina S.S.

    My take on this is that this is not just a question of moral but more so it is a question of cultural values that a Filipino National Artist should represents. And Ate Guy does not pass the criteria of a cultural model for the Filipino people, or so it seems.

    • The U.S. allows divorce, the Philippines does not. Libel is a criminal offense in the Philippines, it is not in the U.S. Marijuana is widely accepted in America, not so in the Philippines. The U.S. essentially is looser and more liberal place and does not expect people to hold to the stricter, religiously endowed line that exists in the Philippines. And George Bush, in a similar setting, might have decided otherwise. It is a president’s right and responsibility to do what he believes is correct for his nation, for the arts, for his principles or values, at a particular spot in time.

      The context and time here are different.

      It would be more uplifting if Filipinos would celebrate the people who won the award rather than crab about the one who did not. In a different day, maybe Nora Auna will gain the distinction, too.

      • You miss the point and misuse the idea of crab mentality, too. You also obviously take the example of Maya Angelou literally, when as with everything that has to do with arts and culture, the challenge is to think more deeply about parallelisms and ironies.

        This is a President who has said that culture is not a priority under his watch. And yet instead of actually signing the National Artist Award Committee’s recommended list, instead of trusting that this committee made up of a council of peers, and of government officials / appointees to the Cultural Center of the Philippines and National Committee for Culture and the Arts, he decides to listen to his Honors Committee. An Honors Committee that was first created by Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in order to add and subtract from the 2009 National Artist Award list. This is an Honors Committee that has been put into question by the same cultural institutions AND the Supreme Court, an Honors Committee that this President’s predecessor created, but which this President has listened to in light of this year’s (last year’s actually) National Artist Awards list.

        It would be more uplifting were the President consistent about not making culture a priority, and just let the cultural institutions and communities decide what it must for itself, extraneous to a President who does not care.

        • I think the president is in a box that bears criticism no matter what he does. You are in favor of an award for the artists, others would recoil at the insult such an award would mean to the other artists. So let’s all tear the president down, one way or another.

          That’s what I meant by crablike. I shrug, frankly, and am thankful Mr. Aquino gets to deal with these kinds of issues in a forever carping nation. He’s up to the challenge.

          My perspective is framed here:

  3. manuel buencamino

    The question is why do we even bother to have an NCCA bestowing awards on preferred artists? Ano yan, we need a yaya to tell us what is art and who is an artist? What is the NCCA, is that the CBCP of the arts? A true artist would say “Gee thanks” if someone recognized his work, but he will not cry if no one recognizes him because it’s the work not the recognition that matters for the artist. I can’t fathom why we would let a commission of appointed individuals award medals and pensions in our name. Ano yan membership to an exclusive club selected by selected people? Tigil na yan. Let the arts bloom on their own. We don’t need gardeners!

  4. manuel buencamino

    Why do you want or need the government to be your nanny telling what is art and who is an artist? Okay with me for the government to fund art schools, all forms of art pero hanggang doon na lang. I’m not for the government dictating art and culture to me.

  5. manuel buencamino

    “the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) and the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), these cultural institutions own a credibility that allows and empowers them to choose who might be declared as our National Artists.”

    Who gave them credibility credentials? Let’s look at that process. Why them and not just anybody of the street? Napaka subjective ng art, it’s absurd to have a body, a commission, impose objective standards on it, specially that we all know that everyone in the commission, at the end of the day, will vote according to their subjective inclinations.

  6. more like, ano yan, the president needed a yaya of an honors committee to tell us no, he rejects nora as national artist? sino ba ang members ng honors committee na yan? at anong karapatan nila? at bakit secret? totoo ba ang tsismis, according to the grapevine, malaki ang participation ni manolo (along with lupita) in pnoy’s decision na ilaglag si nora?

    • manuel buencamino

      If truth be told yang honors committee yan ay ang mayor doma. Yang mayordoma ang pang balance dun sa lobbying at ng mga clique decisions nung mga yaya. :-)

      Pero naiintindahan ko na ang galit ng marami ay nag uugat sa hindi pagsunod ng presidente sa recommendation ng comite o ng canonization committee.

      Lahat ng artist ay santo, walang karapatan ang gobyerno sa pamamagitan ng so called arts and culture experts na magdikta sa iba kung sino ang art o artist na sasantuhin.

      Yang mga praktis na ganyan, na meron comite na nagdidikta ng arts at culture sa atin, ay characteristic ng mga totalitarian regimes.

      Nung araw mga hari ang kumikilala sa mga artist, ngayon comite na.

      Lagi tayong sumisigaw ng demookrasya demokrasya pero bakit pagdating sa arts and culture pumapayag tayo sa diktadura ng comite? At ang masaklap diyan ay isinabatas pa natin ang praktis na yan.

  7. The National Artist award is given for national unity and lifting of our cultural heritage. To me, I find Nora Aunor worthy of such recognition despite of the moral issues against her. The present Honors committee (if it was consulted) should have appreciated her lasting contrribution to the cinematic art and should have not ignore the national pride and sentiments of the massa who loves her despite her “personal mistkes” . I am sure this create a deeper wound of alienation with the people who look up to the leaders who works for the national interest to preserve our national heritage.

    • There are “value” constituents other than artists, the elderly, conservatives and Catholics being amongst them. Even prudes. The President has to consider the whole of the nation which is, after all, much more conservative in social values than places like the U.S.

      I think it is disrespectful of the Office of the President, and arrogant, to believe he should sign any document that someone places on his desk. I would probably have approved the list with Nora Aunor on it, too, but I grant the President the right to be the President. It’s his job to discern all interests and make the decision he believes is best.

      All the angst over this is destructive. And we have lost track completely of the people who WERE given the award. Some way to honor and uplift . . .

      • Batang Genyo, ala-eh

        Hi Joe, we are not questioning the prerogative of the Office of the President. What voicing out against is his disrespect for deleting the top scoring nominee of the award nominating body by the NCCA and instead allowed himself to be dictated by the Honors Committee which has shown its burswa elitism by rejecting the National artist of the Massang Pinoy representing the uneducated,religious fanatics, drug addicts, the poor marginalized sector of the society. In idealogical terms, those who idolized Nora Aunor with no economic power or interest to protect….

        • So by respecting the established, the elderly, the Catholic, he disrespected the economically challenged and marginalized. Had he respected the economically challenged and marginalized, he would have disrespected the established, the elderly, the Catholic. If we really respect the Office of the President, I suggest that we recognize that, in some cases, there is no win to the decision unless we, of our own willingness to sacrifice, grant him the right to do what he thinks is best. Failing to do that, we rip at the nation’s fabric with this eternal “I must win” passion.

  8. GabbyD

    i agree with MB… bakit ayaw ng private sector gumawa ng parangal para kay nora aunor? wala bang association ng mga aktor?

    its not necessary that the govt is the one defining these things. in fact, people would probably respect it more, coming from an industry association.

    unless pera ang gusto ng mga awardees? i’m sure di kalakihan ang prize money, di ba?

  9. GabbyD

    i write that because all the most respected awards in the world are given by private industry level associations/unions/clubs. the emmy’s, oscars, grammy, tonys… all of whom are voted on by the industry at large. the mark twain prize for humor, the peabody, the pulitzer… ALL private…

    why not put up your own recognition that people will respect more?

    • Batang Genyo, ala-eh

      Pare, kaya tinawag yang Parangal ay para sa buong Kabayanan <National", hindi pang peer lang or parochial interest ng mga artist at hindi rin pang private purpose ang mga "contribution: sa larangan ng sining at pelikula. ang kanyang mga international awards ay pinagaaralan sa mga malalaking lungsod ng America, europe, Africa. Kaya di lang niya siyang ordinaryong mamayan ngunit isang Pandadaidigan PIlipina na ibinabandera ang bansang Pilipinas.

  10. manuel buencamino

    Seems like most of the opinion pieces I have read come from people who don’t mind the State becoming involved in the selection and elevation of some artists into National Artists.

    When the State becomes involved in art in that manner, then art turns into an instrument of the State. it becomes a means to advance the ends of the State – nationalism, patriotism, national unity, etc. – it becomes political propaganda.

    • Batang Genyo, ala-eh

      MB@ i dont call it propaganda but preservation of our cultural heritage and honoring the excellence of its citizens in their field of contribution. It only becomes propaganda if what is being trumpeted are superficial and where excellence is honored with fraud and lies.

      • GabbyD

        the point, batang genyo, is that industry groups — or any private group– can have their own award for “preservation of our cultural heritage and honoring the excellence of its citizens in their field of contribution.”

        IN FACT, the many prestigious awards are PRIVATE in nature.

        for example, is there a public service award more prestigious than Ramon Magsaysay award? thats a private group.

        i dont get it. the industry should get together and just create an award, and take the govt out of it.

        my prediction? the private group will be authoritative and the “national artist” awards will just follow the private group’s lead.

        my recommendation: since these artists have a problem with the selection mechanism, then make your own “academy” of filipino artists, and vote!

        • Batang Genyo, ala-eh

          Thats is wrong with “privatization” of our facets of our Pilipino life, the self is glorified not for the sake of society but for a select few who exploits such talents for their own commercial value not for the identity of the national good.

          • GabbyD

            huh? the point is the government does NOT have a monopoly on NATIONAL “anything” — culture, science, service, etc…

            thats part and parcel of democracy. people working together, either through the government OR on their own in private associations.