Amelia Lapeña-Bonifacio

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Lapeña-Bonifacio in 2005

Amelia Lapeña-Bonifacio, also known as Tita Amel, (4 April 1930 – 29 December 2020) was a Filipino playwright, writer, and a set designer. She was dubbed The Grande Dame of Southeast Asian Children’s Theater.


She started receiving awards and editorships for her writing as early as high school and college. Her set designing began in the University of the Philippines where she earned a Fulbright-Smith Mundth Scholarship to the University of Wisconsin in Madison. She became Research Fellow of several local and international grants. In 1977, she founded and managed "Teatrong Mulat ng Pilipinas," an official UP children’s theater and puppetry troupe.

She worked for the recognition of more women writers. She also held workshops on children’s literature which gave birth to two important organizations: KUTING (writers for children’s books) and INK (illustrators for children’s books).

She was Professor Emeritus of the UP where she also served as Professor of English. Even in her mid-70s, she was active in theater; performed for child and for adult audiences; wrote plays; designed and created puppets, costumes and sets; and set the direction of children’s literature and children’s theater in the country.

On 7 July 2005 President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo awarded her the Lifetime Achievement Award for her outstanding contributions to theater. In 2006, the Teatrong Mulat ng Pilipinas (Mulat Theater) near the University of the Philippines (UP) was rebuilt and reopened as the Amelia Lapeña-Bonifacio Teatro Papet Museo (Puppet Museum) through government funding and grants from former presidents Fidel V. Ramos and Joseph Estrada.

At the International Puppetry Festival in 2009, during a break in the performance of The Ramayana, "the performers approached her (she had been placed in the front row), clasped their palms, bowed and kissed her on both cheeks. When, misty-eyed, she kissed them back, the audience rose to their feet."

In February 2010, the UP Department of Speech Communication and Theater Arts conferred on her the title "Mother of Philippine Puppetry" to recognize her efforts in promoting Philippine stories and Asian puppetry and eventually creating a Philippine puppet tradition

She received the Quezon City Most Outstanding Citizen Award in 2013 and the City of Manila Outstanding Citizen Award in 2017.

On 24 October 2018, Amelia Lapeña-Bonifacio was named as National Artist of the Philippines. At that time, she had written 44 plays (28 of these for children), 136 short stories (mostly for children and young adults), and 26 books. She also wrote essays, speeches, poems and songs.

Personal life

Amelia was married to Manuel F. Bonifacio,a sociology professor. They had a daughter, Amihan Bonifacio-Ramolete, who became the leader of Teatrong Mulat in 2012 and the Dean of the College of Arts and Letters at the University of the Philippines.

Amelia died on 29 December 2020 at the age of 90.


  • Chairperson, UP Creative Writing Program
  • Director, UP Creative Writing Center, 1986-1995
  • President, UNIMA-Pilipinas (Union International dela Marionnette)
  • President, ASSITEJ-Philippines (International Association of Theater for Children and Young People)



  • Sepang Loca (1957)
  • Rooms (1958)
  • Ang Paghuhukom
  • Sita & Rama: Papet Ramayana
  • Papet sa Pasko (1987)
  • Papet pasyon (1992)


  • American Biographical Institute World Lifetime Achievement Award
  • ASEAN Award for Literature
  • Ford Foundation Fellow
  • TOYOTA Foundation Award
  • ASPAC Fellow
  • Gawad ng Maynila (para sa Dula)
  • Winner, First National Zarzuela Writing Competition
  • U.P. Alumni Lifetime Achievement Award
  • PBBY Lifetime Achievement Award (2005)


  • "Amelia Lapeña-Bonifacio". Panitikan (accessed 20 November 2007).
  • Foley, Kathy (22 April 2016). "Amelia Lapeña-Bonifacio". World Encyclopedia of Puppetry Arts. Retrieved 23 October 2018.
  • "Lapeña-Bonifacio, Amelia". Retrieved 23 October 2018.
  • Guerrero, Amadís Ma. (2014). "Amelia Lapeña-Bonifacio: Grand lady of Philippine puppet theater". Retrieved 23 October 2018.
  • Chua, Paolo (23 October 2018). "Here Are the Shortlisted Names For the 2018 Philippine National Artist Award". Town and Country Philippines. Archived from the original on 23 October 2018. Retrieved 23 October 2018.
  • Zulueta, Lito B. (24 October 2018). "7 new national artists to be proclaimed Wednesday". The Philippine Daily Inquirer. Retrieved 24 October 2018.
  • "Amelia Lapeña-Bonifacio". 30 December 2020. Retrieved 30 December 2020.
  • "UP Department of Speech Communication and Theatre Arts". Facebook. Retrieved 30 December 2020.
  • Almario, Virgilio; Paterno, Ma Elena; Sunico, Ramon; Villanueva, Rene (2 December 2017). "A History Of Children's Literature In The Philippines". Bumasa at Lumaya: A Sourcebook on Children's Literature in the Philippines. Anvil Publishing, Inc. ISBN 978-621-420-066-5.
  • Bonifacio, Amihan L. (22 September 2003). "In Focus: Puppetry in the Philippines: With almost no local tradition to draw on, Teatrong Mulat looks to Asian sources for inspiration". National Commission for Culture and the Arts. Retrieved 30 December 2020.
  • Lapeña-Bonifacio, Amelia (1981). Sepang Loca & others. Quezon City; [Honolulu: University of the Philippine Press; Distributed outside the Philippines by University Press of Hawaii. ISBN 978-0-8248-0768-9. OCLC 8768670.
  • Casper, Leonard (1983). "The Opposing Thumb: Recent Philippine Literature in English". Pacific Affairs. 56 (2): 301–309. doi:10.2307/2758656. ISSN 0030-851X. JSTOR 2758656.
  • Llamas, Cora (4 January 2019). "Amelia Lapeña-Bonifacio keeps puppet theater alive—and relevant". Inquirer Lifestyle. Retrieved 29 December 2020.
  • ""Puppets and Shadows" of Love and War". University of the Philippines Diliman. 13 March 2017. Retrieved 30 December 2020.
  • "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 29 October 2018. Retrieved 29 October 2018.
  • "Seven New National Artists Revealed and Honored". National Commission for Culture and the Arts. 25 October 2020. Retrieved 30 December 2020.
  • "National Artist Amelia Lapeña-Bonifacio passes away at 90". Manila Bulletin. 29 December 2020.



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