Felipe Padilla De Leon

National Artist for Music, 1997

Though born to a poor family and orphaned by his father at the age of three, his humble origins did not deter Felipe Padilla de Leon from pursuing his artistic vision with great determination. His daily struggle for living sensitized him to the heart of the Filipino folk, particularly in his tradition-rich hometown of Peñaranda, and provided him with a singular opportunity for observing and appreciating the intimate rituals of folk life. Affinity with the folk Filipino became the hallmark of his career, the foundation of his nationalism and his music’s distinctly native character.

Felipe Padilla de Leon did not spare any vehicle to realize his artistic tribute to the dignity and worth of the Filipino, promotion of nationalism and the advancement of the Filipino musicians’ welfare. Aside from being a composer – he wrote the operas Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo, as well as numerous zarzuelas, overtures, suites, symphonic poems, chamber works, choral music, concertos, piano solos, band music, film music, children’s songs and Christmas carols, among others – he was also a conductor, writer and music educator, radio program host, musical missionary (his “Himig ng Lahi” group toured U.S. and Canada) and organizer ( he was the founding president of the Pambansang Samahan ng mga Banda sa Pilipinas and the Filipino Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers).

During his prodigious lifetime, Maestro de Leon was perhaps 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. Aside from the National Artist Award, he had been the recipient of countless honors, including the Republic Cultural Heritage Award, Doctor of Humanities honoris causa from the University of the Philippines, 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.