LIGAYA FERNANDO-AMILBANGSA was awarded Asia’s Premier Prize and Highest Honor for her single-minded crusade in preserving the endangered artistic heritage of southern Philippines.
Gay, as she is fondly called by friends, taught in the MSU-IIT at the then School of Arts and Sciences (SAS) in the late 70s when she inspired young artists to establish the Integrated Performing Arts Guild (IPAG). Her most significant legacy is her teaching of the pangalay that has since been been transcreated into the signature IPAG idiom.
The RM Award, the Asian equivalent to the Nobel, cites Amilbangsa in creatively propagating a dance form that celebrates and deepens the sense of shared cultural identity among Asians.
Her dream of having the pangalay which she propagated through a pedagogy as a living tradition has found grounds in numerous IPAG productions.
Amilbangsa received a gold medallion and a $30,000 prize. She is the daughter of a Catholic political family in Marikina city and married a TauSug schoolmate from a prominent clan. She moved to Sulu where she was bewitched by the elegance of the pangalay.
The dance style that pre-dates the arrival of Islam and Christianity finds similarities with other dances in Cambodia, Myanmar, Thailand, Indonesia and other parts of Southeast Asia. Originally a Sanskrit word meaning “temple dancing,” which also means “gift offering” among Sulu villagers, Amilbangsa describes the form as “stillness in motion.”