Filipinos welcome naming of Ryan Cayabyab as National Artist for Music

October 24, 2018 - 1:45 PM
Ryan Cayabyab playing the piano
Prominent musician Ryan Cayabyab playing the piano. (The STAR/Geremy Pintolo)

Filipinos were delighted when prominent composer Ryan Cayabyab was announced to be the next National Artist for Music in recognition of his tremendous achievements in the local music industry.

Award-winning singer Lea Salonga shared in a Facebook post the individuals who will be bestowed with the honor on October 24, Wednesday.

She also shared a more personal note to her fellow musician on Twitter, thanking him for the numerous songs he has composed in the span of his musical career.

Ordinary Filipinos also congratulated Cayabyab, who has composed various pieces for full-length ballets, theater musicals, chorals, orchestras, commercial recordings, films and television specials.

The Order of the National Artist is bestowed on individuals who have significantly contributed to the development of the country’s arts and culture.

It is divided into eight categories—music, dance, theater, visual arts, literature, film and broadcast arts, architecture and allied arts and design.

The National Commission for Culture and the Arts and the Cultural Center of the Philippines are responsible for administering the orders. It is officially conferred to the individual by the president.

As of 2018, 13 individuals have already been honored as national artists for music. Some of them are Jovita Fuentes, Levi Celerio, Antonio Molina, Lucio San Pedro and Ramon Santos.

Musician extraordinaire

Ryan Cayabyab showed his musical prowess as early as four-years-old. He took piano lessons and graduated from the University of the Philippines with a degree in music, majoring in music theory.

Cayabyab eventually worked his way into prominence in the music industry and became a musical director, conductor and accompanist.

He performed with the country’s leading music figures in the United States and notably gained an audience at Carnegie Hall, among others.

He also went to different Southeast Asian and European countries to commandeer performances in Spain, the Netherlands, France and Germany.

In addition, he has directed various musicians to perform for former US President Bill Clinton and royal figures such as King Hasan II of Morroco, King Juan Carlos of Spain, King Fahd of Saudi Arabia and Queen Beatrix of Netherlands.

The 64-year-old musician also worked as an artist, producer, arranger and composer for commercial recordings. During this stint, he produced albums for the teen group Smokey Mountain, Lea Salonga and Julio Iglesias.

He also composed the classic jingle of ABS-CBN in 1987 that was used as the network’s station ID.

Cayabyab was also responsible for composing Sarsi’s catchy jingle in 1989 that was considered the most creative television advertisement of the year.

He also composed the opening song of Miss Universe 1994 and the theme song of the Southeast Asian Games’ 23rd edition.

He additionally composed songs that were used in Filipino movies such as “Aguila,” “Desire,” “Hihintayin Kita sa Langit,” “Abot Kamay ang Pangarap,” “Ligaya ang Itawag Mo sa Akin,” “Ang Lalaki sa Buhay ni Selya” and “Ang Larawan.”

The musician also conducted theater musicals like “Noli Me Tangere,” “El Filibusterismo,” “Magnificat,” “Alikabok,” “Ilustrado,” “Spolarium” and “Lorenzo.”

Cayabyab was also given several awards for his valuable contribution to the music industry. Some of these include:

  • Grand Prize Award (Metro Manila Popular Music Festival, 1978 
  • Best Music Award (“Kung Mawawala Ka” in Metro Manila Film Festival, 1993) 
  • Lifetime Achievement Award (The Philippine Association of the Record Industry, 1996) 
  • Gawad CCP Para sa Sining in Music (Cultural Center of the Philippines, 2004)
  • MYX Magna Award (MYX Music Awards, 2012) 
  • Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice Award (Conferred by Pope Francis, 2013) 

He professionally pursued music when Danding Cojuangco offered him to become the executive and artistic director of the San Miguel Foundation for the Performing Arts from 2001 to 2007.


Cayabyab in 2015 admitted that he was not expecting to be recognized as a national artist. However, members of the Organisasyon ng Pilipinong Mang-aawit led by Ogie Alcasid have been campaigning for him to be conferred the order.

The prominent musician said in an interview before, “Alam mo, hindi ko talaga iniisip ‘yun. ‘Yung mga nagtutulak na itanghal akong National Artist ng music, nagpapasalamat ako sa movement na iyan, sa OPM iyan, sina Ogie Alcasid iyan, maraming salamat sa inyo.”

“Pero mas masaya ako na nakakapagtrabaho ako, freelance ako, na maraming natatanggap na… dumarating na chances na makapagsulat ako (ng kanta), mas masaya ako na ganun ang aking ginagawa,” Cayabyab continued.