Saturday, August 01, 2009

Mourning for Cory and the Arts Community

I never thought I'd be this much affected. It has been a tough week for the Philippines, as a friend said "Nag-quota na si God sa Philippines this week". The biggest tragedy perhaps is that Cory Aquino, the icon for freedom and respect for the constitution, died on August 1. The Philippines just felt a little unsafer for me and many others at this point.

This feeling stems from a culmination of events. The arts community has been hit this week by the proclamation of the new National Artists. To give you a background, the arts community in this country has been struggling to be taken seriously. Now there has been talk that Carlo J. Caparas, a filmmaker, and Cecile Guidote Alvarez, a theater stalwart, have been proclaimed as National Artists. I am not here to lambast these two and say they don't deserve it. I am in no position and have no right to say that. They create art in their own way, as all artists are wont to do.

What affects me immensely is the disrepect for the protocol. The process is this: Selection committee names candidates > deliberation happens > awards are announced.

Now the two are named National artists without going through the process. Someone from up there just said, hey, I think these two are cool, let's just give them the award. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is a great disservice to the community.

I've seen talented friends give up their would-be careers in art, because they lost faith in the system. Simply put, they weren't taken seriously. I've seen the exodus of Philippine talent go to Hong Kong and work in Disneyland because it was a job that paid well. These are people who are well respected in the theater and dance community, who can change lives in our country, but couldn't -- well, because they needed to survive.

The National Artist slate isn't just a trophy to massage egos. It is a validation that indeed, there is hope that artists will be appreciated and taken seriously. A validation that disproves how some people see art as frivolous and unnecessary. With total disrespect for something as simple as a process...what message does that send? I feel as if little by little, my freedom and rights are taken away from me.

Cory fought for freedom and democracy. Democracy is something we enjoy unconsciously in our daily lives. You like watching the teleseryes on ABS-CBN? Well, guess what, you're watching that right now because of Cory. You like walking around without a curfew in the evening? Yup, democracy. You like the fact that your government is accountable to you? That is freedom.

One of the most touching speeches I've heard was when Cory claimed that "this is my contract with the people". Her contract of accountability to the nation. If something as "little" as the process of giving out an award is disrespected, then I'm afraid for the bigger things that can happen/is happening. We need to keep being angry. Once you stop being angry, then it is hope you're giving up. Or worse, it would mean that you're accepting this as a way of life.

I still have hope for this nation, and I promise to keep fighting the good fight in my own little way. Because if not, then I might as well give up my rights as a Filipino.

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