Ani ng Dangal! What could be more prestigious than harvesting honors that Filipino artists have sown all over the world? That is what this event is all about: recognizing those who won in international competitions for the current year; a project of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA). Running on its sixth year, it was held at the Newport Performing Arts Theater in Resorts World Manila on 02 Febrauary 2014 as part of the annual celebration of Ani ng Sining (Harvest of the Arts) commonly known as Philippine Arts Festival (PAF); being held by virtue of Proclamation 683 declaring February of every year as National Arts Month.
NCCA asked the media to be there at 3:30 p.m., saying that the door will be closed at 4:00 o’clock and program would start at 5:00 p.m. Coming from Quezon City, I thought that we should go after lunch because I learned from my cultural studies that ‘Filipino time’ is early, not late. So we arrived before 3:00 o’clock, along with an awardee, Norman Isaac and his son Glen. On our way to the elevator, we had a chance to chat. I learned that his wife and I had connections, being a cousin of visual artist Ernesto Matriano who’s my mom’s friend, classmate, and relative. As we arrived at the theater lobby, there were but a few people around, so we continued our conversation. That is, after I have introduced myself and my daughter who was with me. I asked her to tag along since NCCA told me through e-mail that two seats were reserved for me.
First, I learned that Glen M. Isaac was not just the son of Norman. A freelance cartoonist, he had his own title being the Grand Winner of the 17th International Postage Stamp Design Contest organized by the Korea Post and the Ministry of Knowledge Economy. Thirty-one years old at that time, his design with the theme “Sharing Hope” issued as an official Korean stamp in 2012 won over 5,300 entries from 21 countries. But then, it was not recognized by the Ani ng Dangal Committee as they did not know about it until this year that his father would be awarded. This conversation made me realize that this kind of award and maybe the other programs and projects of the NCCA should be published more often to cover the widest scope that it could reach for information dissemination.
Norman Isaac, who’s been Manila Bulletin’s editorial cartoonist, is one of this year’s awardees for visual arts. He won the Gold in the General Category of the 18th International Postage Stamp Design Contest in South Korea; ” a mascot-like white horse with multi-colored polka-dot-like spots, a wide-smiling little boy from inside its body holding up its head.” According to Norman, his design depicted “a cheerful kid popping out of the colorful horse, symbolizing the positive events for 2014, Year of the Horse” in Chinese Calendar.
Being early has its rewards. I got to meet another artist and engage in conversation with him without time pressure. He was not an awardee, but he traveled all the way from Cebu to have this exhibit at the theater lobby. Nothing ordinary with it. Being an environmentalist and sustainability advocate, his works are classified as trash sculpture and he’s a fashion artiste. Since his inclination is towards fashion, he makes beautiful sculptural art that is wearable. The materials used in his “fabric” are from plastic bottles, plastic cups, plastic (sando) bags, and garbage bags. I was really impressed that aside from creativity, he had this advocacy of turning garbage into something beautiful, thus prolonging the lifespan of Mother Earth. Asked about the most influential people in his life, he replied, “From Dita Sandico Ong, I learned how to be humble but to always have a vision for something high. From Kenneth Cobonpue, I learned creativity, the taste, and the values of an artist.” At this point I casually asked him about his personal opinion on the design imitations that spread in various parts of the country, and he had this to say: “Two things: It could be flattering that your art is being imitated, but it also kills the potential of their creativity.” I particularly liked how cleverly he put his words. We all know that it is unlawful to copy one’s artistic creation but his answer somewhat inspires the imitator to explore his or her originality instead of being mean to them. It was at this point that I realized how well he must have been raised by his parents. Francis Sollano, yes, that’s his name, is going to have his very first exhibit that would feature phallic-looking works on March in celebration of International Women’s Day/ National Women’s Month in Cebu City. He also advocates the cause of women! We exchanged business cards and when he handed me a tiny brown envelope, he said, “I do not have a business card. I only have this, a scrap from our office.” Oh, I would not mind talking to a person like him for hours, if I had the chance. Very interesting, oozing with new ideas and perspective. Samples of his work can be viewed at http://www.francissollano.com/
Sandy Talag, the young actress who was awarded Outstanding Achievement in Acting in the 2013 Oaxaca International Film Festival for her lead role in “Lilet Never Happened,” was in a beautiful pink dress. She was with her family. Media, awardees with their families and/or company, some artista fans, and the general audience were arriving and the lobby was getting crowded already. There were queues in the NCCA counter since a ticket was required even if admission was free. I cannot forget my first coverage of Ani ng Dangal. We patiently waited at the theater lobby for more than two hours— in formal wear, and of course, in high-heeled shoes! I heard a lot of negative comments from other people. Even families of the awardees were there patiently waiting to get in. I am not fond of celebrities or showbiz personalities. I could have gone home already, but I stayed, yes, with my daughter; because I made a commitment that I would blog about the event. I don’t get paid for blogging, this isn’t my work. But once I make a commitment, I stick to it. So I had to do it even if my soles were sore.
Finally, I saw NCCA Chair Felipe de Leon, Jr. and Vanessa Nicolas, PAF Director; get into the theater. Then the awardees were allowed to get in for a brief rehearsal. As the red carpet was constantly cleaned by the maintenance crew, I saw celebrity awardees arriving one by one. Eugene Domingo was in a Japanese-inspired Filipiniana; Kim Atienza arrived with his wife; so did Joel Torre who, like the latter, was in his barong. Suddenly, there were shouting of fans. I might sound so naive but I could not believe that a formal occasion like this could be this noisy. In a little while I learned why there were screaming— because the Philippine Movies’ Superstar Nora Aunor is in the house. Those who were not screaming were waving their hands! (It was at this point that one of our memory cards malfunctioned). When I decided to ask the NCCA personnel at the counter as to what time we would be accommodated, they said that it was already okay to get in. The guards at the door answered otherwise though. This clearly shows that the people at the counter and those at the door were not coordinated. So again, we patiently waited. My daughter whispered, “Had they let the people get in, there will be nobody to watch the celebrities arriving here, walking at the red carpet.” Which made sense to me. So this is not the time for me to be impatient, since I am just an audience.
Eddie Garcia arrived in black suit, followed by Assunta de Rossi. I had to occasionally raise my feet on heels and toes alternately to balance the weight of my body being carried by my shoes and to lessen the pain that I was feeling. Some children who were on their best formal wears already sat on the floor so as not to leave their posts. At 5:20 p.m. theater door opened and the guards started inspecting the bags of those getting in. Throng of people made it possible for my bag not to be scrutinized. Had I not reached out my hand, our tickets wouldn’t have been checked, either. There was a little pushing from the back. Because of this, I forgot that we were supposed to occupy any of those seats marked “reserved.” We walked past those seats and occupied those which are not reserved. It took me a day to realize why we did not claim the reserved seats for us. I forgot all about it because of my experience in the crowd.
We were already seated in the middle part of the theater when I noticed that people were incessantly flocking to the place where Nora Aunor was. In 2014, she still is, undeniably, the Superstar. At 5:30 p.m., I heard that the show would start in ten minutes, so I felt relieved. It started at last, with the heartfelt Philippine National Anthem and Opening Remarks by Commissioner Shirley Halili-Cruz and Project Director of the NCCA, who looked lovely in black terno. In defining what Ani ng Dangal is all about, she added, “We recognize the dedication, the passion and commitment of artists in different arts. May we allow ourselves to be inspired by these artists.” Issa Litton, the show’s host, opened by saying, “This room is absolutely bursting with talent and excitement; cultural and artistic who’s who, world renowned artists who turned what was local to something international. They are works of art personified.” She radiantly shone in a gold gown . NCCA Chair Felipe de Leon, Jr. acknowledged the commissioners, namely: Gerard Lico, Nemesio Miranda, Lutgardo Labad, Mike Rapatan, and Shirley Halili-Cruz; even Priscilla Macansantos who was not around that night. Here is the highlight of his speech: “We are not aware of their winning abroad. We have to be aware that they brought honor to this country. Inilagay nila sa mapa ng mundo ang ating bansa. Being the most expressive creative endeavor, the arts can perform very important therapeutic functions. Malalim ang dating ng sining sa kaluluwa. Artists ang nagsusulong ng pagkabansa sa mundo… gusto nating pasalamatan ang mga nagbigay-dangal sa atin sa sining.”
A performance by the Hail Mary the Queen Children’s Choir with the beauty of Philippine culture and arts being shown on the background touched the patriotic spot in my heart. Featured were the Banaue Rice Terraces, the indigenous Filipinos, farmers, weavers, tattoo artists, canao dancers, indigenous musical instruments, different performances and the pride of the Philippines in the field of architecture. De La Salle University Chorale performed next, clad in different attires representing various indigenous Filipinos. And before the first set of awardees were presented, the new theme for Ani ng Sining “Sining ng Pinoy” was sung by Sarah Geronimo and Denise Barbacena with Gloc 9 on the music video. Hiphop dancers interpreted the song.
First award was presented: Merlie M. Alunan in the field of Literature. Later in the show, she read her poem “The Haiyan Dead”
In the field of Architecture, Maria Cecilia Cruz and Bridgebury Realty Corporation were awarded. Cruz’s Pearl Atlantis, the concept of floating sustainable resort and marine observatory won the Golden A’ Design Award at Futuristic Design Competition. Presented next were awardees for the visual arts, namely: Manny Fajutag, Norman B. Isaac, Robert John Cabagnot, Trisha Co Reyes, Raymundo Folch, Orley Ypon, Aaron Favila, John Vincent Redrico, Bianca Jamille Aguilar, Jamia Mei Tolentino, Lord Ahzrin Bacalla, Maria Angelica Ramos Tejada, Joel C. Forte, and Jerrica Shi. The little girl was most applauded. Pupil performed two songs, “Nasaan Ka” and “20/20” followed by Jed Madela‘s rendition of “Habang May Buhay.”
Second batch of awardees were from dance, music, and multidisciplinary arts. Awarded in dance category were Bayanihan-Philippine National Folk Dance Company, Halili Cruz School of Ballet; and Boyz Unlimited who was not around to receive their award. In music, there was Beverly Caimen, De La Salle University Chorale, Hail Mary the Queen Children’s Choir (Immaculate Concepcion Cathedral in Cubao), Aldeza Ianna dela Torre, and John Edward Tajanlangit (Jed Madela). In Multidisciplinary Arts, there were Eric De Los Santos who was incidentally the designer of Issa Litton‘s gown that evening; Matanglawin, Pasig River Earth Day Special (ABS-CBN Corporation), Nanoy Rafael, Philip Jerome Vaquilar; Reel Time-GMA News TV, Sergio Bumatay III, Jason Tan, and Pupil. Another extraordinary performance was presented by the Baao Children Youth Choir. As Diwa De Leon performed “Evolve,” I could not control my hands and feet move to the rhythm of his instrument. Good I was able to hide it that nobody among those seated near me seemed to notice, not even my daughter who was right beside me.
The third batch of awardees from the dramatic arts: Clint Ramos; and cinema: Adrielle Esteban, Alessandra Tiotangco Schiavone (Alessandra de Rossi) ,Alice Lake (Anita Linda), Sandy Talag, Kanakan Balintagos (Aureus Solito), Barbara Miguel, Briccio Santos, Brillante Ma. Mendoza, Dwein Baltazar, Eduardo Garcia (Eddie Garcia), Emmanuel Quindo Palo, Eric De Guia (Kidlat Tahimik), Eugene Domingo, Gutierrez “Teng” Mangansakan II, Ian Lorenos, Inshallah Montero, Jericho Rosales who was not there to receive the award, Jose Rizalino Torre (Joel Torre), Jun Robles Lana, Nora Villamayor (Nora Aunor), Marilen Magsaysay, Paul Santa Ana, Roger Kyle ‘Bugoy’ Carino, Ron Morales, Roy Iglesias, and Jameelah Rose del Prado Lineses. Awardees from the cinema comprise the biggest list among all categories. At this point my daughter pointed out that this part had the most number of audience taking pictures. In this sense, a lot of seats were empty as people flocked in front of the stage.
We remained seated in our seats but I noticed that there were two awardees that shared awards. Instead of having a plaque and a medal, one had the medal and another got the plaque. What must have happened? Was there a mistake somewhere?
When it was time for Nora Aunor to speak on behalf of the awardees in cinema, the fans screamed again. She had this to say: “Napakalaking karangalan, walang hihigit kung mula sa kababayan. Ito ay nagpapaalala na gaano man kadami ang pagsubok na kinakaharap, di kami dapat sumuko. Sa aking pinakamamahal na mga fans, kung may dapat bigyan ng karangalan, sila po yon. Wala pong Nora Aunor kung wala po sila. Sa ibang pinarangalan, sama-sama nating ipakita sa buong mundo ang dangal at husay ng Pilipino.”
The De La Salle University Chorale and Marielle Corpus closed the program with “Tagumpay Nating Lahat” and the grand finale was a performance by ABS-CBN Philharmonic with Gerard Salonga conducting; Bayang Barrios and her Band, Halili-Cruz Ballet Company, and Sarah Geronimo.
It was finished at around 8:00 o’clock in the evening. My daughter and I proceeded to the restaurant nearby and had our dinner. It was such an experience. Then three days after the event, an apology for Candice Adea and Jean Marc Cordero was posted to the Facebook page of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts. It was from (though unsigned) the Project Management Division. Since I am not aware of what transpired, I could not elaborate on this matter. Oh well, has this event become a harvest of criticisms too? Maybe, but there are also those who commended the government agency for doing their job.
http://www.philembassy-seoul.com/news_details.asp?id=493 http://ph.news.yahoo.com/manila-bulletin-cartoonist-wins-gold-prize-int-l-111730773.html http://www.francissollano.com/ http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/story/342524/opinion/the-haiyan-dead-a-poem http://www.prweb.com/releases/2013/9/prweb11078851.htm