THE National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) as the highest coordinating body for culture and the arts of the country institutionalized Gawad sa Manlilikha ng Bayan or the National Living Treasures Award in April 1992 through Republic Act No. 7355. Through the Gawad sa Manlilikha ng Bayan Committee and an Ad Hoc Panel of Experts, the NCCA has since then conducted the search for the finest traditional artists of the land that adopts a program that ensures the transfer of their skills to others and undertakes measures to promote a genuine appreciation of and instill pride among Filipinos about the genius of the Manlilikha ng Bayan.
As envisioned under R.A. 7355, “Manlilikha ng Bayan” shall mean a citizen engaged in any traditional art uniquely Filipino whose distinctive skills have reached such a high level of technical and artistic excellence and have been passed on to and widely practiced by the present generation in his/her community with the same degree of technical and artistic competence.
Alonzo Saclag is a musician and dancer of Lubuagan, Kalinga recognized as Gawad Manlilikha ng Bayan in 2000.
As a young boy in Lubuagan, Kalinga, Alonzo Saclag according to an article lifted from the NCCA website found endless fascination in the sights and sounds of day-to-day village life and ritual. According to his son, Robinson, he received no instruction, formal or otherwise, in the performing arts. Yet he has mastered not only the Kalinga musical instruments but also the dance patterns and movements associated with his people’s rituals. His tool was observation, his teacher, experience. Coupled with these was a keen interest in – a passion, if you would – the culture that was his inheritance.
Salve de la Paz wrote that Saclag’s passion is “clearly intends to pass on to the other members of his community, particularly to the younger generation which, he notes, needs to understand and value the nuances of their traditional laws and beliefs. Although Kalinga life and culture have remained generally unchanged partly due to their relative isolation, he observes that some of them are tempted by the illusion of city life. He actively advocates the documentation of their philosophies before they become completely eroded by foreign influences – whether cultural, political, or economic – and are completely forgotten by his people.
He cites as an example the Budong or the peace-pact, an established remedy for the tribal wars that continue to rack their region. He notes sadly that some fail to grasp the true meaning of the pact and the lives that are lost in a tribal war. These he sees as akin to a sacrifice made to keep the peace intact. His attitude towards the present-day institution is one of uncertainty. His disillusionment stems from bitter experience. Notwithstanding the many tribal wars and peace-pacts he and his people have fought and sworn to, lasting peace stays elusive.”
On June 25, at the Kalinga Capitol Plaza, Cordillera’s pride Whang-od Oggay of Kalinga province was awarded the Dangal ng Haraya 2018 for her lifetime of achievements and noteworthy contribution in preservation and promotion of the Kalinga traditional art of tattooing. In the presence of NCCA Chair Virgilio Almario, the Dangal ng Haraya given to Ina Whang-od is considered an achievement award conferred to living Filipino artists, cultural workers and historians; artistic or cultural groups, historical societies, institutions, foundations and patrons of the Philippine culture. An online petition actually circulated online and it garnered over 3.000 signatures to have Whang-od named a National Living Treasure proving that many people considers her a living legend.
Last month, the Malacañan Palace, led by President Rodrigo Duterte, feted seven new National Artists in an awarding ceremony held at the Rizal Ceremonial Hall of Malacañan Palace. NCCA and Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino (KWF) chairman Virgilio S. Almario, himself also a National Artist witnessed the recognition. Among the newly declared National Artists are Larry Alcala (posthumous) for visual arts; Amelia Lapeña-Bonifacio for theatre and literature; Ryan Cayabyab for music; Kidlat Tahimik for film and broadcast arts; Francisco T. Mañosa for architecture and allied arts; Resil B. Mojares for literature; and Ramon Muzones (posthumous) for literature.
My wedding Ninong Kidlat Tahimik or Eric de Guia has continually invented himself through his cinema, and so his cinema is as singular as the man. His debut film, Mababangong Bangungot (1977), was praised by critics and filmmakers from Europe, North America, Asia, and Africa and is still considered by many as a pioneering postcolonial essay film. Tahimik’s intense independence as an artist and, at the same time, the film itself called for Filipinos to actively live out their independence and not allow their culture to be imperialized by the west. Kidlat’s “imperfect” film is an exemplar of what is worldwide known as “Third Cinema,” a cinema that is critical of neo-colonial exploitation and state oppression. But, unlike other Third Cinema films, Kidlat’s work does not glory in ugliness. His films, even those that lament injustice and violence, are premised on the hope of possible, though yet unrealized, triumph. His constant claim is that whatever “progress” has relegated to the realm of sadness and poverty should never remain self-referentially sad or poor. (With notes from NCCA)