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Get to Know our New National Artists


Born: Oct. 3, 1942 (age 76 years) in Benguet
Famous works: Mababangong Bangugot, Balikbayan #1: Memories of Overdevelopment Redux III, and Turumba
“About time!” This was probably on everyone’s mind when the news about Third Cinema filmmaker, writer, and actor Eric de Guia, better known as Kidlat Tahimik (silent lightning), being conferred the National Artist for Film award made noise earlier this week. Everyone, especially in the film industry, rejoiced, but certainly wasn’t surprised. Long overdue, they’d tell you.

Although same in prominence and weight of contributions to the industry, Kidlat is literally tahimik. Unlike the names Brocka and Bernal, he is known for his breakthroughs in low-budget filmmaking and known to followers, contemporaries, and critics as the “Father of Philippine Independent Cinema.”

With zero experience in filmmaking and producing, Kidlat made his first film, Mababangong Bangungot (Perfumed Nightmare), in 1977 with a seed budget of around $10,000 and a little help from famed filmmakers Werner Herzog and Francis Ford Coppola. As critics and fans have noted, he did this when big production companies, local and international, were making cinematic marvels, creating universes, worlds, and epics. While all of these were happening, Kidlat was revolutionizing film production and exploring the unconventional.

The autobiographical film, starring, written, and directed by Kidlat himself, is a sharp commentary on neocolonialism, imperialism, and late-stage capitalism, which would become his major themes in his lifework. Needless to say, Mababangong Bangungot was a huge success. It harvested awards from international film festival, accolades, critical acclaim. Most important, it birthed hundreds of independent filmmakers, an entire generation of them. (TERENCE REPELENTE)


Resil B. Mojares
Born: Sept. 4, 1943 (age 75 years) in Zamboanga del Norte
Famous works: The War Against the Americans: Resistance and Collaboration in Cebu Province, Aboitiz: Family & Firm in the Philippines, House of Memory: Essays, and Vicente Sotto, The Maverick Senator

Cebuano writer Resil B. Mojares is one of the most dedicated critics and historians we have today. Mojares has a bachelor’s degree in English, a master’s degree in Literature and postgraduate studies all at the University of San Carlos, as well as a Ph.D. in Literature from the University of the Philippines Diliman. A retired Professor at the University of San Carlos (USC) in Cebu City, he was a founding director (1975–96) of USC’s Cebuano Studies Center, a pioneering local studies center in the Philippines.

Mojares has authored books on Philippine history, literature, and politics, including studies on three eminent Filipino intellectuals (Pedro Paterno, T.H. Pardo de Tavera, and Isabelo de los Reyes). He has been the recipient of six Philippine National Book Awards. His books include The War Against the Americans: Resistance and Collaboration in Cebu Province; Aboitiz: Family & Firm in the Philippines; House of Memory: Essays; and Vicente Sotto, The Maverick Senator (Cebuano Studies Center, 1992).

Mojares has been a visiting professor at Kyoto University, the National University of Singapore, and the University of California at Los Angeles where he lectures on Philippine literature and history.

Mojares surely deserves the National Artist Award for Literature. Everyone’s curious though, what was going through the “Visayan Titan of Letters and History’s” head last Wednesday, during the conferment ceremony at Malacañang, when the president said: “the Spanish colonized the Philippines for 400 years (333 years).” (TERENCE REPELENTE)


Ryan Cayabyab
Born: May 4, 1954
(age 64 years) in Manila
Famous works: “Tuwing Umuulan at Kapiling Ka,” “Kay Ganda ng Ating Musika,” “Da Coconut Nut,” and “Iduyan Mo”

Ryan Cayabyab, the renowned figure of OPM, was recently hailed as National Artist for Music. Known as Mr. C to his friends, he has contributed a lot to the Philippine music industry. He had served as the executive director for San Miguel Foundation of Performing Arts and for Philpop Music Festival, program director for the ASEAN Music Camp, and professor at the College of Music in the University of the Philippines Diliman.

On Cayabyab becoming one of the National Artists, Martin Nievera said, “I am very happy for Mr. C. He deserves the award and more. His greatest contribution is not just his music, but the spirit and the passion that goes behind every note and ever lyric. This in itself makes his art so very Filipino. Congratulations, Mr. C! We are all so proud of you.”

Zsa Zsa Padilla also has a message for the musician, “I am very happy that Mr. C is now a National Artist because he is truly deserving to be one! He has contributed so much to the Filipino music industry. He has written many beautiful songs and plays that will be enjoyed by Filipinos for generations to come. He has musically directed, arranged music and played the piano in concerts for a lot of Filipino artists. He hosted the award winning musical, Ryan Ryan Musikahan, for many years. He has helped hone many singers like myself and for that, we are forever grateful. Congratulations, Mr. C!” (DIET IMMARIE SALAZAR and DOM GALEON)


Francisco Mañosa
Born: February 12, 1931
(age 87 years) in Manila
Famous works: Coconut Palace, EDSA Shrine, Davao Pearl Farm, and Amanpulo

Previously nominated five times for the Order of National Artists, Francisco “Bobby” Mañosa is finally recognized as the National Artist for Architecture. Famous for spearheading Philippine neo-vernacular architecture, he designed the Coconut Palace, Pearl Farm in Samal Island, and EDSA Shrine. His daughter, Bambi Mañosa, dedicated her fundraising project called Awit at Laro in honor of her dad. Coincidentally, the launching of her project happened alongside the naming of National Artists last Oct. 24 in Malacañang.

“I chose Awit at Laro as a tribute to my dad because he has always been fond of kids. He’s like Peter Pan. He is, first and foremost, a musician. He loves music. He wanted to take up piano but back in the day, his dad wanted him to be an architect. Music was something he didn’t really pursue so we grew up with a lot of music. And Filipino games were always something we did all the time,” she said.

When asked about the greatest lesson she had learned from her father, she paused to think, “The greatest lesson I’ve learned from my dad… well, there’s just so much. I can’t think of one that stands out.” Gary Valenciano, who also led Awit at Laro, suggested, “Every time Bambi and I would talk, she would always mention something, like him not using the word ‘bored.’”

She recalled, “Yes, ‘boring’ is a bad word. Boring is for people who don’t have creative minds. He never allowed us to use the word ‘bored.’ You always have something to do. When the day comes when work ceases to be fun, then you have to change jobs. He always said that it shouldn’t feel like work, it should feel like play.”

“We are so thrilled that he has been declared as one of the National Artists because I never thought that he would be around to see this,” she expressed. “He has already been nominated five times in the past and he has never made it until now. This time, we were surprised because we were only called two nights ago. It happened right before this event started, so we were never really prepared for this. We are all happy that we are all in town and that my dad is well.” (DIET IMMARIE SALAZAR)


Larry Alcala
Born: Aug. 18, 1926 in Albay
Died: June 24, 2002 in Bacolod

Famous works: Slice of Life, Kalabog en Bosyo, Islaw Palitaw

When it comes to editorial cartoon and Pinoy komiks, Larry Alcala is a household name. He began his career as a cartoonist in 1946, when his very first comic strip called Islaw Palitaw was published in the Filipino weekly magazine Liwayway. From there, his career grew to include works published in numerous newspapers, magazines, including Pilipino Funny Komiks, as well as in advertising materials, including San Miguel Beer cans.

To get an idea of just how much Larry pushed the art of making comic strips, we spoke with Manila Bulletin resident cartoonist Roni Santiago. Both he and Larry were founding members of the Samahan ng Kartonistang Pilipino (SKP), where Larry became the founding president in the ‘80s.

“That was where I first met Larry,” Roni says. “But he has always been my idol. When I just started drawing cartoons, I would look for his works and cut them out because I really admired them. Larry was a very jolly man, very kind, accommodating, and caring—especially to his wife. He was the one who convinced me to contribute cartoons to Pilipino Funny Komiks.”

On a number of occasions, Roni had the opportunity to observe Larry practice his craft. “He would draw using his left hand. If he was in the mood, everything took just a single stroke,” he says. “If he wasn’t feeling particularly well, you would see him doodle.”

And Larry’s greatest contribution to the art of making comic strips? “He was really the one who pushed us to see what we do as an art, because others would say cartoon is a lowly art. He wanted cartoonists to consider themselves as real artists, and he would often say that we shouldn’t be afraid to charge for our works,” Roni says, laughing. “Some might say, ‘why are we going to pay you for something you did for only 15 minutes?’ Well, those 15 minutes included years of perfecting our craft. And Larry taught us that we should love what we do. He really deserves being hailed as a National Artist.” (DOM GALEON)


Ramon L. Muzones
Born: March 20, 1913
in Iloilo
Died: Aug. 17, 1992 in Iloilo
Famous works: Bagong Maria Clara, Margosatubig: The Story of Salagunting, and Shri-Bishaya

The elevation of Ramon L. Muzones as a National Artist for literature is a clear indication that we are ready to bring regional artists and their works into the cultural forefront of our nation. Muzones was a famous novelist and historian whose works were written in Hiligaynon. He is considered to be the second Hari ng Nobelang Ilonggo (King of Ilonggo Novels)—and that isn’t an empty platitude. In a career that spanned three decades, he has written 62 novels.

His first novel, Tibud nga Bulawan (Golden Palayok) was written in 1938 and published in the magazine Hiligaynon. In 1939, he published Bagong Maria Clara, considered to be among the first feminist novels in the country. His other works appeared in the magazines Yuhum and Kasanag. His novel Margosatubig, originally published as a series in 1946, was translated to English by Cecilia Locsin-Nava. (DOM GALEON)


Amelia Lapeña-Bonifacio
Born: April 4, 1930 (age 88 years) in Manila
Famous works: Abadeja: Ang Ating Sinderela, Papet Pasyon, and Sita & Rama: Papet Ramayana

Puppetry is such an interesting art that has existed through centuries as the puppeteer “transfers his soul” to the puppet, giving it his shadow and life. Amelia Lapeña-Bonifacio, the puppeteer from Binondo fondly called Tita Amel, was declared as National Artist for Theater.

The author, director, and playwright is well-known in Philippine puppet theater as she has written several musical plays involving these stringed dolls such as Abadeja: Ang Ating Sinderela (Abadeja: Our Own Cinderella), Papet Pasyon (Puppet Passion), and Sita & Rama: Papet Ramayana, a reinterpretation of the Indian epic.

Well-educated in the performing arts, she took up literature at University of the Philippines Diliman and studied Japanese traditional theater, South East Asian traditional theater, and international children’s theater in various institutions. Her educational background seems to have influenced her style as a puppeteer because elements of Japanese bunraku and Indonesian wayang golek and can be seen in her plays.

In 1977, she founded Teatrong Mulat ng Pilipinas, a professional ensemble that has given more than 1,000 performances. The 100-seat theater was reopened in 2006 as the Amelia Lapeña-Bonifacio Teatro Papet Museo. Bonifacio truly deserves the title National Artist for Theater as she has pioneered an ancient, forgotten tradition here in the country. (DIET IMMARIE SALAZAR)

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