After that last piece on the case of the missing national artists – a case really of a Presidential proclamation that’s taken too long to happen – I heard from the grapevine that the culprit is the non-inclusion of Comedy King Dolphy’s name on that list of National Artists recommended by the NCCA-CCP NAA Committee.
For those who think this came for left field, one only needs to consider the praise the President showered on Dolphy upon the latter’s death in 2012. Then, Presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte announced that the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) had informed the Palace that Dolphy was “deemed nominated” for the award.
Reading up on what the President said about Dolphy then, even I would be surprised by Dolphy’s exclusion in the final list.
Deserving da award
PNoy had said many things about Dolphy and his body of work in 2012.
“Dolphy was a good man who embodied the common Filipino: He loved deeply, knew the value of humor, respected his fellowmen, and was always ready to face any challenge life threw at him.”
“He came from a generation that went through a lot of trials—and the struggle taught him to be humble, honest and helpful.”
“He did not only revolutionize the entertainment industry; he also changed our national consciousness for the better: Through his art, he extended our world views, and gave us the ability to reflect on, value, and find joy in the daily realities of Filipino life.”
But also many others weighed in on Dolphy’s value as a national artist then, as an actor whose audience is truly national in scope, his work traversing generations of Filipino audiences and cutting across class differences and geographic distance.
Film director Peque Gallaga had said then about the question of the National Artist Award for Dolphy: “Dolphy was playing an elaborate game of mirrors. Most of his audience were aware that he was a 100% “tunay na lalake” in the kanto scale of machoness — so his doing gays (that were usually quite understanding and quite truthful, meaning they didn’t resort to huge stereotypical mugging) was in a way the more subversive road towards acceptance by Pinoy society at large, without preaching, sermonizing, or the expected Brocka political agenda movie. As a matter of fact, I think that his weakest gay portrayal was precisely in Tatay Kong Nanay because there was that Brockanian lesson-to-be-learned quality. (http://stuartsantiago.com/peque-gallaga-on-dolphy-the-artist/)
I made my case for Dolphy soon after he died, too, where I wondered why there was no value being put on John Puruntong and Kevin Cosme, Dolphy the dancer and the theater actor, Dolphy as paired with Panchito, Dolphy as the king of comedy and the father of the sitcom. I said then: “Dolphy taught us to look in the mirror and see difference. Then he said, you do not need to cross over to the riches of Donya Delilah, because your continued struggle validates you by and in itself. Your struggle is identity enough.” (http://www.radikalchick.com/dolphy-national-artist-2/)
Writer Bibeth Orteza’s Gawad CCP Citation for Dolphy hits on what his celebrity meant to us as nation. “Mukha ng isang Dolphy ang nakikita natin sa salaming ating hinaharap bilang mga sosyal at perpektong Filipino. Nagsilbi siyang katotohanang nagligtas sa maraming henerasyon sa ka-plastikan.”
Declare him, declare them all
If it is true that it is Dolphy’s missing name from that NAA Committee shortlist that has kept the President from declaring the new batch of National Artists, then it seems easy enough to ask that he declare Dolphy too, isn’t it?
Presidents before PNoy have used the presidential prerogative to bring in artists missing from the final shortlists after all. Erap added Ernani Cuenca Sr. to the 1999 list, as Gloria added Abdulmari Imao and Alejandro Roces in 2000. Fidel Ramos did one over the NAA Committee and created a category from scratch – Historical Literature – via Executive Order No. 451 in order to declare Carlos Quirino a National Artist in 1997.
In all these instances there was no court case filed by sitting National Artists against the presidents who added names to the list of NCCA-CCP recommended recipients. Neither did the Supreme Court decide that the president’s decision to add names was a “grave abuse of discretion.”
The latter is probably what has made the Palace iffy about adding Dolphy’s name to the list recommended by the NAA Committee. Because the SC ruled against GMA’s addition of four names to the 2009 National Artist list, we are all uncertain about whether or not it will be treated as a “grave abuse of discretion” as well to declare the Dolphy—or anyone for that matter—over and above that list.
I say, declare him. And let’s see how far the sitting National Artists and the artistic community will take this discussion, and against whom they will use that SC ruling. I say, declare Dolphy, and listen to why he doesn’t deserve the National Artist Award. It would be great to have a public high-profile discussion about why they are taking away presidential prerogative, which should put into question all presidential prerogative additions before 2009.
It is easy to prove how Dolphy deserves this award, how in 2009 he was in fact shortlisted alongside Nora Aunor, and how since then so many – Malacañang included – have assessed Dolphy’s contributions to culture found that he deserves to be National Artist, over and above what the academics and artists of the NAA Committee might say.
I say declare Dolphy as National Artist, Mr. President, and then the burden of saying otherwise will not be yours. And then we can have an honest discussion about the National Artist Award: how it is given, who they have chosen, and who they miss acknowledging in the process.
The grapevine’s list of National Artist Awardees for 2014 include Nora Aunor, Alice Reyes, Jose Ma. Zaragoza, Cirilo Bautista, Francisco Coching, and Francisco Feliciano.
Declare Dolphy, Mr. President. Declare them all.