Saturday, August 08, 2009

A Curious Cat Reminder

There’s a lot of heated talk over the controversial decision to award National Artist status to film director Carlo J. Caparas and theatre maven Cecile Guidote-Alvarez. After reading through some of the discussions, here are a few points I want to raise:
A. Don’t think of this issue as pop versus culture, high-brow as opposed to masa, rich against poor.
  1. The quality of work (in the case of Caparas) or the effort put in (in case of Alvarez) is irrelevant. The worth of the art and the artist is not the issue here.
  2. Granted representatives of the National Commission on Culture and the Arts (NCCA) and the Cultural Centre of the Philippines (CCP) select the nominees for National Artist. So for our purposes, let’s assume all things are equal (including the quality of the art) to put the nominees on equal footing.
B. Likewise, keep in mind that it’s not the National Artist title itself that is important but rather what the title itself symbolizes.
  1. More to the point, the title represents the decision of the judges to award you and your work. That means that you abide by the judgment of these people picked to make the selections. As someone once pointed out, to me if you want to play the game, you've got to play by the rules of the game.
  2. Without that judgment, the title itself is nothing.
C. Which brings us to the third point: the selection process is the issue here. There are set rules on how the National Artists are selected and these were circumvented.
  1. Certain nominees (including Caparas and Alvarez) were included by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo as National Artists OUTSIDE the selection process (presidential prerogative notwithstanding-- and this is not even defensible).
  2. What’s more, the selection of Alvarez was wrong to begin with, given her position as NCCA chair. This is regardless of her achievements, status and efforts in her field. Awarding the head of the body that’s giving out the award? That is major FAIL.
  3. My theory is that this is symptomatic of the Filipino’s sense of ako muna (“me first”) again. As an example, we would normally line up if the rules require us to do so. However, given a chance, we would jump the line if we can. It all boils down to who you know.
D. If these nominees were really deserving of being cited, then a title should be created or a separate existing award should be given to them instead of making a hash of the current award system.
  1. You say they’re popular, that they’re loved by the masses? So create a popular artist status. That way, you won’t have to worry about being academic about it.
I’m probably mucking some stuff up here with my logic tree but that’s the way I see it. And I instinctively distrust anyone who says they deserve the award anyway.

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