Ethnomedicine added as new category

NOMINATIONS for the Gawad ng Manlilikha ng Bayan award, also known as the National Living Treasures award, are now open.

According to the website of the National Commission on Culture and the Arts (NCCA), it “conducts the search for the finest traditional artists of the land, adopts a program that will ensure the transfer of their skills to others, and undertakes measures to promote a genuine appreciation of and instill pride among our people about the genius of the Manlilikha ng Bayan.” The award was institutionalized through Republic Act No. 7355 (Manlilikha ng Bayan Act).

The awards follow the UNESCO 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage, which proposes five broad domains in which intangible cultural heritage is manifested (this according to a presentation during an online press conference on Oct. 26): Oral traditions and expressions, including language; performing arts; social practices, rituals and festive events; knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe; and traditional craftsmanship.

Dr. Felipe de Leon, Head of the NCCA National Committee on Music, narrowed it down to maritime transport, weaving, carving, performing arts, literature, graphic and plastic arts, ornament, textiles or fiber art, and pottery.

However, he also introduced a new category: ethnomedicine, or traditional healing. In a presentation, he defined it as “the sum total of workable knowledge, skills and practices on healthcare, not necessarily within the grasp of physicalistic scientific framework, but recognized by the people to help maintain and and improve their health towards the wholeness of their being, community, and society.” Meanwhile, he defines ethnomedicine as “a wide range of healthcare systems and structures, practices, beliefs, and therapeutic techniques that have thrived since ancient times in Philippine traditional cultural communities.”

Falling under this would be knowledge of herbal medicine, hilot (which Mr. de Leon says is a field broader than massage), the albulario herb doctor, and the babaylan traditional healers. Mr. De Leon expounded on the idea of “hilot” through his presentation, referring to it as a “science and art of the ancient Filipino healing grounded on the principle of balance of the physical elements; together with the mental, emotional, and spiritual aspects of the person for the prevention of disease and restoration and maintenance of health and well-being.”

Ang gusto ng NCCA, lalo na ng GAMABA (Gawad Manlilikha ng Bayan) executive council, ay mabalanse. Sa mga nakaraang award, masyadong nabigyan ng diin ang traditional craftsmanship (What NCCA wants, especially the GAMABA executive council, is to have a balance. In previous awards, too much emphasis was placed on traditional craftsmanship),” said Mr. De Leon. “Hindi lang sining na kilala natin ang importante sa ating kultura. Lalo na ang mga ito, sapagkat mayroong kinalaman sa kalusugan ng bansa (Not only the arts we know are important to our culture. Especially these, for these concern the health of the country).”

In a mixture of English and Filipino, he said, “The very fact that these are very much alive in our communities means that its basis is scientific. But another kind of science is involved. Not the physico-chemical science of the West, This is ours.”

So far, there have been 16 National Living Treasures, according to the NCCA website. These are: Blaan ikat weaver Yabing Masalon Dulo, Blaan mat weaver Estelita Bantilan, Yakan textile weaver Ambalang Ausalin, Ilocano textile weaver Magdalena Gamayo, Kapampangan metalsmith Eduardo Mutuc, Sama mat weaver Haja Amina Appi, Ilocano casque maker Teofilo Garcia, Tausug textile weaver Darhata Sawabi, Yakan musician Uwang Ahadas, Sulod-Bukidnon epic chanter Federico Caballero, Kalinga musician and dancer Alonzo Saclag, Tagabawa Bagobo textile weaver Salinta Monon, T’boli  textile weaver Lang Dulay, Palawan musician and storyteller Masino Intaray, Magindanao musician Samaon Sulaiman, and Hanunuo Mangyan poet Ginaw Bilog. 

To become a Manlilikha ng Bayan, an individual or group candidate must: Possess a mastery of tools and materials needed for the traditional, folk art and be a maker of works of extraordinary technical quality; have consistently produced works of superior quality over significant period; have engaged in a traditional and folk art which has been in existence and documented for at least 50 years; command respect and inspire admiration of the country with his character and integrity; and, must have transferred and/or be willing to transfer to other members of the community the skills in the traditional and folk arts for which the community has become nationally known.

A GAMABA awardee enjoys the same privileges as a National Artist awardee: a gold-plated medal from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, a cash award of P200,000, a lifetime stipend of P50,000, and medical and hospitalization benefits of P750,000 a year; a state funeral, and room in Libingan ng Mga Bayani (should they choose), and a place of honor in state functions.

Mr. De Leon, however, outlines the difference between a National Artist and a National Living Treasure: “A National Artist does not represent a community. He only represents himself, or herself.”

“An awardee or a nominee (of the GAMABA) represents an entire community.”

The deadline for entries is on Feb. 12, 2021. Nomination forms and other requirements can be downloaded via the NCCA website ( Accomplished nominations and attachments should be submitted to the Gawad ng Manlilikha Secretariat at the NCCA offices in Intramuros.  For more details, contact Roche Severo, Awards and Recognition Unit, through

e-mail ( or visit the NCCA website at — JL Garcia