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Why I laughed and cried a little at the Gawad CCP Awards

By MILLET M. MANANQUIL, The Philippine STAR Published Sep 18, 2022 5:00 am

Bring your barangay,” Margie Moran-Floirendo, CCP president, told Danny Dolor, one of the CCP Gawad Para sa Sining awardees two weeks ago.

It was a rainy time and Margie was not sure of a good attendance for that event. Besides, people were still wary of the pandemic, although CCP made sure social distancing would be observed in the CCP Main Theater.

Fortunately, many people came to cheer for the 14 individuals who would be given this rare honor, a once-in-three-years award for people who have contributed their life — better still, their lifetime — to Philippine culture.

Antonio Turalba, CCP president Margie Moran-Floirendo, Gawad CCP Awardee (Tanging Parangal) Danny Dolor with niece Tanini Dolor-Serrano

Starting in 1997, the CCP gave medals of recognition to such stalwarts in culture. Many of them were later named National Artists, such as Alice G. Reyes, Arturo Luz, Lino Brocka, Andrea Veneracion, Cesar Legaspi, Ishmael Bernal, Levi Celerio, Jose Joya, Ben Cabrera, Francisco Manosa, Francisco Coching, Bienvenido Lumbera, Ryan Cayabyab, Salvador Bernal, Cirilo Bautista, Ricardo Lee and Nora Aunor.

I realized their past works caused a great stir in my conscience and consciousness during critical times in the past, and I had somehow taken them for granted.

The Gawad CCP Para sa Sining awardees on stage at the CCP Main Theater: From left, representative of Lualhati Bautista (Literature), Kenneth Cobonpue (Design), Clodualdo “Doy” del Mundo, Jr. (Film and Broadcast Arts), representative of Antonio Fabella for Dance (Posthumous), Nonoy Froilan (Dance), Representative of Alice Guillermo for Cultural Research (Posthumous), Nestor Horfilla (Cultural Work and Research), Integrated Performing Arts Guild (Culture of its Region) represented by IPAG founding artistic director Steven Patrick C. Fernandez, Liwayway magazine (Development of Philippine Culture) represented by editor-in-chief Johannes Chua, Danny Dolor (Tanging Parangal for the development and support of the arts), Nonon Padilla (Theater), Raul M. Sunico (Music) represented by Eugene Delos Santos of CCP, Cristina Turalba (Architecture), and Luis "Junyee" Yee, Jr. (Visual Arts) represented by Rica Estrada of CCP.

“Everyone can be an artist,” Floirendo said. “But there are individuals who make a difference.”

Watching the videos about them and hearing them tell their stories made me teary-eyed. I realized their past works caused a great stir in my conscience and consciousness during critical times in the past, and I had somehow taken them for granted. I also laughed a little, as some of their speeches were really amusing. One awardee, the articulate Nonon Padilla, woke up the audience with his humorous takes — on certain cultural heads who were “social climbers.” (Surely, he was just poking fun at them. In his heart of hearts, he appreciates everyone who makes an effort to do their bit for culture.)

Gawad CCP Awardee (Theater) Nonon Padilla with CCP artistic consultant Alex Cortez

And here are the 2020 Gawad CCP awardees who made a difference:

Danny Dolor: Gawad Parangal

Born to an industrialist family in pharmacy, banking, real estate and education, Danny dreamt of taking up painting as a high-schooler, but ended up, as Nick Tiongson wrote, spending “a life in music, film and philanthropy.”

“He is a businessman whose advocacy and passion in Philippine culture have prompted him to present and promote the classics of Philippine music and cinema, resulting in a deeper understanding and appreciation by Filipinos of these consummate expressions of Filipino artistry and embodiment of the Filipino soul,” Tiongson added.

Danny Dolor

In 1978, Dolor founded the Tribung Pinoy, which paid tribute to Filipino greats such as sarsuela queen Atang de la Rama, poet-lyricist Jose Corazon de Jesus, composer Levi Celerio and singers Conching Rosal and Sylvia La Torre, from venues like the CCP to concert halls in the United States, Korea and the Hong Kong high seas, to stages in Laguna, Tondo and Culion. Dolor has published six books, mounted countless exhibits, and held outreach programs for students. He nurtured visual artists, and helped restore museums and restore vintage altars and build churches.

Dolor narrated that he “was collecting printed movie ads since I was young, and putting them in boxes for medicine in our pharmacy.” Fast forward, he wrote a column for 27 years entitled “Remember When” in The Philippine STAR. And readers up to now remember.

Lualhati Bautista: Literature

Lualhati,” said Luna Sicat Cleto, “evokes divine tranquility, which is associated with ascendance and brings joy.”

Gawad CCP Awardee (Literature) Lualhati Bautista

Truth is, Lualhati Bautista’s works bring tears to one’s eyes. There’s Gapo, her first novel, which chronicles the lives of Filipino prostitutes, menial workers and marginal gender identities in Caucasian territory. Dekada ’70 mirrors the struggles and oppressions suffered under an authoritarian rule. In Bulaklak sa City Jail, Bautista immersed herself among the inmates in Muntinlupa. Bata Bata, Paano Ka Ginawa “revolves around the idea of family and motherhood, thrown in with questions about reproductive rights and privilege,” wrote Cleto.

Bayan Ko is a collection of works that touch, among others, on the Second World War. Desaparesidos confronts the horrors of torture, mindless brutality and loss, Cleto added.

Katrina Stuart Santiago said: “Lualhati had the courage to ask questions that needed to be asked.” Brave, divine tranquility, indeed.

Nonoy Froilan: Dance

I was a 17-year-old probinsyano who joined the University of the East Dance Troupe just to get free tuition,” Nonoy Froilan told the CCP audience.

“My parents wanted me to join the US Navy; they thought I would become bakla by being a dancer. So when I went against their wishes, they cut off my tuition and allowance… ‘I am not bading just because I dance ballet. I will prove that to you,’” Nonoy told his parents.

Gawad CCP Awardee (Dance) Nonoy Froilan

Nestor Jardin calls Froilan “a premier danseur par excellence.” And may I add that he probably is the tallest, most handsome Pinoy ballet dancer of our time, one with exceptional technique.

He started under the tutelage of Cora Inigo, and added thanks in his speech to Tony Llacer, Eddie Eleajar, Alice Reyes and the Borromeos, among others, who have molded him into the fave dance partner of top ballerinas like Maniya Barredo, Lisa Macuja, Toni Lopez Gonzales, Ester Rimpos, Ellie Nanas, Anna Villadolid and Cecile Sicangco, “who were confident they wouldn’t fall because I had a solid body.”

Froilan said what completely changed his life was when he joined a CCP ballet company class “for which I paid P30, ha!” He added that “a thunderbolt hit my head as I rode the jeepney back home, and I promised myself that I would dance on that stage someday.”

Froilan also thanked his most feared critic, my “pinakamabagsik at pinakamalambing” partner on stage and in real life, Edna Vida.

Nonoy Froilan: Dancer, choreographer, videographer and teacher. Bow!

Kenneth Cobonpue: Design and Allied Arts

When actor Brad Pitt ordered a chair by Filipino designer Kenneth Coponpue, the news echoed from Hollywood to Cebu.

Not that Cobonpue needed a superstar to endorse his works. From Pratt in New York to Europe, where he graduated with honors from a design school, Cobonpue showed the world that he was a Filipino designer that could. Disregard cold steel and leather and use abaca, bamboo and Philippine mahogany instead. Move away from the classicist past — like Europeans do — and tell people how beautiful our culture is. Give the next generation a source of pride and dignity. And design objects that will be treasured for generations. All that, Cobonpue could.

Gawad CCP Awardee (Design and Allied Arts) Kenneth Cobonpue

When he returned from foreign studies in 1996, Cobonpue took over the family furniture business started by his mom, Betty.

“When I was young, my mother told me stories and fairy tales with castles, mountains, fields and horses,” he narrated at the CCP. Today, Cobonpue designs chapels, public parks and cars. Time magazine called him “rattan’s first virtuoso.” He designed the first and only bamboo and rattan car. His works are sought-after by museums and collectors. He has won awards worldwide, too many to mention here.

Cobonpue has collaborated with fun and funky designer Vivienne Westwood. And designed Star Wars collections.

Writer-architect Paulo Alcazaren hopes Cobonpue never loses the childlike joy of creation.

Clodualdo Del Mundo Jr.: Film

Raised in a home bursting with literary activity, Clodualdo del Mundo Jr. read the Harvard Classics in his father’s personal library every summer.

“Having a writer for a father, Del Mundo’s childhood was ideal for nurturing a wordsmith,” reported Anne Frances Sangil. The senior was a writer in the komiks industry and wrote for movies. This exposed the junior to popular literature.

Gawad CCP Awardee (Film and Broadcast Arts) Clodualdo del Mundo Jr.

At Ateneo, Del Mundo Jr. was classmates with Mike de Leon. Mel Chionglo was a schoolmate, too. Put together Philippine literature professor Bienvenido Lumbera and you have a collab of creatives.

After studying radio-television-film under a Fulbright Scholarship, Del Mundo Jr. joined the De La Salle University academe. His success as a screenplay writer came with Manila Sa Mga Kuko ng Liwanag with Lino Brocka as director, De Leon as cinematographer and Del Munti as playwright. They won in the 1976 FAMAS Awards.

Other collabs were award-winning hits, too: Itim, Kisapmata, Batch ’81 and Aliwan Paradise. Not to forget Kakabakaba Ka Ba.

Through film, Del Mundo says, “I try to make people see what is important, or what I am passionate about.” Sangil calls his body of work “films with clarity, wisdom and compassion.”

Nonon Padilla: Theater

Alivewire on stage, Nonon Padilla’s wit is engaging. He made us laugh during the Gawad CCP Awards. And he also made us think.

A visionary, Padilla hopes “for a true Philippine national theater that helps shape the Filipino national identity.” Padilla showed his exceptional leadership in pursuing that identity as artistic director of Tanghalang Pilipino and the Philippine Theater Educational Association (PETA).

He established the Tanghalang Pilipino Actors Company, the country’s only full-time permanent acting company.

Padilla was exposed early at the Ateneo de Manila to productions by Mariano Singson, Onofre Pagsanjan and Rolando Tinio. Dennis Marasigan reported that Padilla would be a part of presentations with classmates like Tony Perez and Barge Ramos. Padilla directed Hoy, Boyet, Tinatawag Ka Na, Hatinggabi Na’t Gising Ka Pa Pala.

He was asked by another Atenean, Paul Dumol, to help stage the play in Fort Santiago for a summer workshop of PETA. Founder Cecile Guidote Alvarez asked him to join subsequent PETA productions.

In PETA, he was music composer for Larawan; mask maker for Kalbaryo, actor for Balintataw on TV, director for Ang Paglilitis ni Mang Serapio, Nestor Torre’s Indio and Isagani Cruz’s Halimaw.

His works and awards are too many to mention here. But I know for sure that I left the CCP with greater admiration for him. I realized he was behind many productions I enjoyed in my younger years.

Raul Sunico: Music

His memorable local performances include Rachmaninoff’s four piano concertos in one night. And Tchaikovsky’s three piano concerts in another.” So goes the citation of the Gawad CCP for Raul Sunico, world-class Filipino pianist.

Gawad CCP Awardee (Music) Raul Sunico

Arwin Q. Tan noted that Sunico started playing the piano at the age of five. And has since reaped scholarships and awards, gaining applause in brilliant concerts worldwide. “But what remains to be a feat is his concert with the UST Symphony Orchestra in 2003 conducted by Hermenegildo Ranera. In fact, he performed it not only once, but twice. At 70, Sunico mesmerized the audience by performing the same program with equal agility in 2019, with the PPO conducted by Yoshikazu Fukumura and Ranera.”

A protégé of former First Lady Imelda Marcos, Sunico has upgraded the Filipino piano repertoire through his recordings of Filipino folksongs and kundimans. He has enriched music education in the Philippines through his textbook series Musika at Sining and Horizons.

A philanthropist, Sunico has supported the advanced studies of gifted musicians abroad through foreign grants, as well as his own scholarship foundation.

Junyee: Visual Arts

Many observers insist that Junyee was a strong contender in this year’s search for National Artists.

“Junyee’s art has contributed immensely to our nation. In creating installations for the ordinary citizen, rising in public spaces and featuring indigenous materials, he has stirred the bayanihan spirit, as well as our own Filipino identity. At the same time, he affirms the need to protect the ecologies for both nation and world.”

Gawad CCP Awardee (Visual Arts) Junyee

Imelda Cajipe Endaya noted that, “in defying Western standards while creating art today, Junyee paves the way for contemporary indigenous aesthetics. He has steered clear from expensive imported materials, favoring instead natural debris gathered from forests and faraway villages.

“Junyee started as an activist waging the collective struggle with peasants… ‘Wood Things’ was the title of his solo exhibit at the CCP using forest remnants.” When he won the Thirteen Artists Award in 1980, Junyee used the prize money to mount an organic visual artwork, “Los Baños Site Works Festival.” He set up a workshop enabling Philippine Science High School students to take part in a collab ecological installation.

“Augud, A Forest Once,” was Junyee’s Earth Day campaign at the CCP, while “Dissecting Space With Sound and Silence” at UP Diliman in 2013 embodied a farmer’s thoughts and labor. In “Kwarantin” (2020) at the UP Vargas Museum, Junyee stressed the need to listen to the people’s clamor, using bamboo to create columns of various heights.

Maybe we have not listened enough.

Tony Fabella: Dance

Once you study dance, you become a whole person,” Tony Fabella once said.

This posthumous award is given to a dancer “pirouetting like an angel let loose by heaven,” said Anna Camille Fabella.

Gawad CCP Awardee (Dance) Tony Fabella

Fabella was a dancer, teacher and choreographer whose timeless work, onstage and off, established several important Philippine dance companies, including the CCP Dance Company and the Manila Metropolis Ballet, which later merged with other companies to become Philippine Ballet Theater, and dance studios like the Fabella- Elejar Dance Studio. He also established with his colleague Eddie Elejar and Luther Perez, the Quezon City Performing Arts Development Foundation and the Manila Dance Center, this allowing training for underprivileged children.

He mentored prominent dancers like Edna Vida, Denise Reyes, Vella Damian, Enrico Labayen, Luther Perez, Benjie Toledo and Lisa Macuja.

Diagnosed with cancer in 2007, Fabella was still able to choreograph his final full-length ballets, Ibong AdarnaAng Mahiwagang Biyulin and Tatlong Kwento ni Lola Basyang.

Alice Guillermo: Cultural Research

Gawad CCP noted that art historian, art critic and educator Alice Guillermo was one of the country’s most prolific writers on art. She authored and co-authored countless books and hundreds of articles on visual artists and art history.

Gawad CCP Awardee (Cultural Research) Alice Guillermo

Guillermo taught English at UP and received scholarships in France and Japan. Married to poet Gelacio Guillermo, she bore two children, Sofia and Ramon, who are both writers and educators.

“In the preciseness of her description and her use of metaphors as a rhetorical device, Guillermo renders her reading as deeply reflective and surreal as the art object,” wrote Helen Yu-Rivera. “Reading her works sends a chill down one’s spine.”

Tina Turalba: Architecture

Devoted to a career in design, environmental design, education, construction management and real estate, Tina Turalba is a major player in establishing the heritage architecture movement in the Philippines through field research, networking and writings. Thus reads the citation for her CCP Gawad Award.

With husband, architect Antonio Turalba, she set up their architectural firm while taking further studies in environmental planning and urban planning. Traveling all over the country made her launch a passionate search for the Filipino identity in our architecture.

In the 1980s, Dr. Jaime Laya, head of the Intramuros Administration, sought her help in restoring the Baluarte de Santiago in Intramuros. She also discussed with him the listing of Philippine architecture all over the country.

Liwayway: Development of Philippine Culture

The Gawad CCP Award is a timely award for Liwayway magazine as it turns 100 this year. “A popular magazine that has been intertwined with Philippine history and culture, Liwayway was launched by Ramon Roces in 1922.”

Gawad CCP Awardee (Development of Philippine Culture) Liwayway magazine represented by its editor-in-chief Johannes Chua

The magazine has nurtured a lot of writers, including Lope K. Santos, Inigo Ed. Regalado, and Severino Reyes of Walang Sugat and Mga Kuwento ni Lola Basyang fame, and poet Jose Corazon de Jesus. It also popularized komiks, notably “Kenkoy” by Antonio Velasquez, as well as those created by veterans like Francisco Coching and Panitikan stalwarts like Clodualdo del Mundo Sr.

After martial law, Roces sold Liwayway to Hans Menzi of the Manila Bulletin, where it is now under the aegis of Bulletin president Emil Yap III and chairman Basilio Yap.

Liwayway has produced three National Artists and countless award-winning writers.

Nestor Horfilla: Cultural Work and Research

Gawad CCP Awardee (Cultural Work and Research) Nestor Horfilla

Nestor Horfilla is described by the CCP as a cultural worker who combined formal education with wisdom gained from working with social movement as well as the indigenous people of Mindanao.

The aim is to create “a theater practice that transforms self and society.”

Horfilla offered his artistry to Mindanao Lumad groups so that these communities could weave their own stories and contribute to the rich tapestry of Philippine art.

Integrated Performing Arts Guild: Culture of its Region

Gawad CCP Awardee (Culture of its Region) IPAG represented by founding artistic director Steven Patrick Fernandez

Starting as a campus theater group in 1978, IPAG rose to become a major performing company sustaining an annual season of plays for more than four decades with over 40 productions shown in 100 cities in the country and the world.

The award is given to IPAG “for producing works with social relevance inspired by Mindanao’s tri-people: the Lumad, the Moro and the Christianized population. And for its efforts to draw themes and stories from indigenous sources such as folk tales, myths and legends. And translating them into plays reflecting contemporary issues.”