Last June 10, Malacañang announced eight new National Artists: Gemino Abad (Literature), Fides Cuyugan-Asensio (Music), Nora Aunor (Film and Broadcast Arts), Marilou Diaz-Abaya, (Film and Broadcast Arts), Ricardo Lee (Film and Broadcast Arts), Salvacion Lim-Higgins (Design), Agnes Locsin (Dance), and Antonio “Tony” O. Mabesa (Theater). Out of the eight, three are posthumous conferments: Diaz-Abaya, Lim-Higgins and Mabesa.
The Order of National Artists is the highest national recognition given to Filipinos who have made significant contributions to the development of the arts — music, dance, theater, visual arts, literature, film, broadcast arts, and architecture and allied arts. It was established by virtue of Presidential Proclamation No. 1001 dated April 27, 1972. The order is jointly administered by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) and the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) and conferred by the President of the Philippines upon recommendation by both institutions. The last proclamation of National Artists was in 2018.
Dr. Gémino H. Abad is a writer, critic, scholar, literary historian, and anthologist. He co-founded the Philippine Literary Arts Council (PLAC) and earned numerous awards, prizes, and literature and creative writing fellowships. He received: the Palanca Awards for Poetry, Philippines Free Press Awards for Literature; the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) Award for Poetry; National Book Awards from the Manila Critics’ Circle; and the Asian Catholic Publishers Inc. Catholic Authors Award. In 2009, he became the first Filipino to receive the coveted Premio Feronia in Rome, Italy, in the foreign author category.
Fides Belza Cuyugan-Asensio is a Filipino coloratura soprano, actress, director, librettist, translator, and teacher. She formed the Music Theater Foundation of the Philippines (MTFP) and also served as the artistic director of the Opera Guild of the Philippines. Her exceptional achievements contributed to a Renaissance of classical musical theater in the country.
Nora Cabaltera Villamayor, also known as Nora Aunor, has been in different fields for more than four decades—film, television, music, and stage. Her journey to fame started when she joined and won a local amateur singing contest and came to be known as the girl with the golden voice. Her extensive filmography with 170 films -showing her versatility in comedy, drama and musicals, is marked by numerous awards and citations received from local and international award-giving bodies.
Marilou Diaz-Abaya was a film and television director and screenwriter. Her body of work harmoniously blends entertainment, social consciousness, and ethnic awareness. It has won acclaim both in the Philippines and abroad for its high level of artistic achievement.
Ricardo Lee also known as Ricky Lee is a screenwriter for film and television, journalist, playwright, and a multi-awarded fictionist who published several novels, plays, essays, and short story collections along his screenplays and screen writing manuals. He has demonstrated his mastery of writing historical films, literary and true-to-life adaptations, political, courtroom, and dramas, the stories of “outsiders” and marginalized figures such as laborers, prostitutes, rebels, migrant workers, and gay people, and his consistent elevation of all manner of genre fare, from horror to tearjerkers to comedies.
Salvacion Lim-Higgins, known to the fashion world as “Slim’s”, is credited for innovating and transforming the look of terno into a world-class silhouette by combining the elements of Philippine costume with European couture details and construction. She was known for her exquisite drapery, constant and evocative use of indigenous materials such as piña and jusi, referencing ethnic motifs in her modern dresses, and forward-looking and cutting-edge approach to fashion. Lim-Higgins introduced draping into traditional costumes and developed “convertible ternos.” Filipiniana took a more nuanced look through the eye-catching costumes she created for the Bayanihan Dance Company.
Agnes Locsin is a choreographer, director, and teacher known for developing the “neo-ethnic” Filipino dance choreography, which blends indigenous themes with Western classical and modern techniques, and includes immersion in indigenous communities where she interacts with and learns about their culture and traditions through dance. At the 2nd Tokyo International Choreography Competition (1994), Locsin was the winner of the Silver Medal and the recipient of the Prince Takamado Award from Japan’s Imperial Family. She has received various awards, including the Gawad CCP Award Para sa Sining in 2013; the Alfonzo T. Ongpin Prize for Best Book on Arts for her book, Neo-ethnic Choreography: A Creative Process; and the Gador Award from the CCP.
The Davao City government also gave her the Datu Bago Award for her contributions to dance and culture.
Stage director, film and television actor, and theater professor Antonio “Tony” Ocampo Mabesa ounded Dulaang UP (DUP) in 1976 and the UP Playwright’s Theater in 1980. He directed and produced over 170 shows. With a career in theater and the performing arts that spanned 70 years, Mabesa was considered one of the founders of Philippine university theater and one of the most prominent theater directors in the country. He was called the “Lion of the Theater” for his work.
Each national artist will receive a gold-plated medallion minted by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas and a citation. Living awardees will receive a cash award, a monthly life pension, medical and hospitalization benefits, life insurance coverage, a state funeral, and a place of honor in state functions, national commemoration rites, and other cultural presentations. A one-time minimum cash award will be granted to the legal heir of the deceased awardees.
Source: National Commission for Culture and the Arts, Philippines
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