Felipe Padilla de Leon (1912-1992) was born in Penaranda, Nueva Ecija, on May 1, 1912. After being educated both in Manila and in the United States, he became a major Philippine composer, conductor and scholar. He is known for his translation of the Philippine National Anthem from the original Spanish to Tagalog, and his famous piece Payapang Daigdig, composed the morning after he woke up to the destruction of the city of Manila during World War II. He depicted what is noble, exalted and heroic in the Filipino.
De Leon’s range and interests are phenomenal. His compositions include band music, chamber works, children’s songs, choral music, Christmas carols (Pasko na Naman), concertos, film music, folk songs (Sarung Banggi) overtures, piano solos, suites and zarzuelas. There are at least 327 works attributed to him. He was patriotic and nationalistic, not only in his compositions but in his published articles, essays and columns. He wrote for the Manila Times, Taliba and others. He lectured extensively on Philippine music and culture. He cared deeply for folk music as in Bahay Kubo and Magtanim ay Di Biro, songs every Filipino child learns to sing. He formed the musical ensemble “Himig Ng Lahi” (1979 to 1988), toured the United States and Canada and brought Philippine folk, popular and classical music to the hearts of people abroad. He took time to do weekly radio programs from 1947-1985, thus popularizing Filipino music along the cities and the country-side. His own composition of Anak ng Dalita continues to be a standard favorite.
He was responsible for organizing the Pambansang Samahan ng mga Banda sa Pilipinas (PASAMBAP), and eventually the Filipino Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (FILSCAP).
Felipe de Leon composed the first full length Filipino opera Noli Me Tangere (1957) based on Dr. Jose Rizal’s novel of social realism. He followed this up with another opera based on Rizal’s second novel El Filibusterismo (1970). Noli Me Tangere is the most performed Filipino opera, having been performed in full twice but in excerpts numerous times in the Philippines and abroad. Da Corneto Opera’s staging in Chicago is its first outside the Philippines. Two arias from this opera “Kay Tamis ng Buhay” and “Awit ni Sisa” are now part of any international repertoire.
Felipe Padilla de Leon was conferred the Republic Cultural Heritage Award, Doctor of Humanities from the University of the Philippines, Rizal-Pro Patria Award, Presidential Award of Merit, Patnubay ng Sining at Kalinangan Award from the City of Manila. On December 8, 1997, de Leon was posthumously conferred the highest honor a Filipino artist can receive: the “National Artist Award for Music” by President Fidel V. Ramos.
De Leon was married to Iluminada Bonus Mendoza and had six equally gifted and musical children: Felipe, Bayani, Tagumpay, Luningning, Magdangal and Marilag.