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May 15, 2012

100th Birth Centennial of Felipe Padilla de Leon

The National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) celebrates the 100th Birth Centennial of Felipe Padilla de Leon, National Artist for Music (May 1, 1912- May 1, 2012).  Pres. Benigno S. Aquino III signed Proclamation No. 283, declaring May 1, 2012 to April 30, 2013 as the Centennial Year of National Artist for Music Felipe Padilla de Leon. Likewise, the House of Representatives has issued for the same purpose House Joint Resolution No. 25, introduced by House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, Jr., Congressman Neptali M. Gonzales II, Congressman Edcel C. Lagman, Congressman Salvador H. Escudero III, and Congressman Rodolfo W. Antonino.

          Composer, conductor, scholar and cultural educator Felipe Padilla de Leon launched his calling at a time of passionate striving for nationhood during the Commonwealth period, Japanese occupation and the post-war Philippine Republic, he stood out most prominently as the champion of Filipino cultural dignity and identity.  He always depicted what is noble, exalted and heroic in the Filipino, taking as his subjects the momentous events and symbols in our history and celebrated their deepest meanings through music.

        Hence, he wrote the first full-length Filipino opera based on Dr. Jose Rizal’s novel of social realism, “Noli Me Tangere” (1957), with libretto by another National Artist, sculptor-linguist-Filipinist scholar Guillermo Tolentino.  He followed this up with another opera, again based on a Rizal masterpiece, “El Filibusterismo” (1970).  Two arias from this opera, “Kay Tamis ng Buhay” and “Awit ni Sisa” are now part of the international operatic repertoire.  Right after liberation, de Leon composed the symphonic poems “Cry of Balintawak” (1947) and “Bataan” (1947).

       Central to his idea of recognizing Filipino cultural worth is his consistent use of folk and ethnic themes as the basis of his compositions, for these themes – created by the people themselves – are the essential symbols of Filipino musical heritage.  He celebrated folk ideas by integrating their character in his most serious compositions as well as popular but artistic and well-crafted works. His art song “Kay Selya” (1950) breathes the very spirit of the traditional awit.  His “Muntawit” Song Sonnet for Voice and Orchestra (1950) encompasses an epic breadth of moods and feelings while strongly retaining the character of indigenous musical forms. His well-known “Sapagkat Mahal Kita” (1952) could be mistaken for a traditional harana because of its highly popular style.  His Filipinization of musical genres included zarzuelas, overtures, suites, chamber works, choral music, concertos, piano solos, band music, film music, children’s songs and Christmas carols. His carols “Pasko na Naman,” “Noche Buena,” and “Payapang Daigdig” have become so popular they have acquired the immortal status of folk songs.

       His genuine concern for the Filipino musicians’ welfare led de Leon to gather band musicians in the country into one solid organization – the Pambasang Samahan ng mga Banda sa Pilipinas (PASAMBAP) – whose aims, among others, were to protect the welfare of Filipino band musicians and promote Philippine band music.  He was also the founding president of the Filipino Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (FILSCAP), to protect the legal rights of composers.

      During his prodigious lifetime, Maestro de Leon was the most prolific composer of musical masterpieces that powerfully expressed the nation’s ideals, historical struggles and majestic destiny.  For his outstanding achievements, he was well-recognized during his lifetime and continues to receive tributes from our people. 

      National Artist Felipe Padilla de Leon was proclaimed National Artist through Proclamation No. 1115 on October 9, 1997 by former President Fidel V. Ramos in recognition of his rare excellence and significant contribution to Philippine music.

      In celebration of his 100th Birth Centenary, the NCCA shall present a Musical Concert entitled: “Sa Daigdig ng Musika ni Felipe Padilla de Leon: Celebrating the Centenary of a Cultural Visionary.” On May 28, 2012 at the Philamlife Auditorium at 7:00 pm, with the Manila Symphony Orchestra, under the baton of Prof. Arturo Molina, eminent pianist Dr. Raul Sunico, violinist Alfonso “Coke” Bolipata and other performers.

     Likewise, a Memorabilia Exhibit in his honor shall be opened at 10:00 at the NCCA Gallery, Lobby, NCCA Bldg., 633 General Luna St., Intramuros, Manila. The commemorative stamp in his honor will also be launched by Philpost Chairman Cesar Sarino and Philpost Postmaster General Josefina de la Cruz during the program.

    Queries may be addressed to Ms. Frances S. Alincastre, tel. no. 527-2192, loc. 503 or 527-2214 (dl), and email address:

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