THOMASIAN writer Bienvenido Lumbera and landscape architect Ildefonso Santos, Jr. are set to join UST’s other renowned alumni in the country’s roster of National Artists in June.

UST has three National Artists for the visual arts (Victorio Edades, J. Elizalde Navarro, and Ang Kiukok), and two each for literature (Nick Joaquin and F. Sionil Jose) and theater and film (Daisy Avellana and Rolando S. Tinio). Other Thomasian National Artists are: Leandro Locsin (architecture), Gerardo “Gerry” De Leon (cinema), and Ernani Joson Cuenco (music).

In a phone interview with the Varsitarian, Lumbera, the new National Artist for Literature, said the title will “impose a certain responsibility on him.”

“When (a person) assumes a title like the National Artist, one needs to be circumspect in his views since he is speaking from the point of authority,” said Lumbera, who graduated Litt. B. Journalism, cum laude from the old Faculty of Philosophy and Letters (now Faculty of Arts and Letters) in 1954.

When Lumbera, a former Varsitarian editor, was professor at the Ateneo de Manila University during the Martial Law period, he wrote critical essays and reviews that led to his arrest in January 1974 and detention of almost a year. He continues to be involved in Philippine politics as a member of the National Democratic Party, a coalition of various activist groups.

The celebrated playwright, poet, essayist, and literary critic received the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Journalism, Literature and Creative Communication Arts in 1993, Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Award for Literature in 1975, and Gawad Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) Para sa Sining in 1998, among others. Lumbera was also the recipient of the Parangal Hagbong in 2002, an award given by the Varsitarian to Thomasians for lifetime achievement in literature.

Impeaching democracy

A leading scholar of contemporary Philippine literature, Lumbera urged Filipinos interested in the field of writing to “familiarize themselves with basic information about their culture and history because they are important factors in molding the consciousness of young Filipinos.”

On the other hand, Santos, a College of Architecture and Fine Arts alumnus since 1954, will soon be a National Artist for Architecture like his classmate Leonardo Locsin, who was the last architect to receive the title since 1990.

Santos obtained another bachelor’s degree in architecture in 1956 and a master’s degree in 1960 from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.

In an interview with the Varsitarian, Santos, the 77-year-old father of landscape architecture in the Philippines, said he was “thankful that his works were recognized through the title.”

Santos has completed projects even outside the country. Among his projects are the “Execution of Dr. Jose Rizal” at Rizal Park, the UST Internment Camp Plaza in Intramuros, Manila, the Nayong Pilipino in Pasay, the 88-story Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur, once the world’s highest building, and the Los Angeles Music Center in America.

Santos, the first Asian to become associate of the American Society of Landscape Architecture, received the UST Talaan Pandangal in 1980 and the Outstanding Thomasian Alumni award the next year.

He continues to work on projects like the Bantayog ng mga Bayani in Quezon City and the National Shrine of St. Therese of the Child Jesus in Pasay, through his landscape architectural firm I.P. Santos and Associates.

The National Artist Award or Gawad Pambansang Alagad Ng Sining, established in 1972, is the highest national recognition given to Filipino artists with notable contributions to Philippine arts and culture. The award is given by the National Center for Culture and Arts and the CCP upon the confirmation of the President every three years. A National Artist is conferred a medallion and citation, P100,000, a monthly pension, medical and hospitalization benefits, life insurance coverage, a place of honor at state functions, national commemoration ceremonies and other cultural events, even arrangements and expenses for a state funeral.

Setting new fronteers in abstraction

Others who will be new National Artists in June are Fernando Poe Jr. (film), Ramon Obusan (dance), Benedicto Cabrera (visual arts), and Ramon Valera (fashion design).


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