Last October 24th, seven artists were inducted to the Order of National Artist (ONA) – the highest Philippine honor given to practitioners of the Western arts. Two of whom are Fulbright alumni Resil B. Mojares and Amelia Lapeña-Bonifacio.
Mojares is an internationally-renowned and respected essayist and cultural studies scholar. He started out as an award-winning English fiction writer in the mid-1960s. In the 1970s, he transitioned to publishing literature which classified under critical and cultural writing. He is best known for his literary works “Origins and Rise of the Filipino Novel: A Generic Study of the Novel Until 1940,” “Cebuano Literature,” and books on the Osmeñas, Aboitizes and Archbishop Jose Ma. Cuenco. In 1981, Mojares participated in a Fulbright Advanced Research and University Lecturing Program in the field of bibliographic research on Cebuano materials (historical and cultural) at the University of Wisconsin. Eight years after, he was awarded a Fulbright Scholar-in-Residence grant for Southeast Asian Literature at Duke University.
Lapeña-Bonifacio is labelled as “The Grande Dame of Southeast Asian Children’s Theatre.” She earned her Masters degree in Speech and Drama after being awarded a Fulbright-Smith Mundt Scholarship at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1956. Her literary output consists of 20 books, 40 plays, 130 stories, and several essays on theatre. She founded and managed Teatrong Mulat ng Pilipinas, an official UP children’s theatre and puppetry troupe. She also helped in the establishment of the Creative Writing Center at UP Diliman and served as Director from 1986 to 1995. Currently in her mid-70’s, she is still active in theatre, performing for children and adult audiences, writing plays, designing and creating puppets, costumes and sets and setting the direction of children’s literature and children’s theatre in the country.
All ONA awardees passed a three-tiered screening process. The final nominees for proclamation were elected by the boards of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts of the Philippines and Cultural Center of the Philippines, and living national artists.
Living national artists who joined the voting were writers F. Sionil Jose, Bienvenido Lumbera (also a Fulbright alumnus and recently awarded as Fulbright Philippines Hall of Famer) and Virgilio Almario, composer Ramon Santos (another Fulbright alumnus), choreographer Alice Reyes, and visual artist Benedicto “BenCab” Cabrera.
Sources: Philippine Daily Inquirer and Panitikan.com.ph.