Pinay who preserves Mindanao artistic heritage among 2015 Ramon Magsaysay awardees
Cherry Salazar (The Philippine Star) - July 29, 2015 - 10:00am

MANILA, Philippines - In the midst of violence and unrest in Mindanao, who would have thought dance could bring together people raised with cultural and religious differences?

Ligaya Fernando-Amilbangsa did. And for her dedication to the arts, she is being honored as one of this year’s recipients of the Ramon Magsaysay Awards.

In a statement released yesterday, the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation (RMAF) said Amilbangsa was selected for “her single-minded crusade in preserving the endangered artistic heritage of southern Philippines, and in creatively propagating a dance form that celebrates and defends the sense of shared cultural identity among Asians.”

Amilbangsa, 71, has done extensive research on the dance, music and art crafts of the south. She is most known for the practice and promotion of the pangalay, a pre-Islamic dance tradition among the Samal, Badjao, Jama Mapun and Tausug tribes of the Sulu and Tawi-Tawi provinces.

The pangalay reportedly has the richest movement in all the country’s ethnic dances and is the Philippines’ living link to other ancient and classical dances in Southeast Asia.

In 1999, Amilbangsa founded the AlunAlun Dance Circle and used her home for a dance studio. She documented and taught the different movements of the dance as well as incorporated modern music and conveyed contemporary themes in her performances and choreographies of the pangalay.

She believed ethnic dances are not museum pieces but living traditions that grow as societies change, the foundation said.

“Without looking to the past, something really new cannot be created,” she was quoted by the RMAF as saying.

Aside from Amilbangsa, other recipients of the Ramon Magsasay Awards, Asia’s equivalent of the Nobel Prize, include Kyaw Thu, an award-winning actor from Myanmar; Kommaly Chanthavong, a silk weaver from Laos; and social worker Anshu Gupta and whistleblower Sanjiv Chaturvedi, both from India.

RMAF president Carmencita Abella said this year’s winners all share “a greatness of spirit that infuses their crusade for change… The Magsaysay awardees of 2015 are truly stroking fresh hopes for a better Asia.”

The awardees will each receive a certificate, a medallion bearing the image of the late President Ramon Magsaysay and a cash prize. Formal ceremonies will be held at the Cultural Center of the Philippines on Aug. 31.

ACIRC AMILBANGSA ANSHU GUPTA CARMENCITA ABELLA CULTURAL CENTER OF THE PHILIPPINES DANCE DANCE CIRCLE JAMA MAPUN AND TAUSUG KOMMALY CHANTHAVONG KYAW THU LIGAYA FERNANDO-AMILBANGSA
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