Postscript to a tragedy, and farce | Inquirer Opinion
There’s the Rub

Postscript to a tragedy, and farce

Finally, Nora Aunor broke her silence over her being snubbed as National Artist. In a statement last Monday, she thanked the people, the same ones that continue to patronize her movies, however they are now few and far between—growing old is cruel to movie actors, especially female movie actors—for their love and support.

“Maski wala mang tropeo o karangalang igawad sa akin ang mga nasa kapangyarihan, iniluklok naman ako ng mga kababayan ko habang buhay sa kanilang mga puso bilang isang artista ng bayan. Mas totoo at mas masarap ang karangalang ito dahil taos-pusong nanggagaling sa mga taong siyang dahilan kung bakit ako nagpapakabuti bilang isang artista—ang mga mamamayang Pilipino. Ang pagsuportang ito ang lalong nagbibigay ng lakas ng loob sa akin upang lalo ko pang pag ibayuhin ang maging isang mabuti at marangal na mamamayang Pilipino,” she said.


Which roughly translates as: “The powers-that-be may not have given me a trophy or proclaimed me a National Artist, but the people have taken me into their hearts and made me an artist of the nation there. That honor is more true and meaningful because it is bestowed freely by those whose esteem I have done my best to deserve by trying to be as good an actor as I can be. The people’s show of support has encouraged me to strive even more to do better, and to become a decent and honorable Filipino.”

It’s a class act for a classy actor. It’s certainly worlds better than the bitter protestations that issued from Carlo Caparas’ mouth after his National Artist award was revoked following the even more bitter protestations that issued from the mouths of his fellow honorees. Doubly so for Aunor being the victim and Caparas the oppressor. Or for Aunor being completely deserving of the award and Caparas not so. You know true artists, never mind national ones, by their capacity to transcend themselves.


And you know a true people by their capacity to refuse to let go, by their refusal to agree to “move on” from an iniquity. And this is an iniquity. Arguably, as his spokespersons argue, the President did not include, he merely excluded. But not including the deserving is just as iniquitous as including the undeserving. Some sins of omission weigh just as heavily, if not more so, than sins of commission.

I’m surprised that the other National Artists have not threatened as well to refuse to accept their trophies unless the iniquity is rectified.  Of course that means putting off, if only for a while, their stipend as National Artist—P30,000 a month for life—which is a princely sum for artists, who have often been described, not inaccurately, as “starving.” But it is a just cause, it is a compelling cause. The exclusion from their ranks of someone who stands head and shoulders with them diminishes them as surely as the inclusion into it by an out-and-out interloper.

The snubbing of Aunor in the National Artist awards rankles even now and won’t go away in time. It will only get worse in time, as open wounds do—they fester. It is no small irony that this happened at a time when the government was patting itself on the back for having changed the public’s perception of government. That was what Edwin Lacierda said last week. “For the President, the change in attitude is a big deal… Now, it’s possible for the people to believe that everything is possible, anything is possible. We’ve seen the change in our countrymen. [There’s a] rising appreciation for government.”

This development twists the meaning of those words to miserable lengths. “It’s possible for the people [now] to believe everything is possible, anything is possible.” Like it’s perfectly possible for someone so totally deserving of being named National Artist not being named so? It gives an unsavory spin to the concept of anything’s possible. It’s unnecessary, it’s gratuitous, it’s incomprehensible.

At this writing, Malacañang itself hasn’t given an explanation that the public can sink its teeth into. All it has given is the legalistic excuse, or palusot, that it is well within the President’s power to decree so. Which doesn’t make things better, it makes things worse, resonating as it does with whim or caprice. But we have heard it said that the real reason for the snub was that Aunor failed to pass the morality test, which made her a not particularly good role model for the young. Specifically, she was arrested for drug possession in the United States and was a Marcos supporter during martial law.

What in God’s name do those things have to do with becoming a National Artist? If taking drugs is naturally inimical to being regarded as an artist, national or not, then Philip Seymour Hoffman, who was but the latest casualty of that scourge, has no right to be regarded as an artist. Or to win awards, which he was magnificently entitled to.

And as far as I know, Aunor never went on to advertise the virtues of martial law in any of her films. She never went on to show Marcos in a good light in any of her films. And even if she did, what of it? That may say the most unsavory things about her political sensibilities, but that doesn’t say anything about her artistic abilities.


In any case, best to leave that debate to the artists, who know a thing or two about art. You insert politics into the equation and you open a can of worms. Indeed, you insert this kind of morality into the equation and we’ll be back to a time when the Church classified movies according to it, and gave “La Dolce Vita” a “C.” Which meant condemnable in whole or in part for the faithful. Thank God I was faithless.

Who knows? Maybe in the end, the explanation for the snubbing of Aunor as National Artist is really simple, as my friends suggest:

P-Noy is a dyed-in-the-wool Vilmanian.

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TAGS: Carlo Caparas, martial law, National Artist, National Artist of the Philippines, nora aunor, Philip Seymour Hoffman, vilma santos
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