Rep. Vargas touts National Artist Award for Ricky Lee

For being a “timeless role model” and inspiration to many Filipinos and for his valuable contributions to nation-building, Ricardo Arreola Lee, popularly known as Ricky Lee, deserves to receive the government’s National Artist Award.

Quezon City Rep. Alfred Vargas
(Alfred Vargas official Facebook page / FILE PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN)

This was sought by Quezon City 5th District Rep. Alfred Vargas under his six-page House Resolution No. 1431, urging the  307-man House of Representatives to recommend to the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) and the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCAA) the conferment of the National Artist Award to Lee.

“Mr. Ricky Lee has proven, beyond accolades and awards, his worthiness to be called a National Artist because of his body of works, his ethics, and his virtues,” the House leader said.

“He has remained humble amidst the many recognitions that he has received. Mr. Ricky Lee has become a timeless role model for many artists in different fields for his craft, and has served as an inspiration to many Filipinos for his nationalism and contributions to nation-building,” he added.

Vargas, chairperson of the House Committee on Social Services, cited that respected groups and organizations namely University of the Philippines Film Institute, Directors Guild of the Philippines Inc., Polytechnic University of the Philippines, and Filipino Screenwriters Guild have nominated Lee to the Order of National Artist, and that film and television industries also clamored for such proclamation.

“The extent, impact and influence of his works extend to the thousands he has mentored through his workshops. Most of the workshops not only wrote for the various broadcast networks, film production companies and other content driven platforms but also occupy leadership positions in their respective fields of expertise,” he said.

He cited that at the age of 73, as of November 2020, Lee still continues with the workshop despite the pandemic with participants coming from all parts of the world.

“The Order of National Artist, when granted, is not only a recognition of Ricky Lee but also of all writers who, for many generations, have been invisible not only to the eyes of the public but of the industries that have perpetuated a system that inadvertently sidelined the value of the writer. The Order of National Artist will highlight writers as important and equal collaborators,” Vargas said.

According to him, Lee holds the distinction of being the first in many national and historical achievements-- the first to hold scriptwriting workshops in the Philippines, the first to write a scriptwriting manual titled “Trip to Quiapo” and the first to write a book of screenplays “Brutal/Salome”.

He is the writer of the first Filipino film, “The Flor Contemplacion Story” to win a Best Picture award at the Cairo International Film Festival, he added.

Under HR No. 1431, Vargas cited that Lee is the most awarded Filipino scriptwriter, with more than 80 trophies from award-winning bodies such as the Filipino Academy of Movie Arts and Sciences (FAMAS) Awards, Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF), Cinema One, Film Academy of the Philippines, Gawad Urian, among others.

He has received numerous lifetime achievement awards from different award-giving bodies and institutions, namely CCP’s One of the 100 Centennial Honors for the Arts in 1998, Cinemanila International Film Festival Achievement Award and Unyon ng mga Manunulat sa Pilipinas’ Gawad Pambansang Alagad ni Balagtas in 2000, Natatanging Gawad Urian Life Achievement Award in 2003, among others.

Lee has also written more than 170 screenplays , three novels, five plays and the first Filipino scriptwriting manual “Trip to Quiapo”, he said.

“His works are pioneering in content and technique, tackling relevant themes of gender, overseas Filipino workers, the Filipino Chinese community and other relevant and social issues that remain important to the country today,” Vargas said.