Agnes Locsin, Salvacion Lim – Higgins, Marilou Diaz – Abaya, Ricardo “Ricky” Lee, Nora Cabaltera Villamayor also known as Nora Aunor, Gemino Abad, Fides Cuyugan – Asensio, and Antonio “Tony” Mabesa were declared as the new National Artists by virtue of Presidential Proclamation no. 1390 signed on June 10, 2022.

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte conferred the Order of National Artist to eight outstanding Filipino artists in the field of dance, theatre, film and broadcast arts, literature, music, and fashion design, in a ceremony held earlier at the Rizal Hall of Malacanang.

In attendance and receiving the medallion and certificates are National Artists Agnes Locsin (Dance), Ricardo Lee (Film and Broadcast Arts), Gemino Abad (Literature) and Fides Cuyugan-Asensio (Music).

Representing National Artist Nora Aunor (Film and Broadcast Arts) are her children, actors Kristoffer Ian Villamayor De Leon and Maria Nora Ana Theresa Villamayor Estrada. Receiving the award on behalf of National Artist Salvacion Lim Higgins (Fashion) is her son Mark Lewis Lim Higgins while the award for National Artist Marilou Diaz-Abaya is received by her son, actor and musician Ramon Marcelino ‘Marc’ Abaya. National Artist for Theatre Antonio ‘Tony’ Mabesa’s award is received by his niece, Maria Elizabeth Oca.

Also in attendance are Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, Cultural Center of the Philippines Chairperson Maria Margarita Moran-Florendo, National Commission for Culture and the Arts Chairman Arsenio Lizaso, and representatives of both cultural agencies.

National Artist for Film and Broadcast Arts Ricardo Lee expressed a response on behalf of all of this year’s newly conferred National Artists.


Agnes Locsin is a choreographer, director, and teacher. She is dubbed as one of the “most progressive contemporary choreographers in the Philippines,” for she distinctively utilizes Filipino beliefs, rituals, and ethnic traditions in her choreographies, concepts, and direction, which she was able to beautifully merge with her knowledge in Western dance techniques and called it “neo-ethnic.” Among her successful works are Babaylan, which won second place in the Tokyo International Choreography Competition in 1993; Taong Talangka (Man-Crab); Salome which won second place for dancer Camille Ordinario in the 1994 Concours International de la Danse in Paris, France; and narrative works like one on the life of the mythical hero Labaw Dungon in the epic Hinilawod from the island of Panay.



Salvacion Lim-Higgins, known to the fashion world as “Slim’s”, is credited for innovating and transforming the look of terno into a world-class silhouette by combining the elements of Philippine costume with European couture details and construction. She was known for her exquisite drapery, constant and evocative use of indigenous materials such as piña and jusi, referencing ethnic motifs in her modern dresses, and forward-looking and cutting-edge approach to fashion. Lim-Higgins introduced draping into traditional costumes and developed “convertible ternos.” Filipiniana took a more nuanced look through the eye-catching costumes she created for the Bayanihan Dance Company.


Marilou Diaz-Abaya was a film and television director and screenwriter. She began her career in the 1980s and was part of the generation that defined what is today remembered as the “Second Golden Age of Philippine Cinema.” Her notable works are Brutal (1980), which marked Diaz-Abaya’s clear directorial style and unique feminist voice, as she emerged as a bold experimenter of storytelling structure and a fierce creative protester of the harrowing plight of women in a male-dominated society;  Moral (1982), which offered a nuanced commentary on the expectations and burdens placed onwomen’s shoulders against which they explore their desires and navigate their shifting place in society; Karnal (1983), where the perverse entanglement of paternalism, desire, and drive for control results in a violent tragedy; Milagros (1997), where she moved away from pointed advocacies and delved instead on an enigmatic exploration of feminine desire and innocence; Sa Pusod ng Dagat (1998), which further explored the complex meaning of womanhood; Jose Rizal (1998), the biopic of the national hero; Muro-Ami (1999), portrayed the lives of exploited children in the illegal practice of reef hunting; Bagong Buwan (2001), endeavored to tell a fair and informed story about war-torn Muslim Mindanao; and Noon at Ngayon: Pagsasamang Kay Ganda (2003), which tells the story of four middle-aged women who have weathered life’s storms and reconciled with their pasts.


Ricardo Lee also known as Ricky Lee is a screenwriter for film and television, journalist, playwright, and a multi-awarded fictionist who published several novels, plays, essays, and short story collections along his screenplays and screenwriting manuals. He has demonstrated his mastery of writing historical films, literary and true-to-life adaptations, political, courtroom, and dramas, the stories of “outsiders” and marginalized figures such as laborers, prostitutes, rebels, migrant workers, and gay people, and his consistent elevation of all manner of genre fare, from horror to tearjerkers to comedies. Lee emerged in screenwriting in the late 1970s as part of the generation of filmmakers who ushered the “Second Golden Age of Philippine Cinema.”

Lee has demonstrated his mastery of writing historical films, literary and true-to-life adaptations, political, courtroom, and diasporic dramas, the stories of “outsiders” and marginalized figures such as laborers, prostitutes, rebels, migrant workers, and gay people, and his consistent elevation of all manner of genre fare, from horror to tearjerkers to comedies.


Nora Cabaltera Villamayor, also known as Nora Aunor, has been in different fields for more than four decades—film, television, music, and stage. Her journey to fame started when she joined and won a local amateur singing contest in a radio program called “Darigold Jamboree”. She came to be known as the girl with the “golden voice” with the unique tone of her voice. It was Tower Productions that gave her the biggest break: the title role in D’ Musical Teenage Idols, opposite Tirso Cruz III. Sampaguita Pictures’ 34th-anniversary presentation was also a Nora-Tirso starrer, Fiesta Extravaganza, and that is when people began referring her as “Superstar”. Succeeding years would see her taking on a wide variety of movie projects, showing her versatility by making comedies, melodramas, and musicals. Her extensive filmography with 170 films is not only matched but exceeded by the number of awards and citations she has received from local and international organizations.


Dr. Gémino H. Abad is a writer, critic, scholar, literary historian, and anthologist with numerous books and literary awards including ten poetry volumes, nine volumes of literary criticism, two volumes on his own poetics, two short story collections, a five-volume historical anthology of Philippine poetry in English, and a six-volume anthology of Philippine short stories in English, from1956 (the year where the late Leopoldo Yabes’ anthology left off) to 2009. Several of these books have received national literary awards such as the Gawad Dangal ng Lahi given by the Carlos Palanca Memorial Foundation; the Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for his poetry; the CCP Award for Poetry; the Ani ng Dangal Award of the NCCA; the UMPIL’s Gawad Alagad ni Balagtas for lifetime achievement in poetry and literary criticism; the Patnubay ng Sining at Kalinangan sa Larangan ng Panitikan from the City of Maynila; the Manila Critics’ Circle National Book Award for poetry, for anthology, for personal anthology; and the Philippines Free Press Literary Awards for the short story, essay, and poetry.


Professor Emeritus Fides Cuyugan Asensio’s more than six decades of involvement with the art of opera displays her dedication and passion to bringing inaccessible Western dramatic idiom into Philippine theaters for the Filipino opera enthusiasts to experience and learn from. She’s dedicated to opera and musical theater, which enriched the Philippine artistic scene. Her exceptional achievements in many years of exemplary service to the field such as performing, teaching, producing, and directing opera and theater productions, contributed to a Renaissance of classical musical theater in the country. Her performance of Sisa in Felipe de Leon’s Noli Me Tangere became a hallmark in the country’s musical theater history.

She dedicated her golden years to teaching young Filipino singers, hence, her teaching elevated the level of performance and transformed singing into a truthful and higher form of art in the country. Her involvement in the country’s musical theatre scene has enriched our cultural heritage, showcasing Filipino excellence in music to the world and shaped the future generations of Filipino musical theater artists.


Antonio “Tony” Mabesa, known as the Lion of the Theater, was a director, actor, and teacher who greatly contributed to the growth and diversity of Philippine theater. His theater teaching, formalism as aesthetics, and methods of production have made an impact on his students. He was a professor, artist and mentor who will be remembered for his lessons on discipline, commitment and respect for theater.

Early seventies when he formed Tanghalang Repertory with various Filipino students in Hawaii, a theater group devoted solely to the production of traditional and modern Filipino plays and later on staged productions around Honolulu. Then, upon returning to the Philippines, he joined the Department of Speech Communications and Drama in the University of the Philippines Diliman, when productions were only staged occasionally. His first tasks were to come up with a regular season, thus the Dulaang Unibersidad ng Pilipinas (DUP) was born in 1976. Moreover, in 1986 he founded the UP Playwright’s Theater (UPPT), which focused on new works by Filipino playwrights and the revival of classic Filipino plays.


Photo by NCCA Public Affairs and Information Office

The Order of National Artists was established by virtue of Presidential Proclamation No. 1001 dated April 27, 1972 to give appropriate recognition and prestige to Filipinos who have distinguished themselves and made outstanding contributions to Philippine arts and letters. The order is jointly administered by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) and the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) and conferred by the President of the Philippines upon recommendation by both institutions.