Friday, June 09, 2006

Musings on politics and the arts by a professor and his accidental student

Below is an excerpt from Ambeth Ocampo's article "When politics threatens art and culture" from the Philippine Daily Inquirer (9 June 2006).

THIS morning in Malacañang, there will be a gathering of Filipino artistic and intellectual talents that has not been seen there since Jose Rizal sat in a small antechamber all by himself, waiting to see the Governor General. For today, the Order of National Artists will be officially conferred on seven individuals whose life and work have enriched our lives. However, it is a sad commentary on the Philippine media that they have focused their sights on only one awardee -- Fernando Poe Jr., sidelining in the process the other six. Just for the record they are: Bienvenido Lumbera (Literature), Benedicto Cabrera (Visual Arts), Ramon Valera (Design and allied Arts), Abdulmari Imao (Sculpture), Ramon Obsuan (Dance) and Ildefonso Santos (Landscape Architecture).

The worst message of the story is that politics destroys anything it touches, including culture and this highest of artistic awards. The media should give us good news through these newly minted national artists, but they have chosen to make news of whether or not Susan Roces would go to Malacañang to receive the award from someone whom she accused of stealing the presidency not once but twice.

If Poe, popularly known by his initials FPJ, did not get the award, partisans would have howled that he deserved it and that politics kept the award from him. Now that he has been given the much coveted award, the partisans are howling anyway that the award is “consuelo de bobo” [consolation token] or “pampalubag loob” [consolation] and Ms Roces should not accept it.

Ms Roces should see beyond the President and realize that FPJ got the award after a contentious screening process. He was selected to receive the award by the joint boards of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts and the Cultural Center of the Philippines. The National Artist Award is being given by a grateful nation. To reject it is our collective loss.

I couldn't agree more with what Mr. Ocampo is saying with this piece. But I would also like to suggest that maybe Malacanang's involvement with the situation is unnecessary to begin with. Readers might want to revert back to "Artists need not be legitimized by government" (April 2006) in the archives of this blog for an explanation of my disgust with politics and the arts.

Incidentally, I just realized why Mr. Ocampo's name is so familiar to me. According to my registration form, I had signed up for his Hi165 class for the semester. He was not my first choice for the class, and truthfully, I didn't even know who he was. But hopefully we see eye-to-eye with regard to my grade as we do with regard to the topic of his article.


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