Felipe M. de Leon Jr.

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Felipe Mendoza de Leon

Felipe M. de Leon, Jr., is a professor of art studies and the current Chairman of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA). He is concurrently Head of NCCA's Committee on Intangible Heritage and National Committee on Music and Commissioner of the Sub-Commission on the Arts. He was the former chairman of the humanities department of the University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman. During his term as the Department Chair, the Department made a major shift from a Eurocentric to a World Art approach, with emphasis on Southeast Asian and Philippine arts.

He is also a lecturer and researcher at the International academic circuit and a distinguished lecturer on social transformation at the Asian Social Institute. He comes from a highly gifted and musical family. His father was the National Artist Felipe Padilla de Leon.

He is active in promoting and preserving Philippine indigenous musical forms, such as musikong bumbong. In 2003 he was project director of the First National Bamboo Music Festival, explaining that the country's bamboo music is a reflection of the Filipino people's ingenuity and sense of community.

As Commissioner of the National Commission for Culture and Arts, de Leon delivered a series of lectures on Philippine culture entitled "Philippine Development: A Cultural Perspective" at the Center for Pacific Asian Studies, Stockholm University on May 2, 2006; "Approaches to Understanding Philippine Culture" at the Philippine Embassy on May 3, 2006; and "Management by Culture" in Copenhagen, Denmark on May 4, 2006.

de Leon specializes in humanities, aesthetics, music theory, Philippine arts and culture, Language and Social Transformation, Semiotics, Mythology and Institutional Dynamics, and Accompanying People's Movements.


He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Humanities from UP. His graduate studies were Fine Arts (UP College of Fine Arts, 1973-74), Composition and Music Theory (UP College of Music, 1974-75), Musicological Studies (Madras Music Academy in India, 1976-77), and Philippine Studies (UP College of Arts and Letters, 1989-91).


de Leon served as the President of the National Association for Philippine Psychology from 1985 to 1986. He also headed the Division of Humanities, National Research Council of the Philippines and the Kilusang Kayumanggi sa Ikasusulong ng Kultura (Brown Movement for Cultural Advancement). He was also the Musical Director of Kasarinlan Philippine Music Ensemble.

He was a Commissioner of UNESCO Philippines from 1999-2002 and Chairman of its Committee on Culture in 2002. He was also the Vice-President of the International Music Council, an affiliate agency of UNESCO.

From 1993-2007, de Leon served as Chairman of the Gawad sa Manlilikha ng Bayan (National Living Treasures Awards). As Chairman, he set up and institutionalize the said award that recognizes the masters of traditional arts to preserve and transmit skills to the younger generation.


  • “Philippine Art and Literature”, Volume III of the Filipino Nation Encyclopedia, 1982
  • On Art, Man and Nature: Selected Readings in the Humanities
  • Main author, “ASEAN Declaration for Cultural Heritage”
  • Articles on cultural issues, especially on cultural creativity and diversity, worldviews and values and culture and development


  • On defining the Filipino through songs: "Much work needs to be done, especially in the field of education, before we can truly reclaim our identity as Filipinos in the realm of consciousness. But since the American period we have come along way towards defining ourselves through song. If we took at the developments since the sixties and seventies, we have seen how poet-musicians or song writers have tried to use song as a force for liberation from imperialism and colonialism, a way of breaking down barriers between the elite and the masses, a means of serving the people and not simply treating them as consumers in a capitalistic environment, as criticism and an instrumental for confronting problems, and for developing our sense of identity as Filipinos."
  • On the kundiman art form: "The kundiman is a unique musical form expressing intense longing, caring, devotion and oneness with a beloved. Or with a child, spiritual figure, motherland, ideal or cause. According to its text, a kundiman can be romantic, patriotic, religious, mournful. Or a consolation, a lullaby. Or a protest and other types. But of whatever type, its music is soulful and lofty, conveying deep feelings of devotional love."
  • On culture: "That culture is both a liberating and limiting force is not well known to many people. A society's culture is an unwritten constitution containing its principal assumptions about life. It is the matrix of norms, skills, knowledge, attitudes and values which order and give meaning to every aspect of human thought, feeling, and behavior of its members. It is a system of vital ideas that largely governs and determines the way a people relate to their inner selves; each other, nature, time and space, the spirit world, work and activity; or life and the world. As such, it can open certain possibilities of experience and action but at the same time close all the rest to its members. For instance, once a culture assumes that only material reality is possible, then its members will find it hard to recognize honor and dignity as human virtues since nothing in the material world even comes near to suggesting such ideas."
  • On the occasion of Ani ng Sining, Yaman ng Lahi: Philippine Arts Festival 2007: “Pride in being Filipino leads to commitment to the nation, and commitment to the nation always brings about excellence or great achievement. The deepest meaning of pride in being Filipino is pride in our cultural identity, whether it is identity shared across the country such as our high relational tendency or that of a cultural community, e.g., Tboli ikat weaving or San Fernando giant Christmas lanterns. It is finally our cultural identity that will harness national competitiveness, economic or otherwise, in the global arena; our cultural identity that will anchor national development.”
  • On the promotion of Philippine arts and culture: the arts provide the most lucid mirror of who we are as a people, capturing the widest diversity and most profound depths of the Filipino creative spirit. Excellence in the arts is a powerful magnet around which national unity may evolve."

Awards and recognition

  • Gawad Chancellor Awardee for Extension Work, UP Diliman, 2005
  • Bayani ng Alamat Awardee, UP Manila, 2008
  • NRCP Achievement Award, NRCP Governing Board, 76th NRCP General Membership Assembly, March 2009


External Links

Speech delivered by Felipe M. de Leon on the celebration of the International Museum Day, May 18, 2004

Paper submitted to the 2001 World Malay Conference Yayasan Foundation in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in October 12-15, 2001

Philippine Arts Festival 2007 statement

On Philippine bamboo music as a gift to the world



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