Three years after her controversial exclusion in the Order of National Artist (ONA) Award, showbiz icon Nora Aunor leads the nominees for the highest national recognition given to Filipino individuals who have made significant contributions to the development of arts in the country.
As a ruling, any artist who had been part of the list of awardees but was denied of confirmation is automatically eligible for the third deliberation or final stage of screening process.
“[Aunor] has been through the first, second and even the third screening, because she was already part of the list, so we will no longer ask her and her nominators to go through the same process again. What we will do, as a body this time, is just to update and gather more information about her works because she has done a lot since 2014,” Marichu Tellano, National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) deputy executive director told The Manila Times at the sidelines of Tuesday’s press conference calling for nominations to the ONA.
It will be remembered that Aunor—who starred in more than 100 movies including classic films “Tatlong Taong Walang Diyos” (1976), “Bona” (1980), “Himala” (1982) and “The Flor Contemplacion Story” (1995)—made it to the final list of National Artists in 2014 submitted to then-President Benigno Aquino 3rd. Aquino, however, excluded Aunor, citing her 2005 arrest for alleged illegal possession of drugs and paraphernalia at the Los Angeles International Airport.
The decision was met with uproar, particularly from the fans of the Superstar, Aunor’s showbiz moniker. The controversy also came at the heels of another National Artist controversy in 2009 where former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo removed musician Ramon Santos from the original lineup, adding theater actress and Philippine Educational Theater Association founder Cecille Guidote-Alvarez, filmmaker Carlo Magno Jose Caparas, architect Francisco “Bobby” Mañosa, and fashion designer Jose “Pitoy” Moreno.
Arroyo’s controversial move was taken to the Supreme Court, which invalidated the decision four years later, stripping the president’s choices of the revered title. Thereafter, the ruling that the president—the ultimate decision maker in the confirmation, proclamation and conferral of the ONA—can only remove nominees from the final list and not add on to it was implemented.
Despite these consecutive controversies in the selection cycles, the NCCA and the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP), acting as the ONA secretariat, are hopeful that the new selection will not suffer the same fate what with President Rodrigo Duterte’s “openness.”
“For the first time, the arts and culture has been placed in the Philippine vision [unlike]previous presidents where arts and culture has always been relegated to the last, at doon kami nabubuhayan. To me, that says that there is an openness and acceptance that arts and culture play a big role so I would tend to think that the President himself must be quite open to the role that artists can play,” Emily Abrera, CCP chairperson and member of ONA secretariat told The Manila Times.
“President Duterte has been very different from the ones before. Kakaiba ang kanyang pananaw at pag-iisip, so in my opinion, he will respect and appreciate the process—what it takes to select the final list of National Artist, but at the same time be participative and welcoming,” Abrera added.
While she cannot be certain that this cycle will be free of issues, Abrera guaranteed that the ONA secretariat will respect Mr. Duterte’s final decision once he receives the final list. Any government and non-government organization and institutions can nominate any individual for ONA in the following field: dance, music, theater, visual arts, literature, film and broadcast arts, design and architecture, and allied arts. Nominations shall be submitted on or before September 30. The conferral of National Artists will be on June 11, 2018.
Since in its creation in 1972, 66 artists have been bestowed with ONA.