Ate Guy, National Artist

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For someone who’s been waiting for the National Artist Award (NAA) proclamation, I dare say it’s been as exciting a climax as it can be, given a President who did exactly what I feared he would: refuse to declare TV, film and stage icon, and actress beyond compare Nora Aunor a National Artist.

I was giving PNoy the benefit of the doubt. Certainly he could have gone the other direction and decided to sign Nora’s proclamation. Certainly he could have considered the various things we’ve heard were raised against her and agreed with the National Commission for Culture and the Arts and the Cultural Center of the Philippines’ committees that these don’t matter. Say tax evasion? Non-existent cases. Drug addiction? Stricken off her record for having done community service, and therefore non-existent.

Of course this is to even acknowledge that these things matter at all, or should matter at all, before giving anyone a National Artist Award. The thing is we all know that these issues are only being raised because we are talking about Nora Aunor, The Superstar.

We are also talking about Ate Guy, and everything that means.


As Ate Guy
Because it is the fact that we know of Nora Aunor’s work, as we do of Ate Guy’s persona, that to me has spelled the difference between her and the rest of the National Artists we’ve got. Doing her work in film and music, the stage and television, Nora Aunor was not, and could not be, just about her work as actress.

Because Nora is also Ate Guy. She who we know to have adopted many children, long before Angelina Jolie made it fashionable. She who fell in love, time and again, with the most unexpected of men.

I was six the year Ate Guy starred in Himala. I grew up loving Pinoy popular and mass culture, local TV and movies, and knew only of Ate Guy as Elsa, the barrio lass who held a whole community in the palm of her miraculous hand. At some point in college I would realize the magnitude of this role, the breadth and scope of its importance, how scholars have studied it, how it made Nora into an icon. More importantly, how Nora as an actress made that role iconic.

This is the thing with our better actresses really: some roles make their careers, and some actresses make these roles far bigger and more important than others. This to me is the Nora-Elsa dynamic, which is also to point out the complexity of her iconography. Who is the actress playing a role, and which role is it that allows us to reimagine the actress as person?

With Nora, that person is also Ate Guy, her kindness and kasupladahan included, her spoken voice almost a whisper, her singing voice still unequaled. She speaks with a humility, like she is no Superstar. Yet she is elusive and evasive like a Superstar, rebelling against convention and proving she doesn’t care about the news at all. She epitomized rakenrol about as much as she does devil-may-care.

In the context of an entertainment industry that has devolved into fakery and manufactured personas, where one’s wealth and privilege are enough reason to get anyone on TV and in film, and where oversharing one’s personal life makes anyone a celebrity, there is no one like Ate Guy. There is also nothing like having her in our midst.

PNoy obviously doesn’t understand. But that’s why there’s an NAA Committee made up of experts and National Artists, to decide who deserves the award. That should be the reason why the President must sign off on it.

Personal bias
It is obvious to us all that this is not about Ate Guy’s body of work. It is about what the President thinks of her. I don’t know about you but that sounds like a grave abuse of discretion.

That Supreme Court decision on the 2009 National Artist proclamations of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo defines grave abuse of discretion to be an act (1) done contrary to the Constitution, the law or jurisprudence or (2) executed whimsically, capriciously or arbitrarily, out of malice, ill will or personal bias.

If we are to believe the more dominant story about this non-conferment of the award to Ate Guy, it would seem to be the case of drug possession against her in Los Angeles that put her on the President’s chopping block. This is after the Joint NCCA-CCP Committee for NAA, and Malacañang’s own Honors Committee, have said that Ate Guy deserves the award regardless.

This is the President exercising his right to ignore recommendations for National Artists, yes. But also this is the President executing an act on pure personal bias. And it is not even just a bias against Ate Guy because of her personal history. It’s a bias against her because she is an artista, whose work and life are interwoven by virtue of the artistic form she is part of.

Because we do not know the personal histories of our National Artists for Architecture or Literature, Dance or Music, or Visual Arts. Their lives are not feed and fodder for tabloid and showbiz news, their personas extraneous to the judgment of their work. Certainly we’ve got National Artists who are just as aloof as Ate Guy, if not even more so. Certainly we’ve got National Artists who are just as temperamental, and who are rebels in their own fields. All artists choose their own poison.

Certainly they have been declared as National Artists no matter these personal quirks, no matter these personal histories.

My brother is not … a pig!
Many things are clear now. One, that when Boy Abunda and Kris Aquino used their Sunday showbiz talkshow to absolve PNoy of the sin of not declaring Ate Guy, they were actually spinning this story. Because they pinned the blame on the Honors Committee of Malacañang, and yet Secretary Sonny Coloma says this was all the President’s doing, exercising his right to remove a recommended National Artist from the list of those proclaimed, never mind that it’s purely a personal bias against Ate Guy as artista.

Two, there is something wrong with an NAA that has to pass through an Honors Committee made up of political appointees. It’s a problem that has everything to do with another body that is purely political in nature, submitting their own recommendations to the President. That this PNoy government has kept the NAA under the Honors Committee at all, is so very Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo of them.

Three, an icon like Nora Aunor, whose body of work is cradled by the fields of cinema, TV, stage and popular music will always be victimized by being Ate Guy, the artista. And this is the real irony: the same field that allows Nora Aunor to even vie for the National Artist Award, is also the same field that has become her liability.

That is of course because this President has a personal bias against showbusiness and popular culture, and judges Ate Guy not on her work but her personal life.

One wonders how he judges someone like his own sister.

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20 Comments

  1. Nora Aunor is a National Artist in the eyes, heart and mind of the Filipino people with or without Pnoy’s approval. He may not regret what he did but surely it will have a negative effect on him. Wala namang nangyari sa Pinas nung umupo siya sa totoo lang. Selective justice,.saying, siya ang ibinoto ng mga tao sa pag-aakalang nasa tamang daan, pero di niya macontrol mga tao sa paligid niya. gaya ng lahat ng presidente, mga galamay nila ang magpapabagsak sa kanila.

  2. I really cried when I heard over the radio that Guy was snubbed by this President. I’m a Fil-Can who voted for him in Toronto, prayed for him in my daily 3:00 Divine Mercy Habit but my love for Guy surpasses my disrespect for him now. His exclusion of Nora is a blessing in disguise because he’s not worthy to bestow honors on Nora. This president is ignorant of the word EXCELLENCE.

  3. Ed Peñalosa on

    what do her drug addiction and legal cases have anything to do with her contributions to Philippine Arts? Billie Holiday who became a drug addict, an alcoholic and got herself in trouble with the law was even honored with the Grammy Hall of fame, Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, in 1988, the popular band U2 honored her with the song “Angel of Harlem.” And so much more.
    I can only think of the shallowness and hypocrisy of Pnoy.

  4. “Mediocrity knows nothing higher than itself; but talent instantly recognizes genius”- Arthur Conan Doyle

    A mediocre president obviously does not recognize True National Artist such as Dolphy or Nora Aunor whose excellence in their craft – PNoy now superseded & judged by their immoral acts (vices) or mistakes done before (womanizing, drug addiction, alcoholism and tax evasion).

    Its National Artist NOT National Saint. What right do you have to judge what is Moral? We all know that nobody is perfect and we have no standard of morality. Hence, there is no way to judge what is good or bad.

    Awards & recognitions are meant to encourage our people to strive for excellence (improve intellect/genius) NOT spread hypocrisy (dumb/stupid).

    I respect your opinion & valid arguments on morality issue, but please focus on their craft and not dwell too much on the past. Because we all makes mistakes, so also learn to forgive others.

    “PRACTICING FORGIVENESS DOES NOT MEAN ACCEPTING WRONG DOINGS”

  5. Daniel B. Laurente on

    Nora is recognized thru her achievements shared to our culture. What ever her committed errors in life must not bear on her quualification to be declared National Artist.
    Saints is definitely without wrong deeds in their existence but still declared Saints becuase of what they shared to humanity.
    Or of course like Caparaz, her educational attainment might have been the reason for not being considerdered for the award.
    Many men and women achieved and recieved a multi award for their talents in their existence not due lack of highest level of education but due to their unselfish contrubutions to society and human culture.

  6. It’s a case of “damned if you do and damned if you don’t” scenario. As the comments goes, it appears that PNOY did not choose Nora because of her deeds as private individual, totally ignoring her contributions in the Silver Screen. And for this reason PNOY is damned. On the contrary, If PNOY chose Nora, the non-Noranians will react and say why PNOY chose Nora who got involved with drugs et.al. In this case PNOY is a damned again. Obviously, we cannot separate the Screen persona with her real life, that’s the reality. Robin Hood is also a good man, actually helping the poor, but his deed, stealing, is not correct and therefore is still unacceptable as good example. National Artist must be a good example in arts and personal life alike.

  7. Absolutely the greatest newsmaker in Philippine movie industry that only Nora Aunor’s Phenomenal existence could attribute to her iconic image as the one&only superstar of Philippine Cinema!!!
    Indeed she should be proclaimed the National Artist & National Treasure with or without the President’s signature!!!!

  8. romy del rosario on

    Nora will never be forgotten her work and music will linger in history. The people who judged her will never be remembered.

  9. Lord Chimera on

    There’s more than that, Nora once campaigned for GMA. That’s the personal bias for said exclusion.

    • This I think is the numero uno reason why the immature one rejected her. She never denounced GMA and went balimbing like many of the ex-Lakas ex-Kampi who are now LP. pweh.

  10. amie c.geronimo on

    Nora aunor’s falls and follies should not define her as a national artist… or even as a person. What matters is her collective body of works as an actress par excellence. Pnoy biased? No, he is a bigot.. maybe he prefers glutathione-enhanced mediocre artists to brown-skinned cinema gems… i just wonder… may napanood na ba si Pnoy na pelikula ni ate guy… i doubt it… kung ang judgment nya ay base sa mga napanood na nyang pelikulang pilipino… hindi nga katakatakang hindi nya type si la aunor… kasi manghang mangha na cya sa “little bossings…”
    Ms. nora aunor… indeed… you do not deserve to be a national artist… for this title is fleeting and fancy… you deserve to be a NATIONAL TREASURE…

  11. PNoy can invoke his presidential prerogative all he wants. He can choose to stay mum, like a diva, and claim he doesn’t have to explain himself. That doesn’t mean , though, that people will stop asking and clamoring for an explanation.
    This NORA AUNOR SNUB will haunt him like a shadow he can’t get rid of. NORA AUNOR will be like a thorn on his side for the rest of his presidency. His already checkered legacy will be tainted even more with the infamy with which he disrespected the collective wisdom of the community of scholars and artist and the common tao.
    But then again, what is a diva for if he can’t have his whims ?

  12. It came into my shock that Nora Aunor was not given what is due for her. Due to political
    and stupid reason none other than the leader of our land. His decision will haunt him even he is in his grave. I can’t fathom that the vanguard of our society is the same hypocrite people that lead us to darkness.

  13. Claro Apolinar on

    Mabuhay to Nora Aunor and all who are really great achievers, in creativity, originality and production ability, in all fields of the arts!

  14. arcee delros on

    yup i agree 100%.. itong si abunda ang punong kaporal sa pag sisinungaling im surprise na patuloy pa rin itong kulapo na ito sa panlalason sa mga pinoy.. and so is channel 2… well 2 years pang higintayin para mawala na yang si abnoy.. at lahat ng mga sipsip at balimbing na kapanalig niya. sana lang matuto ng mga pinoy sa mga peke na lider na hinahalal ng tao..kawawang pilipinas. sabi ng ng namayapa kon inang pare pareho lang ang mga iyan sa tuhugan ni hudas! tsk tsk tsk tsk

  15. Yes, I agree. Pnoy’s decision is an abuse of his prerogative, influenced by her sister. Thank you Miss Stuart Santiago for endless support to Nora Aunor. I want to hear how Pnoy judges her sister’s personal life.

  16. Nora AUNOR’S artistry is timeless ,it will live forever.the dictatorship of the democracy icon ???will only live for less than two years..Nora’s artistry will be remembered with respect and adulation,her legacy will be with the people forever.pnoys legacy will vanish and the people will only remember that once they put into office a mediocre president who thinks and act like a dictator.

  17. Nilda Boland on

    sa lahat ng personalidad na nakilala sa pinilakang tabing wala nang pinaka mahusay kundi si nora aunor. wala akong natandaang seryosong pelikula nya na puedeng ibasura. siya ay karapat-dapat tumanggap ng national artist award.

  18. The most regarded and famous artists IN HISTORY have had troubled pasts and experiences with drugs and/or alcohol. Some were even disturbed! That is why they are passionate with their work! From Charles Dickens, Vincent Van Gogh, Jackson Pollock, Sylvia Plath, Virginia Wolf to Jim Morrison, John Lennon and Alexander McQueen (and even Steve Jobs…should I keep going? The list is innumerable!) And they continue to inspire the WORLD!…So the President better get off his high horse named Hypocrisy and start judging people by the quality of their work and not their past!

  19. arlyn pagaran on

    Ay naku, marami pa in talaga Noranian. Papano na kami mga Vilmanian. Hindi ba pdeng maging National Artist? O Si Eddie Garcia, pde rin ba?