Ricky Lee, Nora Aunor among 8 new National Artists

by Matthew Escosia
SEA Wave - National Artists 2022
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By: Madelaine Durante


Eight icons of the Filipino arts and culture were declared as the Philippines’ latest National Artists.

Acclaimed filmmakers Nora Aunor, Ricky Lee, and Marilou Diaz-Abaya were named National Artist for Cinema; Poet Gemino Abad was named National Artist for Literature; Theater actor Tony Mabesa was proclaimed National Artist for Theater; Choreographer Agnes Locsin was named National Artist for Dance; Iconic soprano Fides Cuyugan-Asensio was announced National Artist for Music; and finally, the late Salvacion Lim Higgins was named National Artist for Fashion.

Nora Aunor is an instrumental figure in Philippine cinema, having starred in films to critical acclaim on titles like Himala (1982), Tatlong Taong Walang Diyos (1976), Bona (1980), and Minsa’y Isang Gamu-gamo (1976). For her work, Aunor is a recipient of many recognitions from FAMAS Awards, Metro Manila Film Festival, Gawad Urian, Asia Pacific Screen Awards, and Asian Film Awards, among others.

Ricky Lee is one of the most awarded and respected screenwriters for Philippine film and television. He is known for penning renowned works for filmmakers like Marilou Diaz-Abaya, Lino Brocka, and Ishmael Bernal. For decades, he has helped young writers in honing their storytelling techniques in his scriptwriting workshops.

Marilou Diaz-Abaya, Lee’s frequent collaborator, is also an icon in Philippine cinema. She has co-founded the Diaz-Abaya Film Institute and Arts Center and have directed films like Brutal (1980), Moral (1982), and Karnal (1983).

Gemino Abad is a renowned poet and literary critic. He co-founded the Philippine Literary Arts Council and wrote landmark literary pieces like Man of Earth (1989), A Native Clearing (1993), and In Another Light (1976). In 2009, he became the first Filipino to receive the Premio Feronia recognition in Rome, Italy.

Tony Mabesa is considered in the arts industry as one of the founding fathers of Philippine university theater. With a career spanning over 70 years, he is also known for founding the theater groups Dulaang UP and UP Playwrights’ Theatre.

Agnes Locsin is known for developing the “neo-ethnic” Filipino dance choreography, which “blends indigenous themes with Western classic and modern techniques”. She previously taught young talents in the University of the Philippines Dance Program and served as Artistic Director of the Ballet Philippines.

Fides Cuyugan-Asensio is known as one of the leading opera performers and producers in the Philippines since the 1950s. She has appeared in various television programs and films, and formed the Music Theater of the Philippines, an NGO which provides aides to young classical performers.

Salvacion Lim Higgins challenged the norms of Philippine fashion and has been known for reinventing classic silhouettes. She founded Slim’s Fashion & Arts School, now known as a premiere school for designers in the Philippines.

The Order of National Artists honors the Filipinos who have made a significant impact and contribution to Philippine arts and culture. The new National Artists will receive a cash award (payable to legal heirs for posthumous awardees), medical benefits, life pension and insurance, a burial at the Libingan ng mga Bayani, and a place of honor at cultural events.

The order is both 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.

What are your thoughts on the Philippines’ newest 8 National Artists? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Photo collage from Rappler

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