FELIPE PADILLA DE LEON, NATIONAL ARTIST
FOR MUSIC - BIRTH CENTENARY
On May 1, 1912, Felipe Padilla de Leon was born in Peñaranda, Nueva
Ecija, Philippines. Juan de Leon, his father, died when he was three
years old. Though he was from a poor family, his humble origins did
not stop him to pursue his artistic vision with great determination
He studied in Manila, Philippines and United States of America. He
practiced his teachings in different school in the capital city and
became the conductor of Banda Malaya, a famous band in Taytay,
Rizal, Philippines. He was married to Illuminada Bonus Mendoza and
the father of six children that are equally gifted in music; Felipe
Mendoza de Leon. Bayani de Leon, Tagumpay de Leon, Luningning de
Leon-Carbonell, Magdangal de Leon and Marilag de Leon-Mendoza.
He was a composer, conductor and scholar. He was famous for
translating the lyrics of the Philippine National Anthem from the
original Spanish to Tagalog. His orchestral music includes the
Mariang Makiling Overture (1939), Roca Encantada (1950), Maynila
Overture (1976), Orchesterstuk (1981). He also made some choral
music like Payapang Daigdig (he wrote this the morning after he woke
up to the destruction of the city of Manila during World War II),
Ako’y Pilipino, Lupang Tinubuan, Ama Namin and classic songs like
Bulaklak, Alitaptap, Mutya ng Lahi and the kundiman, Sarong Banggi.
Aside from being a composer, he gave the country the first
full-length Filipino opera, Noli Me Tangere in 1957 and subsequently
El Filibusterismo in 1970. He is remembered as one of the prime
advocate of nationalism and even the Martial Law babies can recall
singing his patriotic song, “Bagong Lipunan”.
He took Filipino music by heart and gave all his effort in keeping
the music traditions alive. He united all the bands in the
Philippines when he became the founding president of Pambansang
Samahan ng mga Banda sa Pilipinas (PASAMBAP). He also established
the Filipino Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, Inc.
(FILSCAP). On December 8, 1997, President Fidel V. Ramos granted him
the highest honor a Filipino artist can receive, the National Artist
Award for music.
He was well recognized and continues to receive tributes. Aside from
the National Artist Award, he had been the recipient of countless
awards and distinctions including the Republic Cultural Heritage
Award, Doctor of Humanities from the University of the Philippines
(UP), Rizal Pro-Patria Award, Presidential Award of Merit, Patnubay
ng Kalinangan Award from the City of Manila, Rizal Centennial Award,
Filipino Musician of the Year Award from the U.P. Conservatory of
Music and Parangal from the Writer’s Union of the Philippines, among
others. In recognition to his achievements and numerous
contributions, Felipe Padilla de Leon High School in Nueva Ecija was
named after him.
Maestro de Leon is still and will always be consider as the most
prolific composer in the Philippines, he effectively expressed the
nation’s ideals and historical struggles through his work of arts.
Indeed, his legacy of preserving the music tradition and his
artistic tributes to promote nationalism are one of the highlights
of the Philippine music history.