- As Superintendent of Physical Education in the University of the Philippines, her sustained work of 40 years has made a vital contribution to the foundation of the country’s performing arts. On this foundation, several Filipino dance troupes have developed to win critical and popular acclaim abroad.
- Founder of the Philippine Folk Dance Society and author of widely circulated books and articles, her research has been drawn upon by physical education and dance instructors throughout the country.
- The RMAF board of trustees recognizes “her original research on Filipino folk dance and music, preserving this rich heritage for future generations.”
As a student assistant in physical education at the University of the Philippines in 1921, FRANCISCA REYES began her pioneer work of recording the native songs and dances handed down through generations by the numerous ethnic groups that today compose the citizenry of the Philippine Republic. It was a time when these forms of ritual and entertainment were threatened with extinction by the introduction of mass communications.
Pursuing graduate studies in her chosen field, she traveled to remote mountain barrios and outlying islands, befriending the people and learning their unrecorded lore. Her meticulous research was published first in a thesis on Philippine folk dances and games for use in schools. With encouragement from the University this work was expanded after 1927 when President Jorge Bocobo gave his official support.
After serving 18 years on the faculty of the University and rising to become Physical Director for Women, she transferred to the Department of Education. There, since 1955, she has been Superintendent of Physical Education. As work permitted, she also has taught in several private colleges and universities and shared her knowledge of traditional Filipino performing arts with others at numerous international conferences.
Her sustained and enthusiastic efforts of 40 years have encouraged others to seek inspiration at home and facilitated a creative national expression of Filipino culture. Founder of the Philippine Folk Dance Society and author of widely circulated books and articles, her research has been drawn upon by physical education and dance instructors throughout the Republic. Legions of children and adults have known the joy of benefiting from her works. The several Filipino dance troupes that are winning critical and popular acclaim abroad have built upon a foundation to which she made an initial and vital contribution.
Now 63 and a grandmother, Mrs. FRANCISCA AQUINO continues active in her professional specialty to the fullest of her time and energy. Working to give her people a sense of confidence, pleasure and pride in the artistic expression that is uniquely theirs, she has shown what one person can do who is moved by a patient, determined concern for discovering the value in much that lies unused, yet readily at hand.
In electing FRANCISCA REYES AQUINO to receive the 1962 Ramon Magsaysay Award for Government Service, the Board of Trustees recognizes her original research on Filipino folk dance and music, preserving this rich heritage for future generations.
I wish to express my gratitude to the Rockefeller Brothers and to the members of the Board of Trustees of the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation for this signal honor they have bestowed upon the Philippines and me.
I would be remiss if I do not mention here that the revival of our folk dances and music which we now enjoy and are proud to present, was largely due to the initiative and interest of Dr. Jorge Bocobo, then President of the University of the Philippines.
May our youth to whom Rizal referred as the “hope of our fatherland” nurture in their hearts a dedication to propagate and preserve this rich heritage. May they, too, in the example set by our beloved late President Ramon Magsaysay seek, like him, the welfare of our people.
The Lord willing, I hope to continue sharing this little knowledge with all peoples and keep on serving my country. It is with deep humility that I say to all of you—thank you.
FRANCISCA REYES was born in Lolomboy, Bocaue, in the Philippine Province of Bulacan, on March 9, 1899, the eldest of three children of Felipe Reyes and Juliana Santos Reyes of Manila. A product of the public schools, her early education was received in the Meisic Elementary School, Tondo Intermediate School and Manila High School in Tondo, Manila. She obtained her High School Teacher’s Certificate (H.S.T.C.) in 1923 and her Bachelor of Science in Education degree in 1924 from the University of the Philippines (U.P.), the state university.
An enterprising teacher, Miss REYES began her search for folk dances to use in classes while a Student Assistant in Physical Education from 1921 to 1923 and an Assistant Instructor the following year. One of the most popular forms of expression among Filipinos, the dances offered good exercise. They also taught students much about their country, as each dance bore a characteristically Philippine personality molded by the history and geography of the Islands. Looking initially in the countryside around Manila, she had quickly seen that with further impact of Western culture many dances would be lost or extensively modified. Upon graduation becoming Assistant Physical Directress in U.P., she took up the idea given her by the late Francisco Benitez, then the Dean of the College of Education, and embarked upon what was a bold venture for that time, making folk dancing the subject of her graduate study.
The public in the 1920’s was generally indifferent to folk arts, for the process of Westernization was in full stream. Little material on dances existed in writing, excepting a few early records of such events as Magellan in 1521 being entertained by “adept dancing maidens accompanied by their menfolk on crude musical instruments” and later chronicles mentioning various ancient and modern dances adapted by the Filipino who was “naturally given to music.” Extensive travel would be required to the least developed regions not penetrated by modern communications bringing new fashions of entertainment, and Miss REYES had no outside financial help.
By stringent budgeting she managed over nearly every weekend and holiday for the next two years to make trips to remote barrios (rural communities) in Central and Northern Luzon. Winning the confidence of the people and making careful notes of their unrecorded forms of celebration, ritual and sport, she then applied and tested her research in historical pageants presented at University carnivals. Awarded a Master of Arts degree from the U.P. in 1926, her thesis became a published collection entitled Philippine Folk Dances and Games, arranged specifically for use by teachers and playground instructors in public and private schools.
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