Leave it to the artists | Inquirer Opinion
There’s The Rub

Leave it to the artists

Responding to the clamor, particularly from the entertainment industry, for Malacañang to name Dolphy national artist, P-Noy said: Leave it to the artists.

So Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda reported. “(The President) believes that Dolphy has contributed immensely to the arts. But there is a process in selecting the national artist. There are several tiers in nominating a national artist. We will leave it with both the NCCA and the CCP because these are the two joint boards who will nominate the national artist.”


Quite apart from that, he said, there’s the Supreme Court TRO forbidding Malacañang from doing so. The TRO stemmed from a protest in 2009 filed by several national artists, led by Bienvenido Lumbera and Virgilio Almario, against Malacañang anointing Carlo Caparas, Cecile Guidote-Alvarez, Francisco Mañosa, and Jose “Pitoy” Moreno national artists. The protesters claimed Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo committed “grave abuse of discretion” in doing so. The Court wisely agreed.

Malacañang, Lacierda said, has no desire to encroach on the powers of the judiciary.


It’s a perfectly reasonable decision.

I do think Dolphy should be considered for the honor, a sentiment I expressed some time ago. His contributions to art are certainly considerable, if not immense. Of course his contributions to entertainment of the variety that one would be hard put to associate with art are just as considerable, if not immense. But if the first does not outweigh the second, it at least helps make up for it.

It’s not just longevity and sheer output that commend Dolphy to the title. More than other figures in comedy, Dolphy helped define the Filipino sensibility, if not indeed his brand of humor. He didn’t go for slapstick, a tradition inherited from vaudeville that remains robust to this day, he went for witty repartees and one-liners. His long-standing TV shows, “John and Marsha” and “Home Along Da Riles” in particular gave the Filipino to see something of himself, his foibles and capacity for goodness, his abjectness but capacity for heroism. You could always disagree with those sitcoms’ facile view of the class divide, but they did leave something to think about.

Of course his output was uneven. But we might want to exercise some latitude there, given the harsh conditions in which artists work in this country. Art is an invitation to penury here more than elsewhere, and where you start out poor to begin with, as Dolphy did, you’re bound to make compromises along the way. Particularly where your fate, or capacity to feed your family—and I’m still boggled by the sublime irony of Dolphy being the quintessential gay of movies and the patriarch of a veritable tribe in real life—lies in an industry that is susceptible to the vagaries of public taste. Or, as in the case of TV, to ratings.

But Malacañang is right, leave that to the artists to decide. The Supreme Court’s TRO is irrelevant. This is not a legal issue, this is an artistic one. This is not a political issue, this is an artistic one.

Of course what made Arroyo’s move to name national artists atrocious, quite apart from the fact that it was politically motivated, indeed quite apart from the fact that she was a fake president who could only make fake anointments, was that she has absolutely no artistic bone in her body. The only aesthetic she appreciated, and practiced, was the art of corrupting people. But a president could have artistic inclinations—P-Noy likes music and buying CDs—and that is neither here nor there. Quite simply, the President has no right, or business, legislating art and decreeing artists.  Least of all national artists.

Governments do not lack for ways to heap honor on artists. The Queen of England knighted the Beatles for their humongous contribution to music and not quite incidentally to Britain’s coffers. But even the Queen may not nominate them to the Nobel Prize, or elevate them to similar positions at home. P-Noy has awarded Dolphy the Grand Collar of the Order of the Golden Heart in recognition of a lifetime of making Filipinos laugh and, not quite incidentally, cry at their tragicomic lot. But even he cannot name Dolphy national artist.


However good the intention, political meddling in artistic matters produces bad results. The very notion of proposing that the president, P-Noy or otherwise, name Dolphy, or any other actor or painter or writer, national artist, however they are deserving, does a disservice to art and artists. And it is strange that the entertainment community, which includes genuine artists, does not see this. It reduces art to just another province covered by public administration. It deepens this society’s misimpression, or illusion, or delusion that public officials are superior to artists, or are more important than artists, they may intrude on their concerns with impunity.

In fact the opposite is true. Artists are the soul of the nation. Artists are the life of the nation. For all their lack of pomp and circumstance, artists are more important than public officials. For all their lack of wealth and power, artists are richer and more powerful than politicians. For all their lack of pelf and privilege, artists occupy a higher station in life than politicians. Or so it should be in a world that stands on its feet and not on its head. Long after the public officials are gone, artists will be remembered. Long after public officials are dead, artists will be alive, if only in the works they left behind. Who now remembers Emperor Joseph II? Who does not Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart?

Leave it to the artists. Who knows? They might decide in the end that Dolphy deserves to become national artist after all.

Your daily dose of fearless views

By providing an email address. I agree to the Terms of Use and acknowledge that I have read the Privacy Policy.

Read Next
Don't miss out on the latest news and information.

Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.

TAGS: Aquino iii, dolphy, featured column, National Artist
For feedback, complaints, or inquiries, contact us.

© Copyright 1997-2023 INQUIRER.net | All Rights Reserved

We use cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. By continuing, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. To find out more, please click this link.