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A tribute to the five UP 2022 National Artist awardees

Dennis Gorecho - Kuwentong Peyups

The UP Naming Mahal overture was played as a tribute to the five 2022 National Artist awardees from University of the Philippines during the recent open air concert by the UP Symphony Orchestra.

The concert was part of the 124th Independence Day celebration.

Five of this year’s eight awardees are UP alumni, achieving the highest honors given to practitioners in the arts and culture: Ricky Lee for film and broadcast arts, Fides Cuyugan-Asensio for music, Tony Mabesa for theater, Gemino Abad for Literature, and Agnes Locsin for Dance.

The other awardees are Nora Aunor and Marilou Diaz-Abaya for film and broadcast arts, and Salvacion Lim-Higgins for Design (Fashion).

Since the National Artist Award was established through Proclamation No.1001 dated April 2, 1972 by then-President Ferdinand E. Marcos, 29 UP alumni have received the highest distinction bestowed upon Filipino artists.

In 2018, the National Artist awardees coming from UP are Larry Alcala (Visual Arts); Ryan Cayabyab (Music); Eric “Kidlat Tahimik” de Guia (Film); Amelia Lapeña-Bonifacio (Theater); and Resil B. Mojares (Literature). Bonifacio died two years later, on December 29, 2020.

The Order of National Artists (Order ng Pambansang Alagad ng Sining) is the highest national recognition given to Filipino individuals who have made significant contributions to the development of Philippine arts.

For film, the awardees are Ricky Lee (2022) and Kidlat Tahimik (2018).

For architecture, the awardee is Ildefonso Santos Jr. (2006).

For literature, the awardees are Gemino Abad (2022); Bienvenido Lumbera (2006); N.V.M. Gonzalez (1997); Virgilio S. Almario (2003); and Carlos Romulo (1982).

For theater, the awardees are Tony Mabesa (2022); Amelia Lapeña-Bonifacio (2018) and Wilfrido Ma. Guerrero (1997).

For dance, the awardees are Agnes Locsin (2022) and Francisca Reyes Aquino (1973).

For visual arts, the awardees are Larry Alcala (2018); Benedicto ‘Bencab’ Cabrera (2006); Jose Joya (2003); Napoleon V. Abueva (1976); Guillermo Tolentino (1973) and Fernando Amorsolo (1972).

For music, the awardees are Fides Cuyugan-Asensio (2022); Ryan Cayabyab (2018); Francisco Feliciano (2014); Ramon Santos (2014); Andrea Veneracion (1999); Jose Maceda (1997); Lucio San Pedro (1991); Antonino Buenaventura (1988); Jovita Fuentes (1976); and Antonio Molina (1973).

Starting in 1973, Ricky Lee has written more than 180 film screenplays, including Himala with Nora Aunor, which earned him more than 70 trophies from various award-giving bodies.

As a screenwriter, he has worked with many Filipino film directors, most notably Lino Brocka, Marilou Diaz-Abaya and Ishmael Bernal. Many of his films have been screened in the international film festival circuit.

During my several conversations with Lee during Cinemalaya, his thoughts on the future of young moviemakers are essentially captured by his speech at a commencement exercise: “Magkaroon ka ng boses. Ng opinyon. Mundo mo ito. Di ka parang hanging nagdaan lang. Mag-iwan ka ng marka. Huwag kang matakot magkamali. Kahit mabigo ka, huwag kang mag-alala. Sa paulit-ulit na pagkabigo ay mas matututo ka. Para kang sinusulat na nobela na kailangang paulit-ulit na i-revise. Hanggang sa kuminang.”

With her smile, Fides Cuyugan-Asensio fondly refreshed my memory that she was part of Oro Plata Mata, a 1982 multi-awarded Filipino film directed by Peque Gallaga.

“Narape ako doon.” A performance well done for a film she made four decades ago. I again saw her in films in Cinemalaya: Nino (2011) and Aparisyon (2012).

In Nino, she sings opera songs for her bedridden comatose brother Tony Mabesa, She even organized a “jamming” session of their theater friends as they serenade Mabesa. “Gigising si Gaspar! Gigising si Gaspar!” Thus the dreamish words of the classical music legend.

During my college days at UP Diliman, I was able to watch several plays that starred either Cuyugan-Asensio or Mabesa.

Over the course of his career, Mabesa directed and produced over 170 productions. He also founded the theater groups Dulaang UP (DUP) in 1976 and the UP Playwright’s Theater in 1980.

Before Mabesa died on October 4,  2019, I was able to watch  his  last film, Rainbow Sunset, the story of an 84-year-old retired senator, who  temporarily leaves his wife of six decades to take care of his gay best friend/lover who is dying of cancer.

Abad was formerly the Director of the UP Institute of Creative Writing. For many years, he also taught English, comparative literature and creative writing.

Locsin, who is also part of the UP faculty, is known for developing the “neo-ethnic” Filipino dance choreography, which is done by “blending indigenous themes with Western classical and modern techniques.” 

The artist does not simply express his/her own individual inspiration but articulates the deeper aspirations of history and the soul of the people (Almario vs Executive Secretary GR No. 189028, July 16, 2013).

Peyups is the moniker of University of the Philippines. Atty. Dennis R. Gorecho heads the seafarers’ division of the Sapalo Velez Bundang Bulilan law offices. For comments, e-mail info@sapalovelez.com, or call 0917-5025808 or 0908-8665786.

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