NOMINATIONS for the National Artist Award are now open and will run until Sept. 30.

The Order of National Artist is the highest national award given to Filipino artists who have made significant contributions to the Philippines and the arts. The recognition is conferred by the president and jointly administered by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) and the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP).

The criteria for the awards include, among others, the impact of the artist and their works to the consciousness and identity building of Filipinos.

“It rests on one’s galing (brilliance) because there may be an artist with a massive oeuvre but has only done selected works that have made [an] impact, here and abroad. The National Artists are the counterparts of our heroes, so the process of nomination, deliberation, and awarding is laborious,” said Chris Millado, CCP vice-president and artistic director, in a mix English and Filipino at a press conference on Aug. 1.

The process is tedious. After the Sept. 30 deadline of nominations, a group of researchers will gather data and study each nominatee for two months. Then the chosen nominees will undergo three rounds of deliberations until the list is narrowed down. The third deliberation will be done by the CCP Board members, NCCA officials, and the living National Artists. Since its creation in 1972, 66 artists have been recognized as National Artists, and among them, only nine are still alive.

The criteria for nominations for National Artists in the eight categories (dance, music, theater, visual arts, literature, film and broadcast arts, architecture and allied arts, and design) are as follows: He or she must be Filipino, has made a portfolio that has built the sensibilities of the Filipino audience, has received prestigious awards locally and internationally, and has done masterpieces that have impacted and will still impact this generation and the coming.

The proclamation of the new National Artists is expected to be announced on June 11, 2018.

Emily Abrera, CCP chairperson, said that the tedious process is there for a reason when asked about what they have learned from the controversies that have haunted the nominations and National Artist winners through the years. It should be remembered that in 2009, former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo ordered that film director Carlo J. Caparas be given the prestigious National Artist Award for film and broadcast arts even though he was not part of the original list of nominees. The CCP took the matter to the Supreme Court which ruled to void the presidential proclamation and said that it should respect the tedious selection process of the CCP and NCCA.

The president, it stated, can only modify the list of nominees by omitting a person’s proclamation, not by adding another person not part of the list. The president also has the power and discretion to proclaim all, some, or none of the CCP and NCCA recommendations without the need to justify his or her decision. And because of the “power of control” bestowed to the president, former President Benigno S. C. Aquino III rejected the 2014 recommendation of actress Nora Aunor as National Artist for film because of her alleged moral, and not artistic, discredit because of her conviction for illegal drug use. Mr. Millado, however, noted that by the Supreme Court rules, Ms. Aunor need not be re-nominated and she is automatically part of this year’s third stage of deliberations. The questions is, will she finally receive the National Artist Award?

Besides the prestige of being proclaimed a National Artist, the government gives the award recipients a monthly allowance of P50,000, medical support of P750,000 per year, and a state funeral worth P500,000. — Nickky Faustine P. de Guzman