‘Malacañang owes Nora Aunor’s fans an explanation’
MANILA, Philippines – One of the few living national artists, Bienvenido Lumbera, said on Thursday, June 26, that Malacañang owes the public an explanation why award-winning actress Nora Aunor was dropped from the list of recipients of the National Artist Awards this year.
The actress got a big number of votes from her peers in various artistic fields who participated in the rigid, 3-phase selection process, according to Lumbera who was among them. So when her name was removed from the shortlist that was submitted to the honors committee at the Palace, it begged for a justification.
“I felt Malacañang would have to explain why Nora Aunor was dropped from the list. Why explain? Because Nora Aunor was not an artist known only to a few people, Nora Aunor had a national following. And for her to be dropped from the list of national artists, this is for Malacañang to go against the sentiment of artists who chose Nora, the fans that Nora had developed over the course of her career as an actress,” Lumbera said on Rappler’s #TalkThursday. (WATCH: #TalkThursday: Nora Aunor for National Artist?)
Lumbera, a National Artist for Literature, also chairs the Concerned Artists of the Philippines (CAP), which came out with a statement expressing disappointment over the Superstar’s exclusion from the awards.
“Of course, [the President] does not have to explain, but this is a case where not only a small group of artists needs the explanation but a rather sizeable constituency supporting Nora,” said Lumbera. “The explanation should make clear: what are the motives of Malacañang and the people who advised the President against instituting Nora as National Artist?”
Watch Rappler's interview with Lumbera below.
The National Artist Awards have become politicised, Lumbera said, citing instances when past presidents – everybody else before Aquino, except for his mother Corazon – also altered the supposedly final shortlist submitted by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts and the Cultural Center of the Philippines. (READ: Looking back: The National Artist Awards controversies)
“In the past certain artists were in the good graces of the President…. Kung sino ang malapit sa mesa, ’yun ang nagkakaroon, nakakakain ng masarap na pagkain. Those who have no access to the table remain in the periphery. So the politics of friendship and service [was at play],” Lumbera said. (Whoever was near the table was able to partake of the good food.)
The Palace remained mum on the reason for Aunor’s removal from the list, only saying, through Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr, that “the President followed the law and jurisprudence in deciding and choosing those that will be conferred the Order of the National Artist.”
Coloma also pointed out that the NCCA and the CCP had accepted the President's decision. Malacañang told journalists of a letter dated June 23 that NCCA Chairperson Felipe de Leon sent to the President
De Leon said in his letter: “Your Excellency, the NCCA and the CCP fully respect your authority to exclude any nominee for the award if it is in the national interest. Indeed, we are happy that we have a new set of National Artists.”
The NCCA chief blamed the media for attributing quotes to him that he was allegedly questioning the decision by the President on the awards. “The thrill of the hunt has caused them to lose restraint and respect for truth in their accounts.” (READ: NCCA puzzled by exclusion of Nora Aunor in National Artists list) – Rappler.com