MANILA, Philippines – ‘Superstar’ Nora Aunor, famously known for her role as a miracle worker, Elsa, in “Himala”, was finally declared one of the new eight National Artists of the Philippines by outgoing President Rodrigo Duterte.
Alongside Aunor is the late director Marilou Diaz Abaya, named National Artist for Cinema; she was best known as the director of films such as 1982’s “Moral,” the biopic “José Rizal” (1998), “Muro-Ami” (1999).
Meanwhile, the screenwriter of ‘Himala’ and novelist Ricardo “Ricky” Lee was awarded the National Artist for Literature; he also wrote “Karnal” (1983) directed by Diaz-Abaya, and the book “Para Kay B.”
Poet Dr. Gemino Abad has received the same award; he is also a University Professor Emeritus of literature and creative writing, fictionist, and literary critic and historian. In 2009, he received Italy’s Premio Feronia (“Foreign author category”) for his poetry.
The late stage director and actor Antonio “Tony” Mabesa was named National Artist for Theater. He is the most notable theater director in the country, calling him the “Lion of the Theater”. He was also the founder of two important campus theater troupes, Dulaang UP and the UP Playwright’s Theatre.
Choreographer Agnes Locsin, known for pioneering neo-ethnic dance, was named National Artist for Dance. She gained international attention for her breathtaking neo-ethnic dance choreography; her award-winning works are the “La Revolucion” (1996) and the groundbreaking “Igorot”(1987).
The title National Artist for Music was given to Legendary soprano Fides Cuyugan-Asensio. She is one of the Philippines’ most outstanding sopranos and musical personalities. Cuyugan-Asensio is also an actress, librettist, lyricist, pedagogue, producer, director, and a Professor Emeritus at the University of the Philippines Voice and Music Theater/Dance Department.
The late Salvacion Lim Higgins, known for reinventing the terno, was named National Artist for Fashion. She challenged the parameters of Philippine fashion, boldly reimagining classic silhouettes and mastering the art of clothing construction in 1950’s.
The National Artists receive ₱100,000 for living awardees and ₱75,000 for posthumous awardees, payable to their legal heirs. They also receive a monthly life pension, medical and hospitalization benefits, life insurance coverage for those still insurable, a state funeral and burial at the Libingan ng mga Bayani, and a place of honor at national state functions and recognition at cultural events.