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The folks over at Malacañang don’t seem to have their thinking caps on.
After deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte disclosed that the Palace is considering proposals to declare a national day of mourning to honor the passing of Dolphy, the man singularly responsible for keeping Filipinos in stitches for over 60 years, isn’t it more appropriate, in keeping with the man’s stature, to declare a National Day of Laughter instead?
When he was asked in a recent television interview how we would wish to be remembered, the King of Comedy didn’t hesitate: most of all, he declared, whenever his name was mentioned, he wanted people to remember him with a smile.
I think he earned that accolade, and were it within my power to grant his wish, so be it.
Only he and Fernando Poe, Jr. could be said to be true show business royalty, not in any pecuniary sense connected with huge box-office grosses, but because over a career marked by both longevity and consistency, they managed to enter the realm of popular culture. Not all artists or entertainers are able to do that.
Poe was posthumously honored as National Artist; Dolphy deserves it, too, don’t you think?
The only reason that the King of Comedy, whose stock-in-trade was the Filipino Everyman, never garnered the award, reaching only the first stage of selection, is that, according to Cecile Guidote-Alvarez, herself a controversial recipient of the National Artist honors from the hand of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, the critic and academician Nick Tiongson, former president of the Cultural Center of the Philippines and former dean of the University of the Philippines College of Mass Communications, opposed Dolphy’s inclusion in the hallowed list, a disclosure that Tiongson, who did not deny the allegation in a letter to a major daily, decried as a “ploy” and an attempt to make him a “scapegoat.”
At the second meeting of the experts, I did express reservations about Dolphy as National Artist because I believed that the two icons he created for film and TV -- the screaming gay and the happy-go-lucky poor man -- have, in the majority of his movies, equated gayness with abnormality and mindless frivolity on the one hand, and romanticized or deodorized poverty on the other. As a participant in the selection process, I thought it was my right and duty to express this opinion, just as others in the group had every right to express theirs, all toward helping the peers make an enlightened evaluation of the candidate. (The opinion I expressed in no way diminishes my continuing admiration and respect for Dolphy as a most talented comedian and a very kind human being.)
No one begrudges the former dean the right to speak his mind as to matters within his competence -- he was never hired to occupy those exalted positions simply to become a mute -- but his expressed “reservations” contrasts starkly with Alvarez’s recollection of the event, which was that Tiongson “stood violently, or had a very passionate protest against Dolphy.” At any rate, that is Tiongson’s opinion and he is entitled to it, yet here is where things get a little tricky.
In a statement of support for its former dean, the UPCMC indicated that the issue is not the King of Comedy himself.
The issue at this point is not Dolphy himself. What needs to be exposed is Alvarez who blatantly violated the trust and confidence given to her by her peers who participated in the selection process in 2009. As co-chair of the selection committee, she is duty-bound to ensure the confidentiality of what was said during the selection process, particularly the individual sentiments as regards those who did not get selected.
True, the issue is not Dolphy himself. True, too, that Alvarez may be somewhat of a loose cannon.
But I have never thought to equate confidentiality with any discussion involving culture and the arts which, I think, cannot be mentioned in the same breath as “national security,” “trade secrets” or Supreme Court rollos. Yet if we parse through the CMC’s argument that Alvarez “blatantly violated” the selection committee’s trust and confidence, we can detect a little shooting-oneself-in-the-foot.
Last year, to mark Noynoy Aquino’s first year as president, the CMC also issued a statement wherein it criticized the Chief Executive for his lack of support for the Freedom of Information bill:
Initially assuring the press and the public as a whole of his support for a Freedom of Information (FOI) act, Mr. Aquino did not include among his priority bills the Tanada FOI bill that had been filed in the 14th Congress. His communications group subsequently proposed a bill that, among other reprehensible provisions, would bestow on an Information Commission the power to hold anyone in contempt and to declare any information on government matters temporarily or permanently exempt from public disclosure.
In response to the objections of various media groups, the Aquino administration drafted a second version, in which the only change was to make government officials and employees who violate the provisions of the proposed law subject to criminal rather than administrative sanctions. The other provisions to which there are serious objections have been retained. As a result, any FOI bill passed during this administration is likely to restrict rather than enhance public and media access to information.
If I get it correctly, last year was all about transparency while in 2012, the tune has changed. I tend to think that freedom of information would also cover government cultural institutions, but then again, this is just my “reservation.”
In 1985, Ronald Reagan conferred the Presidential Medal of Freedom on Frank Sinatra, a decision that became controversial because of the singer’s alleged links to the Mafia.
At this stage, I’m not interested in debating highbrow versus lowbrow culture, and cinematic depiction of gays pales in comparison to mob ties.
We can agree to disagree whether Dolphy deserves to be called a National Artist, but what we can agree on is that he earned it.