Let's delve into the rich culture of Cordillera by exploring the achievements of individuals recognized as National Artists of the Philippines and recipients of the National Living Treasures Award, also known as the Gawad sa Manlilikha ng Bayan (GAMABA).
These lists feature remarkable individuals with Igorot heritage and Cordillerans who have not only played a crucial role in preserving Cordillera's culture but have also made significant contributions to the broader Filipino cultural landscape.
These exceptional individuals act as stewards, safeguarding the cultural legacy of Cordillera. Now, let's take a closer look at their contributions.
National Artists: Shaping the Filipino Cultural Scene
Before we explore the visionary works of National Artists, let's grasp the essence of this esteemed title.
The Order of National Artists (Orden ng mga Pambansang Alagad ng Sining) stands as the highest national recognition in the Philippines, honoring individuals who've significantly contributed to Philippine arts. Encompassing Music, Dance, Theater, Visual Arts, Literature, Film, Broadcast Arts, and Architecture and Allied Arts, this prestigious order is jointly administered by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) and the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP).
The President of the Philippines confers this honor based on recommendations from both institutions.
Now, let's delve into the impactful creations of National Artists from the Cordillera region who've played a pivotal role in shaping the Filipino cultural scene.
RAMON VALERA: National Artist for Fashion Design (2006)
Born: August 31, 1912
Died: May 25, 1972
Ramon Valera, honored as the National Artist for Fashion Design in 2006, left an indelible mark on the world of Philippine fashion with his unparalleled commitment to excellence and transformative innovations, particularly in the realm of the iconic terno.
Hailing from Abra, Valera's contribution is epitomized by the excellence of his works and his unwavering dedication to his craft. In the early 1940s, he redefined Filipino fashion by streamlining the traditional baro't saya into a singular dress-a groundbreaking move that showcased his visionary approach. Valera's terno became a visual icon for the Philippines on the global stage.
One of his revolutionary changes was unifying the blouse, skirt, overskirt, and long scarf into a single piece, featuring exaggerated bell sleeves, a cinched waist, ankle-grazing length, and a daring back zipper-a radical departure from the conventional hooks of that era. He ingeniously crafted the terno's butterfly sleeves, providing them with a solid, built-in yet concealed support, making it the distinctive feature recognized worldwide.
Even today, Filipino fashion designers draw inspiration from Valera's ternos, studying their construction, beadwork, appliqué, and more. Valera not only shaped generations of artists but also elevated fashion to more than a mere aesthetic pursuit-it became a manifestation of a nation's identity and sense of beauty. Through his pursuit of excellence, Ramon Valera played a pivotal role in forging a sense of Filipino identity and aesthetic appreciation.
LAMBERTO VERA AVELLANA: National Artist for Theater and Film (1976)
Born: February 12, 1915
Died: April 25, 1991
Lamberto V. Avellana, fondly known as "The Boy Wonder of Philippine Movies" since 1939, achieved the pinnacle of recognition in 1976 when he was named the first National Artist of the Philippines for Film by President Ferdinand Marcos. This distinguished title is a testament to Avellana's indelible mark on the realms of theater and film.
Avellana, born in Bontoc, Mountain Province, embarked on his cinematic journey with groundbreaking innovations. His early use of the motion picture camera to establish a point-of-view became a hallmark, revolutionizing film narration techniques. Despite budgetary constraints in the post-war Filipino film industry, Avellana's films, such as "Sakay" (1939), were acclaimed for their realism, setting a new standard in Filipino cinema.
The director's illustrious career spanned six decades, during which he directed over 70 films. Notable among his works are "Anak Dalita" (1956) and "Badjao" (1957), both receiving international acclaim for their realistic portrayals of post-World War II struggles and inter-cultural love stories. Avellana's impact extended beyond the silver screen; he coined the term "bakya crowd" in the early 1950s to describe the mass audiences drawn to his films.
In 1990, Avellana directed the first live reenactment of José Rizal's execution on Rizal Day, showcasing his commitment to historical and cultural narratives. Despite the emergence of new talents like Lino Brocka and Ishmael Bernal, Avellana's influence remains significant in the annals of Philippine cinema.
Lamberto Vera Avellana passed away on April 25, 1991, leaving behind a rich legacy as a National Artist for Theater and Film who reshaped the course of Filipino cinematic history.
KIDLAT TAHIMIK: National Artist for Film (2018)
Born: October 3, 1942
Kidlat Tahimik, or Eric Oteyza de Guia, earned the esteemed title of National Artist for Film in 2018. His cinematic journey is as distinct as the man himself, a constant reinvention of the cinematic landscape.
His debut film, "Mababangong Bangungot" (1977), earned global acclaim as a pioneering postcolonial essay. Critics lauded its uniqueness, and Tahimik's independence as an artist inspired Filipinos to embrace their freedom, resisting cultural dominance.
A trailblazer in "Third Cinema," Tahimik's films critique neocolonial exploitation without glorifying ugliness. Even in the face of injustice, his films maintain hope for triumph, rejecting the notion that progress must be entwined with sadness and poverty.
Beyond cinema, Tahimik is an installation artist, exhibiting works in public spaces in the Philippines. Raised in Baguio amidst U.S. military bases, his films like "Perfumed Nightmare" (1977) and "Turumba" (1983) reflect this unique background.
Tahimik's influence extends globally, with encounters with filmmakers like Werner Herzog and Francis Ford Coppola shaping his international impact. His wife, Katrin De Guia, and their three children are integral parts of his life and support his artistic endeavors.
Known for his commitment to cultural identity, Kidlat Tahimik is often seen wearing the traditional Igorot bahag, symbolizing his pride in the rich heritage of the Cordillera region.
In the face of adversity, such as the reported fire in their Benguet home in 2004, Tahimik's resilience prevailed. The incident may have destroyed film stock and artifacts, but his creative spirit endured.
Apart from his artistic pursuits, Tahimik owns the "Oh My Gulay" cafe and the "Ili-Likha Artist's Village" in Baguio, further enriching his contribution to Philippine culture.
BENEDICTO "BENCAB" CABRERA, National Artist for Visual Arts (2006)
Born: April 10, 1942
Benedicto R. Cabrera, known as Bencab, secured the title of National Artist for Visual Arts in 2006. His artistic journey began in the mid-sixties as a lyrical expressionist, focusing on drawing over decorative color. Early in his career, his works depicted solitary figures of scavengers emerging from dark landscapes, vivid reflections of societal challenges.
Born in Malabon, Bencab labeled the emblematic scavenger figure "Sabel," symbolizing melancholy and the struggles against life's challenges and societal inequities.
Navigating through late neo-realism and high abstraction in the sixties, Bencab offered vital options for Philippine art during the Martial Law years and beyond.
Bencab settled in Baguio City, establishing a studio and a farm on Asin Road, Tuba, Benguet, alongside fellow artists like Santiago Bose, Kidlat Tahimik, and Ben Hur Villanueva, forming the Baguio Arts Guild (BAG). During this period, Bencab explored handmade paper as a medium, demonstrating his commitment to artistic innovation.
In the aftermath of the 1990 Luzon earthquake, Bencab and the BAG initiated programs such as the ArtAid workshop for traumatized children and the "Artquake" fundraising art auction. Bencab's leadership as the guild's president exemplified his commitment to community service.
In the 1990s, Bencab played a crucial role in establishing Tam-awan Village, a haven for local artists and a community fostering the fusion of art, culture, environment, and history.
Throughout the last decade of the Millennium, Bencab exhibited extensively, earning numerous accolades. Notably, he received the Gawad CCP Para sa Sining (Cultural Center of the Philippines Award for the Arts) in 1992, a testament to his significant contributions to Philippine art.
National Living Treasures Award: Gawad sa Manlilikha ng Bayan (GAMABA)
The National Living Treasures Award, or Gawad sa Manlilikha ng Bayan (GAMABA), is a significant recognition by the Philippine Government for individuals or groups preserving the country's traditional arts. A National Living Treasure, or Manlilikha ng Bayan, is someone or a group deeply skilled in a unique traditional art, passing down their expertise through generations in their community.
This honor traces its roots back to the National Folk Artists Award in 1988, initially organized by the Rotary Club of Makati-Ayala. In 1992, Republic Act No. 7355 officially established the National Living Treasures Award, with the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) overseeing the process. The award aligns with UNESCO's criteria for Living National Treasures.
GAMABA encompasses various traditional folk arts categories, like ethnomedicine, folk architecture, weaving, carving, performing arts, literature, graphic and plastic arts, and more. Categories can expand to include other expressions of traditional culture, like the addition of the ethnomedicine category in 2020.
Recognized by UNESCO as Living Human Treasures, GAMABA awardees in the Philippines represent the best in preserving intangible cultural heritage. Currently, sixteen GAMABA recipients embody the highest standards in their respective fields, contributing significantly to preserving the rich cultural heritage of the Philippines.
Teofilo Garcia: Tabungaw (Casque) Artisan and National Living Treasure (2012)
Born: March 27, 1941
Teofilo Garcia, born on March 27, 1941, in San Quintin, Abra, is a National Living Treasure, honored for his exceptional skill in crafting traditional Tabungaw casques. He learned this art from his grandfather at 15, mastering the intricate process of creating Tabungaw hats and weaving baskets.
Teofilo Garcia's Tabungaw, made from native gourd, is more than just a practical headpiece. Its polished orange sheen, finely woven rattan matting, and subtle bamboo accents reflect Garcia's commitment to preserving this traditional craft.
Beyond the fields, Garcia dedicates his time to crafting Tabungaw during seasons when his land lies fallow. Using simple hand tools he designed, each piece meets the highest standards of quality.
Garcia's Tabungaw isn't just functional; it's a sought-after masterpiece of Filipino craftsmanship. Orders come in not only for its practicality but as timeless representations of artistry, capable of lasting generations with proper care.
Despite challenges in sourcing materials and working without ample assistance, Garcia's determination to keep this art alive drives continual innovation. He experiments with materials like nito and bamboo fibers, adding new dimensions to the traditional Tabungaw.
In recognition of his exceptional contributions, Teofilo Garcia received the National Living Treasure Award on November 8, 2012. This accolade affirms his status not only as a skilled artisan but as a custodian of Philippine cultural heritage, dedicated to passing on this invaluable tradition to future generations.
ALONZO SACLAG: Preserving Kalinga Culture and National Living Treasure (2000)
Born: August 4, 1942
Alonzo Saclag, a Kalinga native born on August 4, 1942, holds the esteemed title of National Living Treasure since 2000. Despite no formal training, Saclag, a member of the Kalinga community from Lubuagan, immersed himself in the performing arts, mastering traditional Kalinga musical instruments and ritual dance movements through self-guided learning.
Saclag's efforts extend beyond personal mastery. Recognizing the fading tradition of playing the gangsa, a Kalinga gong, he spearheaded a two-year campaign to secure funds from the provincial government. This resulted in transforming an abandoned Capitol Building into a museum, a branch of the National Museum in Lubuagan.
Championing Kalinga culture in schools, Saclag influenced administrators to promote traditional practices. This includes children wearing Kalinga attire for significant school events and the incorporation of Kalinga folk songs into the curriculum. He advocated for the broadcast of traditional Kalinga music alongside contemporary tunes on the local radio station.
In 2000, Saclag received the National Living Treasures Award, recognizing his exceptional contributions. By 2016, he established Awichon, a village in Lubuagan, dedicated to showcasing Kalinga culture to tourists.
Despite historical misrepresentations and challenges faced by the Kalinga people, Saclag remains dedicated to fostering a greater awareness and appreciation of their rich heritage. His work includes preserving artifacts, documenting tribal philosophies, and reviving the dying craft of crafting Kalinga gongs.
Saclag's legacy extends to the formation of the Kalinga Budong Dance Troupe, transmitting the knowledge of Kalinga music and dance to younger generations. While obstacles persist, Saclag remains steadfast in his mission to nurture and uphold Kalinga culture, ensuring it endures as a precious legacy for his children and the generations to come.
In summing up, we've learned about some impressive folks from the Cordillera region who've made a big impact in different ways. These National Artists and Living Treasures are deeply connected to the Igorot and Cordilleran culture, and their influence goes beyond just their local roots.
Legacy of National Artists: Ramon Valera, Lamberto Vera Avellana, Kidlat Tahimik, and Benedicto 'Bencab' Cabrera have left a lasting mark on Filipino creativity. They didn't just focus on looks or movies; they became a part of what it means to be Filipino. Their work is more than just about style or film-it's about who we are.
Custodians of Tradition: Teofilo Garcia and Alonzo Saclag are like guardians of important traditions in Cordillera. They're keeping alive the art of making Tabungaw casques and the unique music of Kalinga. It's not just about the craft; it's about passing on something really valuable to the next generations.
Resilience and Change: Even when things got tough, these artists showed resilience. Whether it's Ramon Valera's changes to fashion, Kidlat Tahimik's impact worldwide, Teofilo Garcia experimenting with Tabungaw materials, or Alonzo Saclag preserving Kalinga culture in schools, they faced challenges with creativity and a nod to their Cordilleran roots.
Community and Advocacy: Bencab didn't just focus on his art; he led in helping the community. And Saclag made sure Kalinga culture isn't forgotten, even in schools. These artists didn't just create; they built up their communities and kept their culture alive.
In short, the stories of these National Artists and Living Treasures paint a picture of strong culture, creative thinking, and a commitment to keep Cordillera's unique identity alive. They're not just names; they're a part of what makes the Cordillera region special, and their stories challenge the next generation to keep the creative fire burning in this remarkable part of the Philippines.
1. What is the significance of the National Artists title in the Philippines?
The title of National Artist is the highest recognition given to individuals who've significantly contributed to Philippine arts. It covers various fields, including Music, Dance, Theater, Visual Arts, Literature, Film, Broadcast Arts, and Architecture and Allied Arts.
2. How are National Artists selected, and who confers the honor?
National Artists are selected based on recommendations from the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) and the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP). The President of the Philippines confers the honor upon receiving these recommendations.
3. Can you elaborate on Ramon Valera's impact on Filipino fashion?
Ramon Valera, named National Artist for Fashion Design in 2006, revolutionized Filipino fashion in the 1940s. His iconic terno, characterized by unique features like butterfly sleeves and a daring back zipper, became a global symbol of Filipino identity.
4. What contributions did Lamberto Vera Avellana make to Philippine cinema?
Lamberto Vera Avellana, the first National Artist for Film, significantly influenced Philippine cinema. His innovative use of the motion picture camera and realistic portrayals in films like "Anak Dalita" and "Badjao" set new standards, leaving a lasting impact on the industry.
5. What makes Kidlat Tahimik's films unique, especially "Mababangong Bangungot"?
Kidlat Tahimik's debut film, "Mababangong Bangungot," is celebrated for its pioneering postcolonial perspective. It reflects his commitment to resisting cultural dominance and inspiring Filipinos to embrace their freedom through cinema that critiques neocolonial exploitation.
6. How did Bencab contribute to the artistic scene in Baguio City?
Benedicto 'Bencab' Cabrera played a crucial role in establishing Tam-awan Village, fostering the fusion of art, culture, environment, and history. He also initiated programs like ArtAid workshop and "Artquake" fundraising art auction, showcasing his commitment to community service.
7. What is the National Living Treasures Award, and who are some recipients from the Cordillera region?
The National Living Treasures Award, also known as Gawad sa Manlilikha ng Bayan (GAMABA), recognizes individuals preserving the Philippines' traditional arts. Teofilo Garcia, honored for Tabungaw casques, and Alonzo Saclag, preserving Kalinga culture, are esteemed recipients from the Cordillera region.
8. How did Teofilo Garcia innovate in crafting Tabungaw casques?
Teofilo Garcia's innovation in crafting Tabungaw involves using native gourd, weaving baskets, and experimenting with materials like nito and bamboo fibers. His dedication to quality, even with limited resources, has elevated the Tabungaw beyond a practical headpiece to a sought-after masterpiece of Filipino craftsmanship.
9. What is Alonzo Saclag's impact on Kalinga culture beyond personal mastery?
Alonzo Saclag, a National Living Treasure, not only mastered traditional Kalinga musical instruments and dance but also transformed an abandoned building into a museum, preserving the fading tradition of playing the Kalinga gong. His influence extends to schools, where he advocates for the incorporation of Kalinga folk songs into the curriculum.
10. How do these artists contribute to preserving Cordillera's rich cultural heritage?
These artists contribute to preserving Cordillera's rich cultural heritage through their innovative works, dedication to traditional crafts, and advocacy for cultural awareness in schools and communities. They serve as custodians, ensuring that the unique identity of the Cordillera region endures for future generations.