Fides Cuyugan-Asensio is one of the most outstanding sopranos and musical personalities of the Philippines. At various times she has been actress, librettist, lyricist, pedagogue, producer and director. She is currently a professor emeritus in the University of the Philippines College of Music's Voice and Music Theater and Dance Department. Cuyugan-Asensio was conferred the Order of National Artist for Music by virtue of Presidential Proclamation no. 1390, signed on 10 June 2022.
She was born on August 1, 1931 in Lucena. Her parents were Jacinta Belza and the first Philippine pensionado Dr. Gervasio Santos Cuyugan in Lucena. In 1938 she took up elementary school at Philippine Women's University.
She continued her undergraduate degree in music with Dean Felicing Tirona in 1947. The Manila Times featured her graduation recital on its front page, proclaiming "A star is born". She was the first Filipina to be accepted at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. She caught the attention of world-famous composer Giancarlo Menotti when she performed his composition "The Telephone."
In 1954 she married Manuel D. Asensio, Jr.. She debuted as Adele in "Die Fledermaus" at the Far Eastern University Auditorium. In 1957 she originated the role of Sisa in the world premiere of Felipe Padilla de Leon's Noli Me Tangere with the Manila Symphony. She played Gretel in Hansel und Gretel, Lucia in Lucia di Lammermoor, Susanna in Il Segreto di Susanna, and Konstanze in Die Entführung aus dem Serail. She performed as coloratura soprano for three decades.
She also originated many roles in Filipino operas, including the title role in La Loba Negra by Francisco Feliciano, Rosendo Santos' Mapulang Bituin, Pajaros' Binhi ng Kalayaan, and Lucrecia R. Kasilag's Dularawan.
From operas Cuyugan-Asensio went into television, producing "Sunday, Sweet Sunday" from 1969 to 1974. The program was a one-hour show that showcased her operatic virtuosity in delightful set scenes.
In 1970's, she directed operas. In 1980 she wrote a libretto for Kasilag's Larawan Ng Kababaihan: Maskara at Mukha and in 1984 the libretto for Feliciano's La Loba Negra. She ventured into film in Peque Gallega's "Oro, Plata, Mata."
In 1986 she established "The Music Theater Foundation of the Philippines" (MTFP), a non-profit organization to promote young classical singers. In 1988, she was appointed Chairman of Voice and Music Theater Department at the University of the Philippines College of Music and she retired in 1997. To honor her she was appointed Professor Emeritus by the U.P. Board of Regents.
In 1992, Cuyugan-Asensio wrote the libretto for Paguio's "Mayo... Bisperas ng Liwanag". It premiered at the Camp Aguinaldo Theater in Quezon City on November 15, 1997. It was restaged in English in Aberdeen, Scotland, in April 2000.
She has toured extensively with Filipino communities in North America performing Filipino Opera. In 1998, she presented Anastacia in "Mayo... Bisperas ng Liwanag" opera in many US cities.
In 2005 she received the National People's Choice Award for “Grand Achievement Award in Theater Arts.” On July 7, 2005 President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo conferred on her the Lifetime Achievement Award for her outstanding achievements in music.