Friday, 29 November 2013

Short Biography of Felipe Padilla de Leon

Felipe Padilla de Leon was born on the 1st of May, 1912 in the barrio of Papaya (now General Tinio) in Penaranda, Nueva Ecija. He is the son of Juan de Leon and Natalia Padilla. He is the third of four children by the second marriage of his mother. His elder, half-brother, Pedro P. San Diego, helped his mother in taking care of them. Felipe de Leon married pianist Iluminada Mendoza with whom he had six children. Bayani and Felipe Jr., are two of his children; the former being a well-known composer, and the latter, a writer. Felipe Sr.'s father died when he was only three years old and his mother supported the family by selling betel nut leaves. And when he was old enough, he held a number of odd jobs ranging from that of a shoe-shine boy, a carabao herder, a rig driver, a seller of vernacular weeklies, and an ice-cream and pan de sal vendor. 

An uncle who realised that he had already gone past the regular school age was responsible for his eventual enrolment in school. It was during this time that his talent in painting and drawing was discovered. His uncle, peers and other students admired Felipe's sketches. People even paid him for illustrations they asked him to make. When he was studying at the Nueva Ecija High School, he went on trips with his hometown band and wrote short pieces for them. In 1927, he took up Fine Arts at the University of the Philippines, but he had to stop schooling in order to make a living. He played the trombone in dance orchestras which performed in cabarets, circuses and bodabil (vaudeville). Then, he worked as an assistant conductor of the Nueva Ecija High School Orchestra where he started doing musical arrangements. Later on, he wrote music for the sarswela. He decided to study formally and enrolled at the University of the Philippines Conservatory of Music, where he studied under Col. Antonio Buenaventura and Antonio Molina. He contributed articles to the school paper and vernacular magazines. Later, he wrote music columns for the Manila Times (then known as Manila Tribune) and Taliba. In 1939, he graduated with a music teacher's diploma, major in conducting. Much later, he took advanced studies in composition under Vittorio Giannini of the Julliard School of Music in New York. De Leon received many awards. Among them are Composer of the Year (1949), Manila Music Lovers Society, Musician Of the Year (1958), UP Conservatory of Music, and others. He was conferred an honorary degree, doctor of philosophy in the humanities, by the University of the Philippines in 1991.  

Felipe P. De Leon wrote piano compositions, hymns, marches, art songs, chamber music, symphonic poems and overtures, band muic, school songs, orchestral works, operas, kundimans and sarswelas. Known as a nationalist composer, he sought to express the Philippines' cultural identity through his compositions.1 Two operas which are considered his masterpieces are the "Noli Me Tangere" (1957) and "El Filibusterismo" (1970). These two operas have been staged in the Philippines and abroad. He also wrote a march during the Japanese regime entitled "Tindig, Aking Inang Bayan", and another march "Bagong Pagsilang" during the martial law. He wrote the popular Christmas carols, "Payapang Daigdig" (1946), "Noche Buena" and "Pasko Na Naman", both in 1965. 

Felipe De Leon died on the 5th of December, 1992. 

1 CCP Encyclopaedia.

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