Filipino master weavers celebrated at Kadayawan Festival 2023
MANILA, Philippines — The Gawad sa Manlilikha ng Bayan (GaMaBa) or the National Living Treasures Award was institutionalized through Republic Act No. 7355 in April 1992. Tasked with the administration and implementation of the award is the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), the highest policy-making and coordinating body for culture and the arts in the country.
The Manlilikha ng Bayan, which refers to the National Living Treasures, is a Filipino citizen engaged in any traditional art uniquely Filipino whose distinctive skills have reached such a high level of technical excellence and has been passed on to, and widely practiced by the present generation in his/her community, with the same degree of technical and artistic competence.
Estelita Bantilan (now 82), a B'laan native from Sarangani, and Magdalena Gamayo (now 99), a native from Pinili, Ilocos Norte, were bestowed with the National Living Treasures Award. Bantilan was honored in 2016 for her Igem (mat) weaving, and Gamayo in 2012 for her Inabel masterpieces.
The award is given in traditional folk categories like folk architecture, maritime transportation, weaving, carving, performing arts, literature, graphic and plastic arts, ornament, textile or fiber art, pottery and other artistic expressions of traditional culture.
Each tradition is considered separately from each other and nudged within its own cultural context. There is no fixed time for recognition. The award is given whenever there is an artist found worthy of this national recognition.
In a press briefing during the recent Kadayawan Festival in Davao City organized by the NCCA and GaMaBa council, Bantilan told media attendees (through an interpreter) that she is grateful for the honors bestowed upon her. She continues to teach and weave in their weaving center in Sarangani.
"Patience is needed in teaching the younger generations the art of Igem weaving. But I painstakingly pass on the craft, especially to those who have the inherent passion to pursue it," she said.
Passing on to the next generation
The Manlilikha ng Bayan is a link between the past, in which his/her traditional folk art found fertile soil for growth and the future, during which he/she sees his/her art to be permanently sustained. It becomes his/her responsibility therefore to transfer the skills of his/her art to the younger generation through apprenticeship and other effective training methods, as well as cooperate with the NCCA in the promotion and propagation of his/her traditional art.
Gamayo, on the other hand, whose sturdy Inabel weaving has stood the test of time, was honored through a fashion show dubbed "Panaglaga Ti Angin" (Weave Transcending Time) by two Davao-based designers who both incorporated her weave in their respective collections. By the end of August next year, Gamayo will be a centenarian!
Mark Joseph Sayad presented his collection from inspirations culled from the San Pedro Cathedral of Davao City, while Neil Patrick Jimlani presented his from inspirations gathered from the Bangui windfarm of Ilocos Norte. Both designers are proud Tausug natives.
To date, the roster is composed of 16 awardees — six are living while 10 are deceased. The current roster is made of six cycles: 1993, 1998, 2000, 2004, 2012 and 2016. After 2016, no awardee has been named as yet. Of the 16 awardees, six are from Luzon, nine from Mindanao, and one from the Visayas.