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(Update) National Artist Lucrecia Kasilag, 91


MANILA, Philippines - Two weeks shy of her 91st birthday, National Artist for Music Lucrecia R. Kasilag passed away Saturday night in her house in Paco, Manila after a lingering illness. Tita King, as Lucrecia Kasilag was fondly known, remained creative to the end. Known for combining eastern and western musical elements, Ms. Kasilag remained lucid and creative to the very end, writing the music for Why Flowers Bloom in May, an opera that premiered on March 9 of this year at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP), of which she had been president for 17 years (1969-1986). Anyone who has attended a performance at the CCP has heard one of Ms. Kasilag’s compositions — the Asian-sounding chimes urging the audience to enter is one of her pieces. CCP President Nestor Jardin told BusinessWorld "Lucrecia Kasilag was a major force in the development and promotion of arts and culture in the Philippines. As an artist, she bridged the gap between classical music and Asian traditional music. "As a cultural administrator, she led the CCP during its early years, establishing strong linkages with the cultural world and laying the foundation for the training and development of young, talented Filipino artists. The CCP will surely miss her." Born on August 31, 1917, Ms. Kasilag, fondly known as Tita King, began composing during World War II and dedicated her life to her chosen art, producing more than 250 works ranging from orchestral to electronic pieces. Soprano Fides Cuyugan-Asensio, librettist and lyricist of Why Flowers Bloom in May, said the composer’s wit was as sharp as ever during the time they were working on the opera, even though Ms. Kasilag required an interpreter to be understood. "How we loved her. In between our writing sessions, I would sob my heart out [because of the state she was in]. She was my dean; she was so strict, but behind that stern exterior she was soft and very funny. Her better jokes were often risqué and she would laugh at her own jokes," she said. Prior to Why Flowers Bloom in May, Ms. Cuyugan-Asencio sang in Ms. Kasilag’s Dularawan in the 1960s, and wrote the libretto for Ms. Kasilag’s Larawan Ng Kababaihan: Maskara at Mukha, an opera that debuted in 1980. Cellist Renato B. Lucas, who entered the CCP straight from high school, remembers Ms. Kasilag as a "grandmother impresario" who watched the progress of young musicians from the sidelines. "She was like a lola (grandmother) who would always smile at me when passed each other in the corridors. Once I entered the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra, I really felt that she genuinely cared about my advancement as a musician." Asked to sum up the composer’s impact on the Philippine music scene, Mr. Lucas replied "My God, who doesn’t know Tita King?" Aside from her long stint in the CCP, she also held other administrative positions including dean of the Philippine Women’s University (PWU) College of Music for 25 years, and chairman of the League of Filipino Composers for 35 years. Her career was marked by awards and honors, the greatest of which was being named National Artist in Music in 1989. Aside from being awarded grants from the East-West Center, Fulbright Scholar Commission, Asia Foundation, and the JDR III Foundation, Ms. Kasilag was also the recipient of several honors, among them the Presidential Award of Merit as Woman Composer in 1956; Presidential Award of Merit and gold medal for leadership and outstanding contribution to music and the arts in 1960; Republic Cultural Heritage Award in music for her Toccata for percussions and winds, and for her Misang Filipino (Filipino Mass) in 1960 and 1966, respectively; Patnubay ng Sining at Kalinangan award in music in 1954 and 1973; and Outstanding Filipino Award for the Arts by the Philippine Jaycee International in 1991. Ms. Kasilag’s aptitude and intelligence manifested early in life as she graduated valedictorian from both the Paco Elementary School and from the PWU High School. After graduating cum laude from the PWU, where she finished her Bachelor of Arts, major in English, Ms. Kasilag earned her Music Teacher’s Diploma, major in Piano, at St. Scholastica’s College. Ms. Kasilag’s remains lie in state at the Loyola Memorial Chapels and Crematorium in Guadalupe. On Wednesday, August 20, she will be moved to the PWU. The CCP on Sunday said it plans to hold necrological services for its past president on Thursday, August 21. While National Artists are given the honor of being buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani alongside other heroes of the republic, Ms. Kasilag asked to be buried at the Manila South Cemetery. Some confusion surrounds Ms. Kasilag’s actual birthdate. Although the CCP Encyclopedia of Philippine Art lists her birth year as 1918, Ms. Kasilag herself said she was born a year earlier, in 1917. - BusinessWorld
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