In April 1992, the Gawad sa Manlilikha ng Bayan or the National Living Treasures Award was institutionalized through Republic Act No. 7355. Tasked with the administration and implementation of the Award is the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), the highest policy-making and coordinating body for culture and the arts of the State. The NCCA, through the Gawad sa Manlilikha ng Bayan Committee and an Ad Hoc Panel of Experts, conducts the search for the finest traditional artists of the land, adopts a program that will ensure the transfer of their skills to others and undertakes measures to promote a genuine appreciation of and instill pride among our people about the genius of the Manlilikha ng Bayan.
First awarded in 1993 to three outstanding artists in music and poetry, the Gawad sa Manlilikha ng Bayan has its roots in the 1988 National Folk Artists Award organized by the Rotary Club of Makati-Ayala. As a group, these folk and traditional artists reflect the diverse heritage and cultural traditions that transcend their beginnings to become part of our national character. As Filipinos, they bring age-old customs, crafts and ways of living to the attention and appreciation of Filipino life. They provide us with a vision of ourselves and of our nation, a vision we might be able to realize someday, once we are given the opportunity to be true to ourselves as these artists have remained truthful to their art.
As envisioned under R.A. 7355, “Manlilikha ng Bayan” shall mean a citizen engaged in any traditional art uniquely Filipino whose distinctive skills have reached such a high level of technical and artistic excellence and have been passed on to and widely practiced by the present generation in his/her community with the same degree of technical and artistic competence.