President Rodrigo Duterte conferred the Order of National Artist (ONA), a presidential award, to a new roster of awardees on October 24 at the Malacañang Palace.

The seven new National Artists are Raymundo “Ryan” Cayabyab (Music), Lauro “Larry” Alcala for visual arts, Francisco Mañosa (Architecture and Allied Arts), Ramon Muzones and Resil B. Mojares (Literature), Amelia Lapeña Bonifacio (Theater) and Eric de Guia a.k.a. Kidlat Tahimik (Film and Broadcast Arts).

“In ways more than one, art has been a witness to this storied history of our nation. It gave rise to the revolutions and served as a voice to those who fought for democracy and emboldened the spirit of the Filipino during the turbulent times,” Duterte said in the awarding ceremony.

The award was established through Ferdinand Marcos, Sr. Presidential Proclamation 1001 of April 2, 1972, conferring a posthumous recognition to painter Fernando Amorsolo, who died earlier that year.

In 2003, through Executive Order 236 s. 2003, it was raised to the level of a Cultural Order, fourth in precedence among the orders and decorations that comprise the Honors of the Philippines, and equal in rank to the Order of National Scientists and the Gawad sa Manlilikha ng Bayan.

Duterte also conferred Gawad sa Manlilikha ng Bayan awards to Ambalang Ausalin, Estelita Bantilan and Yabing Masalon-Dulo.

The Order of the National Artists is supposed to be conferred every three years and awarded in Malacañang on the first day of June. A shortlist of nominees is submitted to the president through the recommendation of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) and the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP). The NCCA and CCP would form a secretariat for research, selection and deliberations.

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte poses for a photo with the National Artist Awardees following the awarding ceremony at the Malacañan Palace on October 24, 2018. Joining the President are Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) Chair Virgilio Almario, and other officials from the NCCA. Caption/photo by KING RODRIGUEZ/PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

Past controversies

A controversy in the awards in 2009 derailed processing of nominations.

In May 2009, four names in the shortlist were sent to then-President Gloria Arroyo. Arroyo issued proclamations on July 2009 for three and excluding for one nominee, Ramon P. Santos for Music. Arroyo issued proclamations for four others, Cecile Guidote-Alvarez (Theater), Francisco T. Mañosa (Architecture), Magno Jose J. Caparas (Visual Arts and Film), and Jose “Pitoy” Moreno (Fashion Design), who did not go through the screening and selection process.

Protests from the art community—including living members of the order—filed a petition before the Supreme Court questioning the ‘president’s prerogative’ that they felt then was a way for Arroyo to ‘accommodate her allies.’ The proclamation for Guidote-Alvarez was criticized for delicadeza (propriety) as she was the Executive Director of the NCCA, on of two bodies who administer the selection process, at the time of her proclamation. Caparas was also criticized for having to his credit ‘chop-chop lady’ films .

In July 2013, high court invalidated Arroyo’s four additions to the Order. The court decision said that as the source of all honors, the president has the discretion to reject or approve nominees. However, the president does not have the discretion to amend the list by adding names that did not go through the NCCA-CCP process. The discretion is confined to the names submitted by the NCCA and CCP.

Prior this year’s awarding, the last recognition was given in 2014 under Benigno Aquino III. It was mired with controversy as well, for Aquino’s dropping of Nora Aunor in the awards.

Receiving flak for his decision for about two weeks since the awardees were announced, Aquino spoke on the issue for the first time on July 1, 2014.

“Ang naging problema ko lang dun ay alam naman natin lahat…naconvict po sya sa drugs,” Aquino said at the sidelines of the Philippine Air Force’s 67th anniversary at the Clark Air Base in Pampanga, referring to Aunor.

(My only problem with Nora Aunor’s nomination is that she was convicted for the use of illegal drugs.)

Contrary to Aquino’s statement, Aunor’s lawyer on the same day clarified that the actress was not convicted.

Aquino was once more absent from the spotlight after that. But other critics think it might no longer be about the National Artist controversy. The Supreme Court ruled Aquino’s Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) as unconstitutional on the same day. The Executive Department released of P1.107 billion of savings to 20 senators’ projects under DAP.



Selection and screening

National artists can be recognized under the categories music, dance, theater, contemporary arts (painting, sculpture, etc.), literature, film and broadcasting. New categories have been introduced, such as the recognition for historical literature given to Carlos Quirino by then-president Fidel Ramos.

The criteria for the Order of the National Artists:

  1. Living artists who have been Filipino citizens for the last ten years prior to nomination as well as those who have died after the establishment of the award in 1972 but were Filipino citizens at the time of their death;
  2. Artists who have helped build a Filipino sense of nationhood through the content and form of their works;
  3. Artists who have distinguished themselves by pioneering in a mode of creative expression or style, making an impact on succeeding generations of artists;
  4. Artists who have created a significant body of works and/or have consistently displayed excellence in the practice of their art form, enriching artistic expression or style; and
  5. Artists who enjoy broad acceptance through prestigious national and/or international recognition, awards in prestigious national and/or international events, critical acclaim and/or reviews of their works, and/or respect and esteem from peers within an artistic discipline.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here