Finally, a national artist: Nora Aunor on receiving highly coveted title after several snubs
In her 55 years in the biz, Nora Aunor has collected countless acting trophies, nominations and lifetime achievement awards from various local and international institutions. This year, the “Superstar” was given what could very well be the highest honor she can ever receive as an actor—a place in the illustrious roster of the Order of National Artists of the Philippines.
“Napakahalaga po ng award na ito para sa akin dahil lahat po ng mga pinaghirapan ko bilang artista ay nabigyan ng pagpapahalaga sa pamamagitan ng napakataas na parangal na ito. Lahat naman po ng karangalang ibinigay sa akin ay aking pinahahalagahan, pero espesyal po talaga ang National Artist Award,” Aunor said in a message to the Inquirer.
Last June 10, Malacañang Palace—upon the joint recommendation of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) and the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP)—named eight new national artists for the year 2022.
Joining Aunor are: screenwriter Ricardo “Ricky” Lee and filmmaker Marilou Diaz-Abaya for film and broadcast arts; coloratura soprano Fides Cuyugan-Asensio for music; stage director and actor Antonio “Tony” Mabesa for theater; literary writer and critic Gemino Abad; designer Salvacion Lim-Higgins for fashion; and choreographer Agnes Locsin for dance.
Never in her dreams did the 69-year-old thespian imagine that she would one day hold a title of such magnitude. “Simula’t simula po ay hindi ko po inisip na ako ay bibibyan ng karangalang ito dahil ako ay naniniwala na marami pang higit na mas karapat-dapat para sa karangalang ito,” Aunor said.
The news, Aunor related, was met with great excitement from her family, friends and devoted Noranians, who see the recognition as long overdue.
Calls for Aunor’s conferment as national artist has been a recurring subject in the industry since 2014, when she was dropped by the late President Benigno Aquino III from the list of honorees, citing the actress’ arrest for alleged illegal drug possession in 2005 in Los Angeles, United States. Aunor’s lawyer, however, stressed that the charges against the actress was eventually cleared in 2007 and the arrest was deemed to have never occurred.
In 2018, Aunor was shortlisted for a second time, but, again, failed to make the cut. Then presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo explained that Nora received a “majority,” but not a unanimous vote from CCP and NCCA jurors.
In 2020, the issue made headlines anew, after ACT-CIS Rep. Niña Taduran filed a house resolution seeking Aunor’s “long overdue” recognition as national artist,” which she rightfully deserves.”
“Palagi naman pong masaya ang aking pamilya kapag nakatatanggap ako ng award at mas lalo na nga itong National Artist Award. Karamihan po sa mga kaibigan ko sa show biz pati na ang mga hindi taga-show biz ay sobra po ang kasiyahan at kaligayahan dahil ang kanila pong ipinaglaban ay nagkaroon na po ng katuparan,” she said.
“Lubos po ang aking pasasalamat sa mga tagahanga na naniwala at nagtiwala sa aking kakayahan at patuloy na nananalangin at nakipaglaban upang makamit ko ito. Napakapalad ko po at ako ay napili ng ating mahal na Pangulong Rodrigo Roa Duterte at ng mga bumubuo po ng NCCA at CCP sa pamumuno ni Direk Nick Lizaso (NCCA chair and CCP president) upang pagkalooban ng national artist for film and broadcast arts [award].”
Aunor, who has starred in such iconic and influential films like “Himala,” “Tatlong Taong Walang Diyos” and “Bona,” hopes that her newly bestowed distinction can help inspire other artists to continue loving and honing their craft.
“Maging inspirasyon po sana ang karangalang ito sa mga kapwa ko artista upang lalo pang magsumikap at mahalin ang kanilang sining para sa lalo pang ikatataas ng kanilang antas sa pagiging aktor,” said Aunor, who also used to produce films that pushed the envelope through her then movie outfit NV Productions. “Para rin maibalik ang mga klase ng pelikulang de kalidad tulad ng mga ginawa ko po noong araw kagaya ng ‘Himala,’ ‘Tatlong Taong Walang Diyos,’ ‘Bona,’ ‘Merika,’ ‘Minsa’y Isang Gamu-gamo,’ ‘The Flor Contemplacion Story,’ ‘Ina Ka ng Anak Mo,’ ‘Ang Totoong Buhay ni Pacita M’ at iba pa.”
Established under Proclamation No. 1001, The Order of National Artist Award is “the highest recognition conferred on Filipinos who have made distinct contributions to the development of Philippine Arts and Culture.” National artists are also given cash awards (P100,000 for living awardees; P75,000 for legal heirs of posthumous awardees); a monthly stipend, medical benefits, life insurance and a place of honor in state functions. They’re also entitled to a state funeral and burial at Libingan ng mga Bayani.
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