Laguna artists question Palace awardees

SAN PEDRO, Laguna -- Even artists from the provinces were “shocked and outraged” over the selection of this year’s National Artist Awards, following reports that the honorees were handpicked by Malacañang.

Nina Tesoro Poblador, an arts and culture enthusiast and co-owner of the restaurant Kusina Salud in San Pablo City in Laguna, said “we were very disappointed and outraged. It is (already) so hard to get the rest (of the people) into arts and GMA (President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo) belittles it pa (even more). The whole process was demeaned.”

Poblador, daughter of Tito Tesoro, founder of the Tanghalang Pilipino at the Cultural Center of the Philippines and fashion designer Patis Tesoro, said she was concerned about the National Artist Awards, it being the highest in the arts community.

Named as this year’s awardees were Manuel Urbano (film and broadcast), Lazaro Francisco (literature), Federico Aguilar Alcuaz (visual arts, painting, sculpture and mixed media), Francisco Manosa (architecture), Jose “Pitoy” Moreno (fashion design), Cecilla Guidote-Alvarez (theater), and Carlo J. Caparas (visual arts and film).

Alvarez and Caparas caught most the criticisms from the artists’ circle.

Critics are saying Alvarez’s selection was in conflict of interest as she is presently the presidential adviser on culture and arts and head of the National Commission on Culture and the Arts that oversees the panels’ recommendations.

Critics, on the other hand, questioned Caparas’ nomination for the visual arts category, saying he did not illustrate the popular comics characters he created. He was also known for directing "massacre" films, which were panned by critics for gratuitous and tasteless violence.

Poblador said her mother was even more surprised with the results. She said Tesoro was asked to defend the late Jo Salazar, who like Moreno, was nominated for this year’s selection.

“Both Pitoy and Jo were nominated but Pitoy did not make it in the shortlist, whereas Jo did. Pito received the award,” she said.

“When I heard that Caparas (was chosen), I was shocked. There are others who are more deserving. I’m not saying that he is not, but what about Peque Gallaga and others?” said Jay Herrera, who was into theater and film making and owner of Kinabuhayan Café in Dolores, Quezon.