MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – While many Filipinos are rooting for the country's "comedy king" Dolphy to become a National Artist, Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago had someone else in mind.
Santiago sent a letter to the National Commission for Culture and the Arts to formally nominate prima ballerina Lisa Macuja-Elizalde for National Artist for Dance.
She also filed a resolution in the Senate to nominate Macuja-Elizalde and urged President Benigno Aquino III to confer the prestigious award to the ballerina.
In a statement, Santiago said she is an avid fan of Macuja-Elizalde, who she called the “ballerina of the people.”
“No Filipina ballerina has yet surpassed the recognition and pride Lisa Macuja-Elizalde has brought to the Philippines. She is the embodiment of talent, creativity and imagination, technical proficiency of the highest order, grace, and humanity that makes her worthy of the title of National Artist,” the senator said.
“Lisa’s unique contributions to Philippine culture and the arts are fully enhanced as she celebrates more than 25 years of professional dance. Her mastery of ballet technique and style, and her unassailable musicality and artistry have earned her the appellation ‘the Filipino ballerina at her best,’” she added.
In her resolution, Santiago cited Macuja-Elizalde’s several national and international citations such as the Pearl of the Orient Award and the Gawad Buhay Awards for the Performing Arts in 2008; the Order of International Friendship awarded by Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2001; the Ten Outstanding Young Persons of the World in 1997; and the Ten Outstanding Young Filipinos Award in 1995, among others.
She also noted that Macuja-Elizalde is the first foreign soloist to join the prestigious Kirov Ballet, which is also known as the Imperial Russian Ballet.
“Lisa’s contributions to Philippine culture and the arts, and to Philippine society as a whole, should not go unrecognized. She is a rare gem, a talent that comes only once in a lifetime,” Santiago said.
On Monday afternoon, Macuja-Elizalde turned to Facebook to express her gratitude to Santiago.
“May I just say that I was speechless when my parents called me up while I was out of the country a few days ago to let me know about your extremely generous and flattering actions. I am humbled by the kind words you wrote about me to nominate me for the highest award for an artist in our country, the National Artist Award,” she said in a Facebook post addressed to the senator.
“Thank you for fighting for me! Thank you for the recognition and the support! But, most importantly, thank you for watching my performances at every opportunity. It is really your presence in my performances that give me the most pleasure and honor,” she added.
Macuja-Elizalde is poised to make a graceful exit from the stage in two years with the “Swan Song Series,” which features full-length classical ballet performances.
She began with “Swan Lake” in October last year.
Meanwhile, Santiago stressed that she respects people’s decision to nominate Dolphy for the National Artist award.
Resolution 766, which calls for the proclamation of Dolphy as National Artist, was filed last May 8. It is currently pending in the Senate.
The senator believes that both Dolphy and Macuja-Elizalde deserve to get a National Artist award.
“I strongly respect Dolphy’s nomination for National Artist for Cinema. I am also nominating Lisa for Dance. They both deserve to be National Artists because they represent the best in their respective fields,” she said.
Dolphy is responding favorably to treatment for his latest bout with pneumonia at the Makati Medical Center.