EDITORIAL: Dolphy, a National Artist?
Growing is the sentiment that the Order of the National Artist be awarded to ailing comedy king Rodolfo “Dolphy” Vera Quizon.
The National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), and the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) are the two prime government institutions tasked to jointly administer the Order of the National Artist Awards. They submit a list of candidates to the President of the Philippines, who in turn chooses to whom to confer the award. It is conferred every three years by the President of the Philippines.
The scramble for the National Artist Award is understandable. It is regarded as the highest national recognition given to Filipino individuals who have made significant contributions for the development of Philippine arts and its cultural heritage. It has very special benefits and privileges: the Gawad Pambansang Alagad ng Sining awardee is conferred with an ornate, gilden collar of honor, a citation that is presented during the ceremonies including a monthly pension, medical and life insurance, arrangements for a state funeral, a place of honor at national state functions, and recognition at cultural events.
The deliberation is composed of two different panels which deliberate twice on the list of shortlisted nominees. This process sometimes takes about two years. The wait does not reflect on the government or the arts sector wanting or not wanting to confer the awards. The wait is even made longer with the issuance of a Temporary Restraining Order from the Supreme Court. The TRO was prompted by a petition filed by a group of national artists led by Bienvenido Lumbera and Virgilio Almario, accusing former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo of committing “grave abuse of discretion” for adding the four names to the final list.
Through the years, Rodolfo “Dolphy” Vera Quizon, Sr. (born July 25, 1928), has been widely regarded as the country’s “King of Comedy” for his comedic talent embodied by his long roster of works on stage, radio, television, and movies.
His recent movie comedy, Fr. Jejemon, however, did not stand well with the Catholic Church. Unamused with some of the scenes, former Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines and Jaro Archbishop Angel Lagdameo contended that the movie Fr. Jejemon did not give a good reflection on the priesthood. He even asked the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) to hold a second review of the film. Meanwhile, the film’s producer RVQ Productions, Inc. had already decided to voluntarily cut the offensive scenes. Dolphy said his objective was to make people happy, and it was not his intention to offend anyone. He said: “Ako ay mapagmahal sa Diyos…mamamatay na nga ako, sa Diyos lang ako sasandal. Sapagkat ako, wala na akong nilalaan sa buhay ko eh kung ‘di pagdasal. Pagkatapos, maaaring huling pelikula ko na ito eh. Tapos gaganyanin pa ako, kakalabanin ko pa ang Diyos. Susmaryosep.”
Dolphy’s humility as well as his sympathy with those who have less in life could be very well appreciated but then his having serious relationships with six women with whom he had 16 children will certainly not stand well with the bishops. Obviously the bishops have something to say about the oragon culture of a man fathering many children with many women as a role model for a Catholic family. Of course, it would be a different world if for the NCCA the oragon is valued as an expression of art.
The conferment of the Order of the National Artist Award may be a state-run affair, but it is not empty of morality and values. If the mere insertion of four names in the award had brought about a TRO, then how much more would the issue on morality and the question of values?
Will the conferment of the Order on Dolphy, assuming that the Supreme Court TRO is lifted, become the second season of the controversy on the award?