MANILA, Philippines – It’s the komiks writer versus the poet, in what may well be a contemporary variation on the balagtasan or poetic debate.
After the July 16 Supreme Court decision that invalidated the proclamation of Carlo J. Caparas and 3 others as National Artists, the komiks writer and film director-producer lambasted National Artist for Literature Virgilio Almario and other critics for what he described as their “elitist” bias.
In 2009, former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo issued a proclamation conferring the title on 7 artists, including Caparas for Visual Arts and Film, Cecile Guidote-Alvarez for Theater, Francisco Mañosa for Architecture, and Jose “Pitoy” Moreno for Fashion Design.
The 4 were not among the names recommended by the selection committee composed of members of the Cultural Center of the Philippines and the National Commission on Culture and the Arts.
The proclamation immediately sparked controversy, primarily because of the inclusion of Caparas. Besides his prolific writing for the komiks genre, his body of work includes sensational film adaptations of actual crime stories, notably the 1993 “massacre film,” “The Vizconde Massacre Story (God Help Us).”
Almario and other National Artists petitioned the Supreme Court that year to stop the proclamation. The Court deferred the proclamation, but unfortunately this order included the artists whom the selection committee had recommended for proclamation.
One of them, the celebrated painter Federico Aguilar Alcuaz, passed away in 2011.
In an interview with Karen Davila of ANC’s “Headstart,” Caparas said he respected but was saddened just the same by the Supreme Court ruling on Tuesday.
He said he was merely a “recipient” in the much debated process over the selection of National Artists and lamented that politics was undermining the integrity of that process.
Almario, who also goes by the pseudonym Rio Alma, was interviewed via phone-patch and soon enough was caught in a word war with Caparas, who accused him of being envious of his fame. “Sino ang nakakakilala sa iyo, Almario?” (Who really knows you, Almario?) “Maglakad tayo sa daan, sinong kilala ng tao?” (Let’s take a walk, who among us will people recognize?)
Almario, in turn, accused Caparas of having someone lobby for his selection as National Artist. “Palagay ko alam na alam niya ang proseso eh. Kasi may naglalakad para sa kanya noong panahong nagde-deliberation kami.” (I think he knows the process, because there was someone lobbying for him.)
Caparas would later be outtalking Almario. “Kahiya-hiya ka sa ginagawa mo ha?” (You ought to be ashamed of what you’re doing.)
Here’s the ANC interview with Caparas and Almario:
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