Komiks Writing is also Art

In July 2009, Carlo J Caparas was inducted as National Artist in Visual Arts on merits of his film and literary works. Some insiders thought CJC never deserved the award. For others (including GMA---PGMA at the time), his works were enough to earn it. If you're still not familiar with CJC and his works, see them here (as comics writer and film maker) and judge for yourself.

My point here is not about CJC's controversial induction as a National Artist or his questionable "artistic" merits, but about the narrow and outdated definition of an "artist" and the politics surrounding these award giving bodies. The issue here are two: the need to define clearly what is an artist and second, what is the rightful party to vote for a person to become a national artist.

Based on the NCCA guidelines Gerry Alanguilan is right in showing that CJC is not qualified by being just a comic writer—somebody who writes the script since in that guidelines, it's clear that a comics/graphic novel writer is still not considered an artist. But this definition got my attention like I was stung by a wasp. This narrow definition of an “artist” will also categorize Mars Ravelo and Budjette Tan not artists but just "komiks writers." I cannot imagine Neil Gaiman, Alan Moore, or somebody in the comic industry close to these writer’s status not as artists. It’s ridiculous! Just as I thought that the world of art can be divided into two major categories; the visual and the written form, the guideline isolates the comics writer like a mere tabloid writer nowhere to be found in the art world. If they can see "comic book writers" as "writers" then the NCCA should put graphic novels under the Literature category instead. But alas, comics is still not accepted as an art form here in the Philippines. Tell that to a Japanese, French, or American reader and they will surely say that it's absurd.

An artist must be defined first before giving somebody an award, and I believe the NCCA should already know this by now. If not, then that explains the current ruckus. They better know the merit of an artist first and how the artist's work influence the public. Does an artist's work inspires the Filipino and uplift his national identity or not? If NCCA cannot answer this, then the award-giving activities are meaningless. As for the governing party, I think it should be the National Artists themselves who must unite together to endorse and vote for that person who deserves the similar stature, who belonged in their group. The President of the Philippines is out of the picture, as well as any politicking and PR mongering. Sad but true, any award giving body is never free from politics—even the Nobel Peace Prize is tainted by politics throughout its rich and colorful history. Since it cant be prevented, they should do it with a limit at least.

 Our government must provide a proper action for these issues to finally settle the stalemate. There's a need to define the guidelines of NCCA and clarify the grey areas. It's been two years! Nakakalungkot isipin na maging national artist ang isa samantalang meron namang iba dyan na mas hinahangaan at nirerespeto pero sa hindi lang sila nakikigulo sa pamumulitika, hindi na sila naging priority. Francisco Coching is still not a National Artist, but his works were already printed and honored in our postage stamps! Does it mean that the Philippine Postal Corporation knows better than the NCCA? Only in the Philippines!

 But no matter what happens after this, you artists and writers must continue to develop your craft. With or without this s#itty awards, genuine readers know how bad or good your work is.


(This post is originally based on my comment to Gerry's post in his Komikero site.)

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