Why Should I Be a National Artist?
Tatler Philippines|July 2021
Tatler looks into this highly covetous award given by the government, its importance and the controversies that surround it
Christine Andas

Just a month after the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) and Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) called for submissions to the National Artist Award in February, social media was already abuzz with names of “official” nominees. Names such as Eddie Garcia, Ramon Revilla, Vilma Santos-Recto, Peque Gallaga, Ricky Lee, Pitoy Moreno, Ben Farrales, Joey Ayala and Isagani Cruz were floated.

But much to the dismay of the lobbyists, the NCCA and CCP released a statement clarifying that no official list of nominees has been released yet.

Why such a scramble for a nomination? What is in store for someone who receives the highest national recognition in Philippine arts?

“To be conferred the Order of National Artist [ONA] means that you are recognised for your significant and outstanding contributions to the development of a national cultural identity which have made an impact on future generations of artists,” says Benedicto Cabrera, National Artist for Visual Arts.

Going with the title and the award are numerous prizes, perks and privileges that an artist of such stature can enjoy the rest of his life.

National Artists are entitled to receive material and physical benefits such as cash award, personal monthly stipend, yearly medical and hospitalisation benefits, life insurance and a place of honour in state functions, national commemoration ceremonies and all other cultural presentations.

They are also given a gold-plated medallion, known as the Grand Collar, minted by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas. They are likewise entitled to a state funeral, arranged and paid for by the government. The legal heirs of posthumous awardees will receive a cash award.

“I always tell friends and family that as a National Artist, my funeral arrangements should not be of their concern as the government will take care of my state funeral, although I don’t particularly care to be buried in the Libingan ng mga Bayani together with some questionable ‘heroes’,” Cabrera comments.

With prizes at stake so high, so is the process of selection so steep for this triennial award.

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