Portrait of the National Artist as a musician

1989 National Artist for music Lucrecia R. Kasilag (1918-2008)

The pinnacle of artistic achievement in the Philippines is when you are named a National Artist. This is the reward given to the best and brightest of the nation’s artists—those who have truly given their lives to their art across decades and, in so doing, have kept our arts dynamic and true to the soul of our people.

In the field of music, students get to know the lives and works of our National Artists for Music through subjects taught to them.

From grades 7 to to 12, music education requires learning the elements of music across topics as diverse as Philippine Music, Asian Music, Western Classical Music, Popular Music and the Contemporary Philippine Music. Even the senior high school curriculum has subject called Contemporary Philippine Arts from the Regions in the Philippines that contains information about our National Artists.

According to the Department of Education’s K to 12 material Horizons Grade 10 Learner’s Materials – Music and Arts Appreciation for Young Filipinos, “contemporary music in the Philippines refers to compositions that have adopted ideas and elements from 20th century art music in the west, as well as the latest trends and musical styles in the entertainment industry.”

From the early 1500s to the late 1800s, Spain, then America, colonized the Philippines—we like to call it three centuries in the convent and half a century in Hollywood. It was inevitable that Western compositional styles found their way into the works of Filipino musicians. Cultural cross-pollination is to be expected in these situations.

Even 20th century Filipino composers have incorporated some traditional elements in their integration of Western styles. In fact, they have developed the concrete fundamentals of what we now recognize as Philippine music.

The National Artists for Music among the 20th century traditional composers include Antonio J. Molina, Antonio Buenaventura, Lucio San Pedro and Felipe Padilla de Leon. That does not make their music any less Filipino—especially when you see that Filipinos are a melting pot of cultures and genetics that include Spanish, American, Indon, Malay and Chinese, as well as indigenous heritages.


1997 National Artist for Music Jose Maceda (1917-2004)

The National Artists for Music who are among the New Music Composers include Lucrecia Kasilag, Jose Maceda, Ramon Santos and Francisco Feliciano. Their experimental new music has retained the Filipino essence by integrating the traditional music practices as well as the indigenous rhythm and indigenous musical instruments in their artistic works.

The National Artists for Music among the 20th century song composers and lyricists are Levi Celerio and Ernani Cuenco. They fashioned unforgettable artistic styles of traditional Filipino love songs, music for the cinemas buy legal steroids in usa and materials for modern arrangements and concert performance. Oh, and Celerio composed and played music with leaves. Let that sink in for a while.

Filipinos study the lives and works of National Artists and, in the case of National Artists for Music, practice their well-known works and musical styles. Here are brief notes on the 13 National Artists for Music:

Antonio J. Molina (1894 – 1980), a music educator and 20th century traditional composer. He was the first National Artist for Music, date conferred in 1973. His sample works were Misa Antoniana Grand Festival Mass and Ang Batingaw.

Jovita Fuentes (1895-1978), a broadway singer, date conferred in 1976. She sang the roles of Liu Yu in Puccini’s Turnadot and Mimi in Puccini’s La Boheme.

Honorata “Atang” dela Rama (1902-1991), a kundiman singer who was named National Artist for Music and Theater in 1987. Her sample works are Dalagang Bukid and Pangarap ni Rosa.

Antonio Buenaventura (1904-1996), a 20th century traditional composer and conductor who was named National Artist for Music in 1988. His sample works are the Triumphal March and Echoes of the Past.

Lucrecia R. Kasilag (1918-2008), a music educator and new music composer who was named National Artist for Music 1989. Her sample works are Toccata for Percussions of Winds, Divertissement and Concertante—works that integrate indigenous Filipino musical instruments into their composition.

Lucio San Pedro (1913-1996), a 20th century traditional composer and conductorwho was named National Artist in 1991. His sample works are The Devil’s Bridge and the Malakas at Maganda Overture.

Felipe Padilla de Leon (1912-1992), a 20th century traditional composer, who was named National Artist for Music posthumously in 1997. His sample works are Mariang Makiling Overture and Roca Encantada.

1997 National Artist for Music and Literature Levi Celerio (1910-2002)

Levi Celerio (1910-2002), a prolific lyricist and 20th century song composer who was named National Artist for Music and Literature in 1997. His sample works are O Maliwanag na Buwan (Iloko), Ako ay May Singsing (Pampango) and Alibangbang (Visayan). He is notable as the only person to make music using just a leaf, a feat recorded in the Guinness Book of World Records.

Jose Maceda (1917-2004), a new music composer, became National Artist for Music in 1997. His sample work was Ugma-ugma and Pagsamba.

Ernani J. Cuenco (1936-1988), a 20th century song composer who was named National Artist for Music posthumously in 1999. His sample works are Nahan, Kahit na Magtiis and Diligin Mo ng Hamog ang Uhaw na Lupa.

Andrea Veneracion (1928-2013), a choirmaster who received National Artist honors in 1999. She directed the the Madrigal Singers and taught them to sing in their signature semi-circle arrangement.

Francisco Feliciano (1917-2014) a new music composer, date conferred in 2014. His sample works are Ashen Wings and Sikhay sa Kabila ng Paalam.

2014 National Artist for Music Ramon P. Santos


Ramon P. Santos (born 1941), a new music composer who was named National Artist for Music in 2014. His sample work is Pangahoy and L’Bad.

Our National Artists for Music have contributed greatly to a contemporary Filipino repertoire in which musical pieces were been written in 20th century stylistic expressions. They developed such musical movements as impressionism, expressionism, neo-classicism, avant garde and new music and made these of works very strong expressions of the Filipino soul.


The National Artist award is the highest national honor for excellence in the fields of the music, dance, theater, architecture, visual arts, literature, film, design, and allied arts (like fashion design, historical literature, and cinema). This honor is bestowed by the President of the Philippines upon the recommendations of the National Commission for Culture and Arts (NCCA) and the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP). The National Artist award was created through the Presidential Proclamation No. 1001, signed by then President Ferdinand E. Marcos on April 27, 1972.

The first Filipino to be named National Artist was poet, playwright and former Philippines Graphic editor-in-chief Nick Joaquin—and his award was given with no specific art attached to the title—Joaquin was simply named “National Artist.”

From the time when the National Artist awards were created in 1972, 66 Filipino artists have been acknowledged. Only nine are still alive. After Joaquin, painter Fernando Amorsolo was named National Artist in 1972. He was named the “Grand Old Man of the Philippines Art.” The most number of recognized National Artists worked in the fields of Visual Arts, Literature and Music.

National Artist nominees must have Filipino citizenship. They must have accomplished contributions of distinction in the practice of their art forms, work that has built the awareness of the Filipino audience. The nominees must also have received prestigious awards internationally, and locally, for their artistic style or expression. The nominee must also be known for excellence in their pioneering styles and distinctive works—excellence that has influenced and continues to influence artists in their fields.


The National Artist Award Secretariat issued its call for nominations on June 7, 2017 for the 2018 Order of National Artists. The deadline for the submission of nominations was Sept. 30, 2017.

There will be three rounds of deliberations, a tedious process. The first deliberation brings together experts from the different art fields who will prepare a short-list of nominees, as well as gather the information and data they need to study the work of each nominee.

The second deliberation involves having the National Artist Award Panel of Experts and Jury of Experts, as well as the National Artists who are still alive among the panel members who will screen, deliberate and decide on the final list of nominees.

The third deliberation is be done by the Board of Trustees of the CPP, the Commissioners of the NCAA, and the living National Artists who will narrow the short-lists into a final lis.

This final list is submitted to the President of the Philippines, who makes the final selection and issues a Presidential Proclamation naming the new National Artists of the Philippines. This announcement from the Office of the President is expected to come out on June 11.


There are benefits besides the prestige of the rank and title of National Artist, as proclaimed by the President. The insignia of the Order of National Artists and a citation with a gold-plated medallion minted by the Banco Sentral ng Pilipinas is one benefit.

The National Artist awardee is provided with a lifetime emolument of material and physical benefits comparable in value to those of the highest government officials: Living awardees will receive a cash award of P100,000, net of taxes. The legal heirs of posthumous awardees will receive acash award of P75,000, net of taxes.

The National Artist receives a monthly pension for life, as well as medical and hospitalization support. If the awardee is still insurable, life insurance coverage is provided to him or her.

National Artists always have a place of honor, in line with the protocol of precedence, at state functions, and are given due recognition at cultural events they attend.

At his or her demise, the National Artist is given a state funeral, and burial at the Libingan ng mga Bayani. The devotion of their lives to excellence in their chosen art, after all, is heroism at its peacetime finest.


Sampaguita B. Flores-Nepomuceno finished her bachelor’s degree in commerce and music education with piano principal at St. Scholastica’s College, Manila, where she is taking her M.A. in music education. She teaches piano and voice lessons to children with autism as well as neurotypical students in Las Pinas City.



More Stories