by Christine Godinez Ortega
It would seem now that University of the Philippines (UP) Professor Felipe Mendoza de Leon, Jr. is the best choice for a speaker during this year’s 5th Mid-Year Commencement Exercises which is hosted by the College of Arts & Social Sciences (CASS).
He delivers the commencement address to over 600 graduates at 9:00 AM at the Gymnasium on November 20, 2014.
De Leon graduated with an Electronics and Communications engineering degree from Feati University,but he has, since the late 1960s, turned to a lifelong study of the country’s music forms and has led in the promotion of the country’s culture and arts.
At present he is the Head of the National Commission for Culture and Arts (NCCA) National Committee on Music and the Head of the Sub Commission on the Arts, at the same time, the Chairman and Commissioner of the NCCA. He is also Chairman of the NCCA’s Committee on Filipino Intangible Heritage. In this capacity, he led the process responsible for having the country’s two major epics, the Ifugao Hudhud and the Maranao Darangen proclaimed as UNESCO Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage for Humanity.
He had previously headed many other posts at the NCCA since the 1990s for instance, as Chairman of the NCCA Sub Commission on the Arts from 2004-2007, and the Sub Commission for Cultural Communities and Traditional Arts from 1992-1998 during which period the Schools of Living Traditions (SLTs) were established all over the country.
He was Chair of the Humanities Division of the National Research Council of the Philippines; the Commissioner of UNESCO Philippines in 1999-2002; and, as Chairman of the Gawad Sa Manlilikha ng Bayan (National Living Treasures Awards) this award was institutionalized in recognition of the masters of traditional arts in the country towards the preservation and transmission of skills to the younger generation.
This passion for the country’s culture and arts is shown in his home where material and art objects showcasing Philippine arts and crafts become an integral part.
He is the son of the National Artist for Music Felipe Padilla de Leon, famous for translating the lyrics of the Philippine National Anthem into Tagalog from the original lyrics in Spanish. De Leon, Jr. who admires his father said that among his father’s famous compositions are “Noche Buena” which was composed in seven minutes and “Pasko na Naman” which was composed in five minutes.
He is father to the multi-awarded film music scorer Diwa de Leon and the multi-awarded triathlon athlete Ani de Leon.
De Leon, Jr. has held other administrative positions in UP Diliman — as Chairman of the Department of Humanities where he charted the shift from a Eurocentric to a World Art approach emphasizing Southeast Asian and Philippine arts; as President of the National Association for Philippine Psychology, elected as Vice President of the International Music Council (IMC) of the UNESCO in California, eventually becoming the only Asian member of IMC to represent the country in meetings in Malmo, Sweden, in Rome and in Brno, Czech Republic.
He was instrumental in bringing Philippine music not only around the country but in the US, Finland, Lithuania, Sweden and in Italy.
Among his numerous compositions are the music for various plays such as Yerma by Federico Garcia Lorca, Lysistrata by Aristophanes and Rizal’s Noli me tangere directed by Tony Mabesa; the official hymn, Diwang Pilipino commissioned by the National Centennial Commission which was launched at the Quirino Grandstand by then President Fidel V. Ramos; the Senate Hymn and the NCCA Hymn.
De Leon also finished an AB in Humanities, cum laude from UP; a Fine Arts degree in composition and music theory also at the UP; his musicological studies at the Madras Music Academy in India and Philippine Studies at the UP College of Arts & Letters.
His published works include Philippine Art and Literature, Volume III of the Filipino Nation Encyclopedia published by Grolier International in 1982; Art, Man and Nature: Selected Readings in the Humanities and numerous articles on cultural issues especially on cultural creativity and diversity, worldviews and values, and culture and development. He was the main author of the ASEAN Declaration for Cultural Heritage.
His many awards include the Gawad Chancellor Award by the UP Diliman; Achievement Awardee of the National Research Council of the Philippines; Bayani ng Alamat Awardee by the UP Manila; one of ten Outstanding Citizens of Quezon City; Outstanding Achievement Award by the Phi Kappa Phi International Honor Society; and, a Gawad Parangal by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) for outstanding service to the DFA. — for OC OPI