http://www.unesco.org/culture/ich/en/state/Philippines

A Living Human Treasure system

Strengthening transmission is one of the most important means to safeguard ICH. UNESCO encourages States to create national systems of “Living Human Treasures” that honour exemplary tradition-bearers and encourage them to transmit their skills and knowledge.

Introduction

Uwang Ahadas, a Filipino Living Treasure teaching and transmitting gabbang
Uwang Ahadas, a Filipino Living Treasure teaching and transmitting gabbang

In 1992 the Philippines Republic Act No. 7355 (English) institutionalized the National Living Treasures Award (Gamaba which is short for Gawad sa Manlilikha ng Bayan). The National Living Treasures Award has its roots in the National Folk Artist Award which was established in 1988, by the Rotary Club of Makati-Ayala, to give recognition to artists representing a wide range of Filipino crafts.

Legal measures

Republic Act No. 7355 of 5 February 1992 was established in order to (i) acknowledge the importance of traditional folk artists; (ii) revitalize the artistic traditions of communities; (iii) provide mechanisms for identifying and assisting qualified traditional folk artists to transfer their skills to the community, and to (iv) create opportunities for popularizing their works locally and internationally.

The National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), an organization responsible for the implementation of the National Living Treasures system, was created by Republic Act 7356 of 5 February 1992.

The Rules and Regulations on the Selection of the National Living Treasures, amended in 2000, stipulate the detailed procedure regarding the implementation of the system.

Who are the National Living Treasures?

“Manlilikha ng Bayan” or National Living Treasures are citizens or groups of citizens engaged in any uniquely Filipino traditional art, whose distinctive skills have reached a high level of technical and artistic excellence and have been passed on to and widely practiced by the present generation with the same degree of technical and artistic competence as in the past (Section 3, Republic Act 7355).

Domains of intangible cultural heritage concerned

According to the Rules and Regulations on the Selection of the National Living Treasures, the Award shall be given in traditional folk arts, such as folk architecture, maritime transport, weaving, carving, performing arts, literature, graphic and plastic arts, ornament, textile or fiber art, pottery, etc.

Responsible body in charge of the system

The system is overseen by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), the highest policy-making and coordinating body for culture and the arts of the Philippines, which was created by Republic Act No. 7356 in 1992. The NCCA is mandated to identify traditional artists, adopt a programme ensuring the transmission of their skills and undertake measures to promote a genuine appreciation of the National Living Treasures and instill a sense of pride among the Filipino people for them.

The NCCA created the Gawad sa Manlilikha ng Bayan Committee (Gamaba Committee) to make policy recommendations, implement plans and programmes and conduct the identification and selection of potential awardees. The Committee is composed of five individual members designated by the NCCA (for further details, consult the Gamaba Committee Membership Rules).

The Gamaba Committee is assisted by an Ad Hoc Panel of Experts, which is convened to conduct a thorough search, fair selection and careful review of the nominees for the Award, using the criteria and qualifications cited in the Republic Act and the Rules and Regulations on the Selection of the National Living Treasures.

The Panel is composed of experts in traditional folk arts, designated by the NCCA Board of Commissioners. The term of the experts expires upon completion of the identification and selection process. The Ad Hoc Panel of Experts constitutes from among its members Ad Hoc Search Committees which conduct the identification and documentation of candidates for the awards. There are at least two experts for each domain. It also constitutes from among its members an Ad Hoc Screening Committee composed of five members who will recommend nominees for the award to an Ad Hoc Panel of Reviewers (for further details, consult the Gamaba Committee Membership Rules (part 3.0)).

The Ad Hoc Panel of Reviewers is composed of five members of the Gamaba Committee and of four individuals identified by the Committee from among scholars, practitioners and experts in the field of traditional arts. It reviews the recommendations of the Screening Committee, evaluates the qualifications of the candidates, and then submit its recommendations to the NCCA Board of Commissioners.

Selection Process

The Ad Hoc Search Committees, after determining the priority areas, are sent to various parts of the country to conduct research and documentation on candidates for the awards, in accordance with the criteria and qualifications mentioned below.


Nominations may come from the Sub-commission on Cultural Communities and Traditional Arts, cultural, governmental, private institutions, local cultural offices, universities and private persons. Additional nominations may come from the Ad Hoc Search Committees. The Ad Hoc Screening Committee then recommends nominees for the award to the Ad Hoc Panel of Reviewers.

After reviewing the recommendations of the Ad Hoc Screening Committee and evaluating the qualifications of candidates on the basis of the documentation prepared by the Ad Hoc Search Committees, the Ad Hoc Panel of Reviewers submits its recommendations to the Gamaba Committee, which are then transmitted to the NCCA for appropriate action. The names of the awardees approved by the NCCA Board are submitted to the President of the Philippines for proclamation.

Before the conferment of the award, awardees are informed of their obligations and rights. A Memorandum of Agreement between the awardee and the NCCA is signed.

Finally, the President of the Philippines confers the award during a public ceremony followed by ceremonies in the provinces of the awardees.

Selection criteria

In selecting the awardees, the following criteria and qualifications will be taken into account (Rule IV of the Rules and Regulations on the Selection of Manlilikha ng Bayan (Sections 6 and 7):

a) They are members of an indigenous or traditional cultural community anywhere in the Philippines that has preserved customs, beliefs, rituals and traditions.
b) They have engaged in a folk art tradition that has been in existence and documented for at least fifty years.
c) They have consistently performed or produced, over a significant period, works of superior and distinctive quality.
d) They must possess a mastery of the tools and materials needed by the art, and must have an established reputation in the art as master and maker of works of extraordinary technical quality.
e) They have passed on and/or will pass on their skills to other members of the community.

Groups of persons nominated for collective recognition must have the following qualifications in addition to the above-mentioned points:

a) The group must excel in a distinctive folk art tradition.
b) The group must be willing to be organized for the purpose of receiving and for the administration of the award.

Rights and obligations of the National Living Treasures

The National Living Treasures are obliged to transmit their skills to the younger generations through apprenticeship and such other training methods as are found to be effective. They are also expected to promote and propagate their traditional folk arts in cooperation with the implementing agency, as well as to donate to the National Museum samples, copies or documentation of their works (Section 6 of the Republic Act No. 7355 and Rules and Regulations on the Selection of the National Living Treasures, Rule VII, section 23).

The awardees receive a commemorative plaque and/or medal, an initial grant as well as a monthly grant for life to enable them to carry-out their responsibilities. On the contrary, if the awardees do not fulfill the requirement regarding the obligation of transmission of their skills, their monthly grant is withdrawn.

National Living Treasures, who due to age or infirmity are no longer capable of teaching their art may still be recognized as a National Living Treasure if:

a) They have created a significant body of works and/or have consistently displayed excellence in the practice of their art, thus achieving important contributions for its development.
b) They have been instrumental in the revitalization of their community’s artistic tradition.
c) They have passed on to other members of the community skills in the folk art for which the community is traditionally known.
d) Their community has recognized them as masters and teachers of their art.

Information on existing National Living Treasures

As of 2005, a total of eleven persons have been recognized; three persons in 1993, two persons in 1998, three persons in 2000 and three persons in 2004.

More information on the system is available at:

  • Website: http://www.ncca.gov.ph/culture&arts/profile/gamaba.htm
  • Republic Act No. 7355 of 5 February 1992 (English)
  • Republic Act No. 7356 of 5 February 1992 (English)
  • Rules and Regulations on the Selection of Manlilikha ng Bayan (including the Gamaba Committee Membership Rules in Annex A) (English)