In Protest of Caparas as National Artist

By in

Today, Gerry Alanguilan wrote down his reasons why he stands in protest against the proclamation of Carlo J. Caparas as a National Artist for Visual Arts and Film.  I believe that as a comic book illustrator, collaborator, and artist, Mr. Alanguilan is far more qualified than I am to reject and protest this decision by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts.  As such, I can only write this as a reader of komiks, as an avid viewer of Filipino film, and – as a writer – an artist in my own right.

The criticism and the appreciation of art is subjective.  Sucks, but there is some truth – at least in the case of writers and poets – to the belief that people who read books write books, people who make paintings appreciate paintings, and people who write and sing songs are at the forefront of praising and lambasting songs.  Yet that does not mean we cannot appreciate and criticize art from the objective position: art, as they say, for art’s sake.  People read komiks, read books, and listen to songs without having to make them for a living like we do.

I do not know Carlo J. Caparas personally to pass judgment upon his person, but I believe that within the bounds of the fair and the just, I am free to criticize his art.  From what I do know, he is not an illustrator: he is a collaborator.  All art may be collaboration, but I believe it is dishonest and disrespectful to his collaborators to award the distinction of National Artist to him and him alone.  More than that, though, I believe that even the most postmodern of art must have respect for tradition.  Before Caparas, there were the likes of Mars Ravelo, Larry Alcala and Francisco V. Coching who have built the foundation of Filipino komiks; the very hallowed ground where Caparas and every komikero now stands on.

On that ground, I protest the seeming disregard for tradition by the NCCA.

Carlo J. Caparas is being commended for his achievements in film.  I will not claim to have watched every Carlo J. Caparas movie, but since the National Artist distinction is an honorific for achievement, let us settle on that.  A National Artist for Film should be rewarded and recognized for his or her cinematic achievements: the corpus of cinematic work that Caparas has under his belt is a laundry list of massacre movies and komiks crossovers.  It pains me, in more ways than one, that this year’s National Artist for Visual Art and Film is responsible for movies that fail at every trope and level of production, writing, research, and execution (an example: “Tirad Pass: The Story of Gregorio del Pilar”).

On that ground, I protest the seeming disregard for artistic value by the NCCA.

On the one hand, we can believe that the distinction of National Artist is a titular distinction on a piece of paper.  We can believe that the distinction of National Artist is not necessary to create good art.  We can believe that we have too many honorifics for artists in this country.  Yet I believe that in a nation where artists receive so little in the way of compensation and fulfillment, where art is magic but its practicality is tragic, the National Artist distinction should serve as an example of the quality of our artistic achievements.  We may disagree on the theories of what makes art “art,” but the existing list of National Artists, while lacking, should stand as a standard of our artistic achievements as a people.

I am not a komikero, and I may have yet to establish my credibility as a writer, but the small voice that I have in the realm of art in the Philippines should stand with the movement started by Mr. Alanguilan.  That within my Constitutionally protected guarantee as an artist to stand with the State to protect free expression through the arts and letters, I strongly disagree and stand in protest of Caparas as a National Artist.

35 comments on “In Protest of Caparas as National Artist”

    • tina
    • July 29, 2009

    oh god. tell me you’re lying. they can’t. X|

    1. Reply


      I sure wish I was, but it’s all true.

  1. Reply

    I cannot but fully agree with you on the choice of Carlo Caparas as National Artist for Visual Arts and Film. Another awardee, Manuel Conde represents Cinema. What’s the effing difference?

    What’s worse, the executive director of NCCA – the body tasked to make the nominations – together with the CCP, has allowed Malacañang’s dagdag-bawas ops spill over even to non-electoral contests. Cecille Guidote-Alvarez, who also officially advises Gloria Arroyo on the matter, aside from her NCCA post will be awarded, alongside Caparas, et al, as National Artist for Theater.

    Ang kapal naman.

    What would she do, shake her own hands after receiving the throphy she awarded herself? I do not have any problem with two “insertees” Bobby Mañoza for Architecture and Pitoy Moreno for Fashion Design, nor do I question the removal of Roman Santos for Music from the shortlist but Caparas and Alvarez?

  2. Reply

    The Arroyo Administration has cheapened many prestigious awards for the sake of politics. The Dangal ng Bayan Award which was traditionally given to civil servants with impeccable records and meritorious accomplishments is now subject to text voting like it were some American Idol or Starstruck contest.

    The choice of Caparas I would say is questionable. How did he use the cinema to advance social causes? How did he use the cinema to call attention to the issues faced by everyday Filipinos?

    And Alvarez getting an award from a body to which she is connected? That sucks.

    • Laya
    • July 30, 2009

    You know what hurts all the more there?

    That Francisco V. Coching was turned down twice for the title of National Artist because the art of komiks illustration was not a “serious” art unlike painting and sculpture. And yet he is considered by many as the greatest Pinoy komiks illustrator who deserved to be the first National Artist in Visual Arts for his komiks illustration.

    Then they turn around and award the distinction to Caparas of all people.

    But then who said life in this country was ever fair or logical?

  3. Reply

    Cheapened? Definitely. It’s laudable for Lazaro Francisco to be proclaimed a National Artist for Literature, to the credit of this body, but like I said, lowering the standard of art to accommodate patronage is nothing short of questionable, as Gerry Alanguilan points out.

    Politics of art? Maybe. I don’t know. It’s just disheartening that the State, in its capacity of “patron of the arts,” is taking that to a whole new level.

    1. Reply

      That Cecile Alvarez will shake her own hand as she is proclaimed national artist is nothing short of disgusting. Nick Joaquin will turn over his grave.

      If it is any consolation, a curse to any artist is for him or her to spend a lifetime justifying his or her own art. Worse, to justify an award for the rest of your life.

    • drew santos
    • July 30, 2009

    i have soo.. sooo much hate to throw at carlo j caparas. death! THERE MUST BE DEATH! …sana madapa siya, at matuhog siya ng award niya.

    sup marcky boy 😀 been a while.

  4. Reply

    It’s better to appreciate art subjectively than objectively, as some people here are used to doing. If you understand what subjective knowledge is (knowledge that cannot exist outside the human body) and the necessary capacity that is empathy. We can only understand much of art in a subjective basis (within ourselves) but we also understand it in a general or universal basis (true to all) using empathy and the common knowledge of human nature.

    Carlo J. Caparas may not be deserving for his lack of skill and talent but the movies he has made has had a greater effect in the Filipino imagination than Brocka. That there has been no apologetics written for his mass-friendly movies is the fault of our critics, not his.

  5. Reply

    Though, true, creative ideas to his movies came from other people. That’s the strongest argument against him.

    • Marocharim
    • July 30, 2009


    All objects bear with them (following Taylor, lol) a certain import by which we pick off on our subjective judgment. Imports, I think, form at least part of our criticism toward something artistic.

    The fact that there have been no apologia written for him may be more than just an indication of the standard of our critics, but the standard of our art and his art. While I do agree that art is appreciated subjectively, or at best intersubjectively (what we feel and what we share), art is still the exercise of creativity. That, I think, is the strongest argument against CJC, and the strongest defense (at least since you brought it up) for Brocka.

    Art can mean many things to many people but I think we can agree that execution and tradition should have something to do with it. Where CJC fails in execution the NCCA fails in the recognition of tradition, not to mention the issue with Alvarez. At most I think we need reforms in the standards by which we select our national artists, rather than debate on how best to interpret art or sally about the definition of artistic value.

    • BNG
    • July 30, 2009


    This is MADNESS. I’m sure politics played a big role here. CECILLE ALVAREZ who heads the NCCA is a close friend of Caparas. And from what I heard, it was Alvarez who maneuvered the nomination of Caparas. One may wonder what else she did while the committee was in deliberation.

    Coincidentally, along with Caparas, Alvarez herself has become a National Artist, too!!! Talk about sucking big time.

    There are many MORE artists, dead and living, who are MUCH MORE deserving of the awards.

    • jackson
    • July 30, 2009

    someone has to protest about this from the ranks of the artists. the honor of becoming a national artist is forever tarnished. carlo caparas is not even an illustrator. and what body of movies should the filipinos be proud of. isa pa yang si cecille alvarez. wala man lang delicadeza. granted that she started off peta. maybe she is good in managing arts. pero definitely hindi siya artist. what did she actually do. what stage material did she actually write.


    si dolphy na lang sana or even mars ravelo.

    • makinao
    • July 30, 2009

    Only Federico Aguilar Alcuaz, Manuel Conde, Lazaro Francisco and Ramon Santos were actually recommended by the CCP-NCCA nominating committee. Any “dagdag-bawas” was done in Malacanang. I don’t know of any objection to Bobby Manoza in the field of architecture, and I don’t imagine anyone the fashion scene objecting to Pitoy Moreno. PGMA is solely responsible for the addition of Caparas and Alvarez.

    I heard of a lot of rumbling today in both the NCCA and the CCP. And there are some talks going on between them and people over in UP Diliman to put up a series of protest event. There is a txt message circulating within the UP Diliman art community: ““I am saddened to inform U of the DEATH of the National Artists Awards. Date & time for the Necrological Service to be announced soon: “Pagdadalamhati sa Kamatayan ng Gawad Pambansang Alagad ng Sining. Pls forward to whom it may concern…”.


  6. Reply

    The real scandal is Alvarez. If there’s an impresario award, she’ll win it but artist?

    • cjprieto
    • July 31, 2009

    Yes it’s a scandal. Pero hindi lang si Alvarez ang nakakahiya. Anyone worth their salt in fashion knows Pitoy is NOT an artist, just a very, very good PR guy! He spends his life copying, networking, shoe-shining the right people, and getting as many “awards” kuno as possible! Ang dami nang serious designers na inawayan niya, wala siyang principle. He is a disgrace to the industry. Any good designer will tell you that!

    • CR
    • August 1, 2009

    BrianB: “Carlo J. Caparas may not be deserving for his lack of skill and talent but the movies he has made has had a greater effect in the Filipino imagination than Brocka. ”

    Are you serious? Which of Carlo Caparas movies “has had a greater effect in the Filipino imagination than Brocka”? Even arguably the least noted of Brocka’s films (e.g., the frankly melodramatic films like “Wanted Perfect Mother”) have had a greater effect on the Filipino imagination than the “Vizconde Massacre”-type movies that Caparas is famous for.

    And when we start talking about Brocka’s films of the caliber of “Maynila: sa mg Kuko ng Liwanag”, “Bayan Ko: Kapit sa Patalim”, “Jaguar”, and “Insiang” … well … we’re talking of another league entirely. It’s pitiful to observe that Carlo Caparas’s best films just bite the dust against these titles, both in terms of “skill and talent” and “effect in the Filipino imagination”.

    Speaking of which, which Filipino audience’s imagination are we talking about here that seems to have been more affected by Caparas’s rather than Brocka’s films? Local and international art house audience?…Brocka. Students? …Brocka. The commercial moviegoing public? While some of Caparas’s massacre movies drew the crowds, Brocka’s commercial melodramas drew as much people.

    Lastly, Brocka’s “Tinimbang Ka Ngunit Kulang” blazed the trail for the ’70s Golden Age of Philippine Cinema. It opened a new path for him that led to the great “Maynila”, “Insiang” and others that brought awareness for Philippine cinema to its greatest local and international heights than ever.

    On all counts, therefore, Brocka’s effect on the Philippine imagination and Philippine film arts is just too big for Caparas to see. In hoping to catch up with Brocka’s films, Caparas’s only stumble into the dust.

  7. Reply

    You’re only talking about a small segment of society. When I say Filipino, I’m not just talking about the book-clubbing, Woody Allen-watching Pinoys. I’m talking about all 90 million, most of whom haven’t even heard of Brocka. I saw Peque Gallaga once in a mall. He was being honored and his movies were being shown. Beside a small posse he was with, walang taong pumansin. Hindi sya kilala.

    The Panday, series, for example, is known to millions of pinoys.

  8. Reply

    I take it it’s not a popularity contest, but if the bureaucrats at the NCCA say Caparas deserves it, they can count on the support of millions, I assume. It won’t do you any good to deny an influential and popular director like Caparas. Living in an ivory tower doesn’t protect you in any realistic way from the head count that Caparas has with him. You go anywhere in this country, mention Carlo J. Caparas, I’m sure you’ll get a reaction. The lowly Pinoy’s imagination have to be counted as well.

    I think you can agree with me now that Caparas does have a huge effect in the Pinoy imagination. That he is a legitimate artist, that’s still to be determined, but it’s not the first time a National Artist award went to a non-artist.

    • CR
    • August 2, 2009

    Brocka isn’t about ivory tower and Woody Allen-loving Pinoys (how much farther apart can their movies be?), although he is respected by both groups.

    Having said that, Brocka is “people’s filmmaker” as well, as seen in his commercial films. The difference is that he used even these films to make deeper statements about our social realities and conditions … he made movies that were simultaneously popular, important, and lasting. And over and above the “merely” commercial films, he made a lot of great ones that have transcended the “merely” popular ones.

    Brocka and Caparas made commercial hits. The difference is Brocka also had things to say. So in the end, while Caparas’s works have been forgotten (because they were merely commercial), Brocka’s remain in the Pinoy’s consciousness (because they were commercial and substantial).

    I don’t know where how you conclude that millions of Pinoys know of Caparas. He is not in the public consciousness. His films might have been hits, but like empty falling stars, they have burned out of public consciousness.

    If anything, people might recall atrocious titles such as “Vizconde Massacre: Heaven Help Us”. But to say they know who even made those films, much less know the name “Carlo Caparas,” is quite a stretch of wishful thinking. No one in the ivory tower nor the common people’s imagination contemplates the name nor connects it with movies or good entertainment or cinema or film or art.

    Brocka is another case altogether. No Filipino is unaware of his work. His films continually play in cable cinema channels, win new generations of viewers and stand the test of time.

    The curse of Caparas and his followers is that they will have to defend his “award” throughout the rest of his life (and in death) … even if such defense includes sad attempts to position him as “more influential” than true and undisputed National Artists such as Lino Brocka.

  9. Reply

    Just ask the nearest sikyu, please, if he knows caparas and brocka. Or your maid, and don’t lie. It’s really easy to prove who’s more in the mind of Filipinos.

    And try googling.

    “Carlo J. Caparas” has 500k results

    “Lino Brocka” only has 61k results

    Even for a much-reviewed director and the favorite of writers, Brocka has very few google results.

    I’m not defending Caparas as an artist. I just want to be fair to ALL Filipinos.

  10. Reply


    “cory aquino” has over 1 million results

    “ninoy aquino” has 500k results

    “jose rizal” has 503k results

    “jolina magdangal” 300k results

    “leah salonga” 594k results

    “jamby madrigal” 130k results

    • CR
    • August 2, 2009

    Sorry, but Panday is famous because of FPJ’s persona, rather than the story or character created by Caparas. Mention Panday to people, and they think of FPJ rather than Caparas.

    Finally, if Caparas is so ingrained in public consciousness, I wonder why no one from the public has come up to defend him. On the other hand, if the same charges were hurled against Nora Aunor, Vilma Santos, Dolphy or Maricel Soriano, I imagine there would be protest letters from the public, fans, colleagues, whoever … because even these actors have made deeper inroads into the public consciousness than Caparas. But from this director supposedly affecting “millions” of Pinoys, why is there not even a squeak of protest from anyone in the public? Why has no one defended Caparas … aside from Caparas himself?

    • CR
    • August 2, 2009

    I googled “Carlo J. Caparas”, and google says:
    ” Results 1 – 10 of about 47,900 for Carlo J. Caparas. (0.16 seconds) ”

    I googled “Lino Brocka”, and google says:
    ” Results 1 – 10 of about 65,600 for Lino Brocka. (0.15 seconds)”

    If you accept google as indicative of public consciousness, even google agrees Brocka has more impact on public consciousness than the other one.

  11. Reply

    In case this keeps going, CD. I agree, Caparas doesn’t deserve the award, and it’s obvious he was a political nomination.

    I just disagree with you on the people’s imagination part. I still think you were only talking about a smaller segment.

  12. Reply

    EO 236-2003: (Take note of the year)
    The Order of National Artist aims to recognize:

    1. Filipino artists who have made significant contributions to the cultural heritage of the country.

    — Caparas has made great contributions to the culture of MURDER in this country.

    2. Filipino artistic accomplishment at its highest level and to promote creative expression as significant to the development of a national cultural identity.

    —Yeah, a visual artist who could not even draw, and whose body of film works are mainly anecdotal and unoriginal. Creative expression by merely re-creating is definitely is not developing a national culture identiy in a positive manner.

    3. Filipino artists who have dedicated their lives to their works to forge new paths and directions for future generations of Filipino artists.

    —- I wonder who, if any in the coming generations would emulate the artistry of a Caparas?

    • john porter
    • August 4, 2009

    i’m ashamed enraged disgusted and filled with anger and hatred at how the arroyo government manipulates every facet of filipino society by shoving down our throats their crap, their will, their arrogance, and their bad taste AD NAUSEAM…SHAME ON YOU CARLO CAPARAS! THAT HONOR IS RESERVED FOR PERSONS MORE DESERVING THAN YOURSELF! IF YOU HAD ANY INTEGRITY, IF THERE WAS ANY TRUTH IN YOU, YOU WOULD NOT ACCEPT THIS SHAM! SHAME ON YOU GLORIA ARROYO!!! FOR PERPETRATING YET ANOTHER SHAM!!! VOX POPULI VOX DEI! NOT GLORIA ARROYOS!!! SIC SEMPER TYRANUS!!!

  13. Pingback: The Marocharim Experiment » Blog Archive » Massacred

    • detsy
    • August 8, 2009


    thanks for this post.

    • xine
    • August 8, 2009

    I remember reading an anecdote in a book about Philippine Cinema regarding Director Carlo J. Caparas, during filming an actress in one of his massacre flicks told him that there needs to be a blood stain since she has been stabbed and the future National “Ughtist” replied “we’ll add it during post production.” end result= a blob of red following the actress around the screen. I watched him in Media in Focus, he was very dismissive of the so called elitist critics and academics, he was adamant in claiming that just because he chose comics and that comics are not considered serious literature he’s being discriminated against, I beg to differ.. I believe that it it because he has not shown the level of artistic integrity expected of a National Artist. As he himself admitted, he gave up “serious writing” in favor of comics for monetary gain (I’m paraphrasing here)since he can churn comics out at a greater rate. I think that just shows how much artistic integrity this person has. I do not think he is deserving of the honor, lauding him as a National Artist cheapens the honor for past and future recipients. People who have held on to their artistic ideals and resisted pandering have made a multitude of sacrifices, after all it is infinitely more lucrative to appeal to the lowest common denominator, which is not to say that art is something only the upper classes can truly appreciate. I believe true art can be appreciated by everyone and anyone. Please do not cheapen this honor by giving it to Carlo J. Caparas, do not add insult to injury
    You have put it so elegantly 🙂
    “Yet I believe that in a nation where artists receive so little in the way of compensation and fulfillment, where art is magic but its practicality is tragic, the National Artist distinction should serve as an example of the quality of our artistic achievements. ”
    But you’ve also reminded me of a film that I was forced to watch(specifically my sister needed to write a review and I was collateral damage) and have taken great pains to forget.
    The collage/documentary/movie “Tirad Pass: The Story of Gregorio del Pilar”. Bleargh. There was one poignant scene in that film when Gregorio del Pilar was stripped of his belongings and the movie should have ended right there… but typical of the National “ughtist” Carlo J. Caparas he just didn’t know when to stop. Another example is the Lilian Velez Story (Till Death Do Us Part) yes the film that to quote one blogger humiliated Sharon Cuneta, Joel Torre, Cesar Montano Gima Alajar. ((If you want to see Sharon Cuneta, Joel Torre, Cesar Montano, and Gina Alajar utterly humiliated, I urge you to watch 1995’s The Lilian Velez Story: Till Death Do Us Part. – excerpt from Lourd, taken from )There was this climactic murder scene, very dramatic and then……the cherry on top of the cinematic sundae… a monologue by the daughter of Lilian Velez(“his eyes were red etc etc”) I watched this film for 2 reasons : Sharon Cuneta and the fact that Xavier and Ica (my alma mater used to share a bus service and I used to see monologuing daughter(she taught english at Xavier) and I was curious. I regret watching the film for two reasons: Carlo J. Caparas and the fact that I can no longer mock anyone’s film choices. I have lost the moral ascendancy to do so.

    • xine
    • August 8, 2009

    Sorry for the super long post.(i’m pressing the add your comment button before I give in to the irresistible urge to expound and expand my apology to a novelette)

  14. Reply


    That was Jessica Zafra’s essay, I think. I think it’s not as much “mocking” as it is “constructive criticism;” really, blood trailing actors in post and soldiers impaling themselves on bamboo forts are not callous mockeries: talagang nangyari eh.

    We should question the matter of presidential prerogatives first and foremost, but when artistic communities and viewers put his artistry into question, double whoa.

    • liz
    • August 12, 2009

    CJC has managed to turn the issue into an Erap classic: a class war. his “elitista-makinis-ang-mukha” arguments against those opposing his award just reeks not only political patronage but of simpleton patronage. i do not mean to sound like a snob, but rhetorics like that reflect the very kind of “art” CJC is capable of.

    • constrict me
    • February 16, 2012

    mister, it’s not about popularity here. it’s about the work itself if it’s a great and enduring work of art. Something that will last not 50 years only but thousands of years! Do you think Caparas will be remembered for thousands of years than Brocka? Seriously? if popularity is the basis, the Nobel prize winner for literature should be awarded to Dan Brown or Stephanie Meyer instead of a writer is unknown to the masses but known to many literary circles. And dear me, it’s not about google search results! Good heavens!

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