Tuesday, June 24, 2014

MANILA, Philippines -- In refusing to name Nora Aunor National Artist, President Aquino demolishes the validity of the major cultural workers, some of them National Artists themselves, who included her in the list forwarded to Malacañang.

The President has every right to do this if the nominee is undeserving. But Nora Aunor deserves the award and by denying her this honor, the President displays his incapacity to appreciate excellence.

I personally nominated Nora Aunor for the Award. I do not know her personally but I have seen so many of her pictures starting way back when she was fondly nicknamed Guy by her admirers. She is very much like the movie star of the thirties, Arsenia Francisco, but she has long transcended Miss Francisco because of her consummate artistry. Even when the script is bad, she rescues the movie from its sterility with her superb acting.

I heard that the President wanted Dolphy to be anointed National Artist. His name was submitted to the committee but in the discussions, he was dropped. I knew Dolphy personally and discussed with him once the possibility of making a film that will illustrate his acting prowess. He demurred. I know full well that Dolphy made millions laugh – that is an achievement. Erap, Fernando Poe, Jr., Ramon Revilla, Sr., Lito Lapid – all very popular actors – for which reason, as politicians, they got so many votes. But popularity does not necessarily make for greatness.

The President is supposed to oppose Aunor’s award because she was once convicted of drug abuse. The selection of the National Artist is based on excellence in the arts. The more rigorous Ramon Magsaysay Award believes in the Socratic precepts of excellence and virtue and it considers virtue a precondition as well.

PNoy’s refusal to honor Nora Aunor is not presidential. I am one of the many who have grown to admire him particularly in his effort at transparency and banishing corruption. From a lackluster politician, he has developed into a strong, courageous leader. He could still do what Ramon Magsaysay always did – when he found that he had erred, he reversed himself immediately. That is nobility. Aside from being brave, can PNoy also be noble?


F. Sionil Jose is a columnist of The Philippine STAR. He was named National Artist for Literature in 2001.

Photo courtesy of Kriz John Rosales of Manila Bulletin.

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