Tributes to four National Artists @ 100

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IMAGINE that? It is the centennial of not one, not two — but four of our National Artists this year! In the past two weeks alone, family and friends of National Artist for Film and Theater Lamberto Avellana and National Artist for Literature Nestor Vicente Madali Gonzalez — or NVM — held separate events in Ateneo de Manila University for Mr. Avellana, and the Diliman campus of the University of the Philippines (UP) and the Bay Area in the United States for Mr. Gonzalez. The two other National Artists who would have turned 100 this year are Severino Montano (theater) and Manuel Conde (film).

A month-long celebration of Mr. Avellana’s life and works is being organized by the Interdisciplinary Studies Department of the School of Humanities, the Ateneo Art Gallery, and the Rizal Library, in cooperation with the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), the Society of Filipino Film Archivists (SOFIA), and the Avellana family. Mr. Avellana graduated from high school in 1933, and from college at the Ateneo in 1937, and is credited for coining the cheer “Fight!” and for broaching the idea of having the Blue Eagle as the icon of the university.

The exhibit Lamberto Avellana@100: Portrait of the Artist as an Atenean opened to the public on Sept. 3, at the Ateneo’s Filipino Department of the university. The program included the presentation of a collection of Mr. Avellana’s films donated by director Mike de Leon to the university, and a screening of Anak Dalita. Recently, Vina Lanzona and Nicanor Tiongson delivered lectures followed by a screening of Huk sa Bagong Pamumuhay and Badjao. On Sept. 23, the Avellana film collection of the Rizal Library will be unveiled, to be preceded by a lecture by Clodualdo del Mundo and a roundtable discussion on Film Archiving Problems and Prospects to be moderated by SOFIA, and a screening of Kundiman ng Lahi. All screenings of these Avellana classics are at the Rizal Library.

On Oct. 1, the NCCA will launch the Lamberto Avellana Commemorative Stamp and present the monograph Lamberto Avellana@100: The Artist as an Atenean, followed by a screening of Portrait of the Artist as Filipino at the Leong Hall Auditorium.

Admission is free in all these events. Reserve slots (with your name and event) at or; or call Racky Tizon or Cherrie at 426.6001 loc. 5340 or 5341. Course online inquiries via Dr. Rofel Brion at or Nikki Briones Carsi Cruz at

If the celebration for the 100th birth year of Mr. Avellana will last for a month, it will be an extended celebration for Mr. Gonzalez until 2016, with activities both in the Philippines and North America.

Just last week, the UP Press launched A Wanderer in the Night of the World: The Poems of NVM Gonzalez — a rare collection of Mr. Gonzalez’s little-known poems, edited by poet and critic Gemino Abad — at the UP Executive House.

The book gathers Mr. Gonzalez’s poems, selected writings by him and his wife, and his correspondence with Mr. Abad. It also features pages of intimate family photos, including one of the National Artist (and his violin) at age 14. For orders, check out

The Gonzalez family was represented by Mr. Gonzalez’s widow Narita (now in her mid-to-late nineties), daughters Selma and Lakshmi, and Gonzalez-Cortes grandchildren Bangbang, Huggy, Chitty, and their children.

poster of NVM centennial celeb at the Bay Area
Poster of NVM Gonzalez celebration in the US

Among those who paid tribute to Mr. Gonzalez were his fellow National Artists for Literature Bienvenido Lumbera and F. Sionil Jose; UP Diliman vice chancellor for research and development Fidel Nemenzo Jr. (on behalf of UP Chancellor Michael Tan), with his father, former UP president Dodong Nemenzo; multiawarded writer and columnist Jose Dalisay, Jr. (who drafted Mr. Gonzalez’s nomination for National Artist), former UP Press director and PEN board director Elmer Ordoñez, current UP Press director J. Neil Garcia, poet-couple Pete Lacaba and Marra Lanot, PEN board directors Raven Rony Diaz and Gilda Cordero-Fernando.

Performers were the UP Singing Ambassadors with Ed Manguiat, Anton Juan, Ramon Acoymo, Oscar Ventanilla, and Maureen Borromeo.

Mr. Gonzalez taught at UP for 18 years and was its first (and then, only) artist in residence. He served on the Board of Advisers of Likhaan: the UP Creative Writing Center (CWC), and founded The Diliman Review.

A writers’ workshop titled “Mindoro and Beyond” will be held in Calapan, Oriental Mindoro, from Jan. 3 to 9 in 2016. A video competition on the interpretation of Mr. Gonzalez’s famous story, “Bread of Salt,” will be sponsored by the Philippine Studies Department of the City College San Francisco for the NVM Centennial Celebration Series in February next year.

Early this week, the NVM Gonzalez Centennial Postage Stamp was unveiled at the Philippine Consulate at the Bay Area, San Francisco, USA. The commemorative stamps were released by the Philippine Postal Corp., and are a tribute to Mr. Gonzalez “and his contribution to the preservation and promotion of the arts in our country and the world,” said Postmaster-General Josefina dela Cruz. The stamps feature Mr. Gonzalez’s image with literary works and photos in the background. Around 65,000 copies measuring 40 x 30 mm will be sold at PhP10 each. (Mr. Avellana’s commemorative stamp was released, also by Philpost, early this year.) The event was co-sponsored by the Philippine American Writers and Artists, Philippine Folklife Museum, and the Philippine Studies City College of San Francisco.

The 2016 NVM Gonzalez Writers’ Workshop will be held on Labor Day weekend at the Bay area, where various literary events will be held (and all over the US) throughout 2016. Check out for updates, or — Susan Claire Agbayani