A number of Dolphy’s fans are less than happy with President Benigno Aquino III, because he has opted not to step in and fast-track the National Artist selection process, so that the recently departed star would be able to receive it posthaste.
In their view, he clearly deserves the award because the nation loves him and appreciates what he’s done, both on and off TV-movie screens
—isn’t that what being a National Artist should be all about?
—Uh, not quite. As the president’s spokespersons have scrupulously pointed out, the country’s top artistic honor is not meant to celebrate the most-loved artist, only the very best.
More to the point, there is a careful process to follow, precisely to make sure that the best are chosen and rewarded.
That’s an important point, because throughout the country’s modern history, political patronage in general—and presidential preference in particular—have often compromised and co-opted the objectivity that should govern and inform the top award’s selection process.
It’s relevant to note that Corazon C. Aquino was the only president who did not interfere with the awards’ selection process. To her eternal credit, she neither added to nor subtracted from them by inserting her personal preferences.
Even more relevant is the fact that her son, President Noynoy, has also scrupulously refrained from interfering with the selection process. Like mother, like son? Impressively, that’s true.
Presidents are presidents, and artists are artists—and never the twain should collide or collude!
What’s so important about following the selection process, which takes two or even three years? Precisely to make sure that only the very best and most consistent Filipino artists are rewarded for their creative works and high standards, and that no pressure or influence groups, especially politicians, will subvert the awards by giving them to well-connected “winners.”
As per our research, up to one third of all National Artist awards to date have gone to undeserving people, despite the jurors’ best efforts to protect the selection process. Imagine how many more undeserving “winners” there would be if extreme care and caution were not taken and exercised?
That’s why emotions or connections can’t be allowed to enter the deliberations and seize control of their outcome.
It’s tough being a real artist in the Philippines. Genuine artists with consistently high standards and a solid body of work have a hard time creating their masterpieces in this country—so, we must make doubly sure that only the very best are legitimately and deservedly rewarded for their life-long struggle and quest for excellence.
Popularity is one thing, but indomitable and principled artistry is quite another.