The Philippines’ National Living Treasures


When the younger generations are so comfortable with gadgets and the internet and all the comforts of modern technology, how do we instill in them an appreciation for traditional arts and crafts, songs & dances? Better yet, how do we encourage the next generation to embrace these fast disappearing art forms?

As the highest policy-making and coordinating body for arts & culture, The National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) is tasked to search for traditional artists, adopt a program that will ensure the transfer of their skills to others and undertake measures to promote a genuine appreciation of and instill pride among our people. Thus was born The Gawad sa Manlilikha ng Bayan Award (GAMABA) or National Living Treasures Award.

Since the start of awarding, the following people approved by the NCCA Board have been duly recognized:

masino intaraysamaon sulaimanGinaw Bilog1993 Awardees - Masino Intaray of Makagwa Valley, Brooke’s Point, Palawan, is a gifted poet, musician, epic chanter and storyteller, and has been promoting and preserving the musical and literary tradition of the Palawan people; Samaon Sulaiman of Maganoy, Maguindanao, is known for his unwavering dedication and commitment to his art of kutyapiplaying at a time  when this instrument no longer exists in many parts of Mindanao; Ginaw Bilog of Panaytayan, Mansalay, Oriental Mindoro, faithfully preserved  the Mangyan script and poetry by writing it on bamboo, and by promoting it on every  occasion, hence, preserving it for posterity.

Lang Dulay

salinta monon

1998 Awardees – Lang Dulay, a T’boli of Lake Sebu, South Cotobato, is awarded for producing creations, which remains faithful to the T’boli tradition as manifested in the complexity of her designs, fineness of workmanship and quality of finish;Salinta Monon, a Tagabawa-Bagobo of Bansalan, Davao del Sur, is awarded for fully demonstrating the creative and expressive possibilities of abaca-ikat weaving at a time when such art is threatened with extinction.

alonzo saclag

federico caballero

uwang ahadas

2000 Awardees – Alonzo Saclag of Lubuagan, Kalinga has nurtured Kalinga culture through constant research on traditional rituals involving the performing arts, dance patterns and movements, and Kalinga musical instruments. He formed the Bodong Kalinga Dance Troupe that has represented and promoted Kalinga performing arts and rituals in countless performances nationwide;Federico Caballero is a Sulod-Bukidnon epic chanter from Kalinog, Iloilo who possesses an encyclopedic repertoire of more than ten major epics of Panay, rendered in highly poetic, mythic language called Ligboc. The language, though related to Kiniray-a, is no longer spoken. Among the epics which he has memorized are: Sinagnayan, Nagbuhis, Tikung Kadlum, Pahagunong, Amburukay, Kalampay, and Derikaryong Pada; Uwang Ahadas is a Yakan master of instrumental music from Lamitan, Basilan, Sulu. He is the undisputed master of the kulintang (five gongs laid in a row), kwintangan kayu (five horizontally suspended log beams), gabbang (bamboo xylophone), agung (three large suspended gongs), and tuntungan (wooden platform). He has been teaching Yakan music for decades and is the acknowledged teacher of accomplished Yakan instrumentalists.

Haja Amina Appieduardo mutucdarhata sawabiIn June 14, 2005, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo formally conferred GAMABA to the following - Haja Amina Appi of Ungos Matata, Tandubas, Tawi-Tawi, has been weaving mats for nearly 60 years, a third-generation craftswoman of the Sama tribe. Her community has long revered her as their treasure, recognizing her as the “master artist” of the Samas, who depend on weaving dried pandan leaves into multicolored geometric designs for their livelihood; Eduardo Mutuc comes from the artistic people of Pampanga, whose divine metalworks grace the cathedrals and churches of his province. He is not rich and has none of the technologically advanced tools that today’s metalworkers use. What he has is a chisel, a hammer and an old rubber slipper, enough to turn sheets of metal into works of art; Darhata Sawabi, a Tausug, sadly passed away on March 12, after learning she had been chosen as a Manlilikha ng Bayan. Like Haja Amina Appi, she was a third-generation weaver of the pis syabit, the colorful traditional woven fabric of the Tausug, after her mother and grandmother. Her community will remember her as the expert who wove single strands of cotton thread into traditional patterns and geometric motifs, sold to contribute to the Tausug’s communal fund.

latest awardees

President Benigno S. Aquino III shares the stage with the 2012 Gawad sa Manlilikha ng Bayan awardees Inabel weaver Magdalena Gamayo and Gourd Casque maker Teofilo Garcia for a photo souvenir during the Awarding Ceremonies at the Heroes Hall, MalacañanPalace on November 8, 2012.


Magdalena Gamayo from Pinili, Ilocos Norte, has been weaving for 72 years now. She first started when she was 16 under the tutelage of her aunt. She has mastered the traditional patterns of binakol, inuritan (geometric design), kusikos (spiral forms similar to oranges), and sinan-sabong (flowers), which is the most challenging pattern. She has taught herself to recreate designs which is a very useful skill, enabling her to incorporate new elements into her patterns.


Teofilo Garcia from San Quintin, Abra, has championed the use of the tabungaw, a unique headpiece made from native gourd, hollowed out, polished and varnished to a bright orange sheen to improve its weather resistance. Finely woven rattan matting lines the inside, and the brim sports a subtle bamboo weave for accent. According to him, it takes him a long time to perfect the casque because he is still perfecting his art.

GAMABA artists share the same rank with Philippine National Artists.

GAMABA was institutionalized in April 1992 through Republic Act No. 7355. This act provides recognition to National Living Treasures. The program is guided with the following goals: to focus vital attention upon Philippine traditional arts and folk crafts as exquisite and valuable works of the national cultural wealth and heritage; to identify the finest folk artists of the land who are dedicated to their craft, using unique skills, native methods and indigenous materials; to preserve and uplift Filipino crafts through appropriate recognition of artisans who are consciously nourishing traditional crafts threatened by extinction.

First awarded in 1993 to three outstanding artists in music and poetry, the Gawad sa Manlilikha ng Bayan has its roots in the 1988 National Folk Artists Award organized by the Rotary Club of Makati-Ayala. As a group, these folk and traditional artists reflect the diverse heritage and cultural traditions that transcend their beginnings to become part of our national character. As Filipinos, they bring age-old customs, crafts and ways of living to the attention and appreciation of Filipino life. They provide us with a vision of ourselves and of our nation, a vision we might be able to realize someday, once we are given the opportunity to be true to ourselves as these artists have remained truthful to their art.

As envisioned under R.A. 7355, “Manlilikha ng Bayan” shall mean a citizen or group of citizens engaged in any traditional art uniquely Filipino whose distinctive skills have reached such a high level of technical and artistic excellence and have been passed on to and widely practiced by the present generation in his/her /their community with the same degree of technical and artistic competence.

To become a “Manlilikha ng Bayan”, the candidate must possess the following qualifications: a. He/she/group is an inhabitant of an indigenous/traditional cultural community anywhere in the Philippines that has preserved indigenous customs, beliefs, rituals and traditions and/or has syncretized whatever external elements that have influenced it. b. He/she/group must have engaged in a folk art tradition that has been in existence and documented for at least fifty (50) years. c. He/she/group must have consistently performed or produced over a significant period, works of superior and distinctive quality. d. He/she/group must possess a mastery of tools and materials needed by the art, and must have an established reputation in the art as master and maker of works of extraordinary technical quality. e. He/she/group must have passed on and/or will pass on to other members of the community their skills in the folk art for which the community is traditionally known.

Groups of persons nominated for collective recognition must have the following qualifications in addition to those prescribed above: a. The group must excel in a distinctive folk art tradition, b. The group must be willing to be organized for the purpose of receiving and for the administration of the award. A traditional artist who possesses all the qualities of a Manlilikha ng Bayan candidate, but due to age or infirmity has left him/her incapable of teaching further his/her craft, may still be recognized if: a. He/she had created a significant body of works and/or has consistently displayed excellence in the practice of his/her art, thus achieving important contributions for its development, b. He/she has been instrumental in the revitalization of his/her community’s artistic tradition, a. He/she has passed on to the other members of the community skills in the folk art for which the community is traditionally known, d. His/her community has recognized him/her as master and teacher of his/her craft.

To ensure a fair selection of the potential awardees, the Gawad sa Manlilikha ng Bayan Committee shall be assisted by an Ad Hoc Panel of Experts consisting of experts in the traditional folk arts categories listed above. The names of those selected to become members of the Ad Hoc Panel of Experts shall be submitted to the NCCA Board of Commissioners for proper designation. The Ad Hoc Panel of Experts may be composed of the members of the Gawad sa Manlilikha ng Bayan Committee, one representative from each of the committees of the Sub-commission on Cultural Communities and Traditional Arts, representatives from the Office of Muslim Affairs (OMA), National Commission on Indigenous People (NCIP), and representatives from other government and non-government instrumentalities or other appropriate institutions whose representation shall be instituted by the NCCA Board from time to time. The term of the members shall expire upon completion of the search and selection process.

The Ad Hoc Panel of Experts shall constitute from among themselves Ad Hoc Search Committees that shall be deployed to the various parts of the country, after determining the priority areas, to conduct a thorough search and documentation of candidates for the awards in the traditional folk arts category respectively assigned to them.

by Joseph Radjal Pelicano and Oliver Quingco II

group photo by Gil Nartea / Malacañang Photo Bureau

profile photos by Renato Rastrollo courtesy of GAMABA Office/NCCA