Of savings and posthumous National Artist awards | Inquirer Opinion

Of savings and posthumous National Artist awards

12:04 AM May 16, 2016

THIS REFERS to the news item titled “P-Noy honors 9 new National Artists” (News, 4/15/16).

Can you imagine that as President Aquino told the awardees, “I know that any medal, any praise, any colorful words are not enough to the contributions in your respective fields and our society,” he was virtually speaking more to the dead than to the living? I mean, six of the nine awards were given posthumously.

Admittedly, posthumous awards cannot be totally avoided.  Nevertheless, I particularly find it not only quite surprising but also kind of intriguing that Manuel Conde and Francisco Coching had to be conferred their National Artist award only in 2009 and 2014, respectively, or practically two decades after their time. Consider these:

  1. Manuel Conde (1915-1985). His career in the movie industry spanned from 1935 to 1963, while the National Artist awards began only in 1972. Clearly, then, Conde’s great works antedated those of film category awardees Gerardo de Leon (1982) and Lino Brocka (1997). With offense or malice toward none, one wonders how these two “movie greats” got their awards for film quite a long way ahead of Conde. The same may be said of Fernando Poe Jr. (National Artist for Film, 2006)
  1. Francisco Coching (1919-1998). A popular comic-book illustrator/writer and regarded as one of the pillars of the Philippine komiks industry, Coching was a contemporary of National Artists Carlos “Botong” Francisco and

Vicente Manansala. Both received posthumous awards for visual arts in 1973 and 1981, respectively. Coching retired from his craft in 1973.


Extremely ironic, Carlo J. Caparas, another prolific comic-book illustrator, who was surely still a kid when Coching was at the peak of his career, got the visual arts award in 2009. Most everybody knew then that he was yet active in his profession. Maybe, just maybe, it was why that award was eventually voided.

That said, I do not intend to pass judgment upon the selection committee of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts which, along with the Cultural Center of the Philippines, has been the government agency officially authorized to administer the conferment of the National Artist Award. It just so happens that I have always been in the habit of searching for logic in everything I read or hear or see around.

Meanwhile, the plain truth is government saves much when the awards are bestowed upon the already dead than upon the still living. A cash emolument of P75,000 is all that goes to the heirs of a posthumous awardee while P100,000 is given a living awardee plus lifetime pension, medical and hospitalization benefits, life insurance coverage if still insurable, and state funeral and burial at the Libingan ng mga Bayani—on top of a place of honor and recognition at national state functions and cultural presentations.

Could the savings be the reason the awards are mostly given posthumously?  Most probably not. Still, there is wisdom in the saying: “Aanhin pa ang damo kung patay na ang kabayo (Of what use is the grass to a horse already dead)?” But haven’t the cash emoluments been the same from Day 1? Then, alas, what a whale of another kind of savings the government has kept amassing from the horrendous inflation throughout the last 44 years! If that does not lead toward a continuing “trivialization” or virtual devaluation of an otherwise so highly revered Pambansang Alagad ng Sining ng Pilipinas, I do not know what else will.

—RUDY L. CORONEL, rudycoronel [email protected]

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TAGS: art, artist, award, letter, Manuel Conde, National Artist, opinion

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