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by Ma. Luisa Pineda

(Editor’s Note: The Gawad Plaridel Awarding ceremony will start at 2pm later at the Cine Adarna, UP Film Center.)

Photo courtesy of
Photo courtesy of

In a society where film propels actors to the glory of fame and stardom, oftentimes, folks behind the limelight remain faceless to the public.

But not for veteran scriptwriter Ricardo “Ricky” Lee.

With over 150 scripts written throughout the entirety of his career, the name Ricky Lee is not new to the film industry.

Rather than being another faceless entity behind the curtain, Lee lives to be a legend, known to set his uniquely structured stories ablaze with progressive issues such as feminism, human rights and social inequality.

Armed with his powerful ideas and his mighty pen, the genius behind award-winning films  Salome (1981), Himala (1982) and Karnal (1983), once again emerges to take the stage as this year’s Gawad Plaridel awardee.

Born on March 19, 1948, the scriptwriting extraordinaire hailed from the humble town of Daet, Camarines Norte and grew up to be a topnotcher in his classes,  known as an avid reader and an excellent writer.

His career was catapulted by the film Jaguar (1979), a Filipino drama directed by National Artist for Film Lino Brocka. Lee wrote the script alongside journalist and fellow Gawad Plaridel Awardee Pete Lacaba.

Jaguar immediately became a hit in the film industry as it was entered in the Cannes International Film Festival and earned Brocka a post in the roster of Third World Directors. It also ignited the spark of Lee’s reputation as a promising scriptwriter.

Lee also worked as a staff writer of the Pilipino Free Press in the 70’s, inking stories of street children, teenage prostitutes, NPA commanders and unsung workers in the film industry on various publications.

Unlike most scriptwriters and directors, Lee’s flame did not spark from any film school or workshop. Rather, Lee’s prowess kindled among the embers of literature, being accepted in UP Diliman as an AB English Major.

The university became Lee’s home where he honed his creativity and grew as an artist. He had also passed on his broad knowledge of scriptwriting, working as a professor in the UP College of Mass Communication.

Among his other works include “Himala”  “Andrea, Paano Ba ang Maging Isang Ina?”, “Muling Umawit ang Puso”, “Jose Rizal” and “Muro Ami”, which all won Best Screenplay in the Metro Manila Film Festival.

His two short stories, “Huwag, Huwag Mong Kukuwentuhan” and “Ang Batang si Weng Fung”, consecutively won the Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Award in 1970 and 1971, and in 2003, he was also granted the Gawad Urian Lifetime Achievement Award from the Filipino Film Critics.

In the year 2000, he also received the Centennial Honors for the Arts from the Cultural Center of the Philippines and the Gawad Pambansang Alagad ni Balagtas for Tagalog fiction from the Unyon ng mga Manunulat sa Pilipinas.

Lee did not only use scriptwriting as his form of creativity. He has also published several novels such as Si Tatang at mga Himala ng Ating Panahon, Para Kay B and Si Amapola sa 65 na Kabanata, which were received by the public with high acclaim and support. He has also written short stories, plays, essays and teleplays.

For over 40 years, Lee’s substantial and insightful screenplays and storylines garnered him numerous awards, Gawad Plaridel award now added to his prestige.

Lee, who said in an interview with Manila Standard Today that the Gawad Plaridel was an award “close to his heart,” was selected by UP CMC for his distinct voice as a scriptwriter and for uplifting the role and integrity of the scriptwriting profession as it often goes barely recognized.

Furthermore, the college would like to recognize his mentorship to the next generation of playwrights through his numerous scriptwriting workshops and textbooks.

Indeed, with his various achievements and his countless efforts to give back to society, Ricky Lee has blazed a trail for today’s scriptwriters and the playwrights of the next generation.

Carrying his trademark of quality and relevance, he continues to touch the hearts of Filipinos, waking them up and setting their spirits afire, and for that, no award can ever be enough.


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