FFE Magazine

Vatican presents PH musician highest lay Honour

By FFE PH News Staff

Ryan Cayabyab

Ryan Cayabyab


Acclaimed Filipino pianist, composer and conductor Ryan Cayabyab has won many awards for his many contributions to the Philippine music, arts and films. But he still has room for one prestigious recognition awarded by no less than the principal authority of the Roman Catholic church.

Pope Francis and the Vatican has just acknowledged Cayabyab’s contributions to the field of ecclesiastical compositions and has awarded him with the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice medal, the highest honour the Vatican can give to the laity.

Archbishop Soc Villegas, head of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, was the one who broke the news to the composer. The archbishop, who was Cayabyab’s frequent collaborator, was also the one who nominated him for the honour. The Vatican has to undergo extensive research and verification before granting the award to a church follower.


Cayabyab is happy about the unexpected honour. Although he is known for his non-secular compositions, his sacred compositions also cover a great body of work. Some of the works he has made include the 1975 ‘Eclesiastes’ for choir and piano, ‘Misa’ for an unaccompanied choir and a Latin mass he made as an undergraduate thesis in 1983 at UP’s College of Music.

Cayabyab also authored a youth mass for Pope John Paul II in 2005 and set many prayers, psalms and biblical verses into music. He penned religion-themed musicals like ‘Magnificat,’ ‘Birhen ng Caysasay,’ and ‘Lorenzo.’

Archbishop Soc provided words for other Cayabyab pieces like ‘I Believe in Peace,’ ‘The Prophet,’ ‘Asin ng Pamayanan,’ ‘Live Christ, Share Christ,’ and ‘Icthus’ in ‘St John’s Mass.’ Cayabyab also composed the Te Deum when the archbishop was elected as auxiliary bishop of Manila in 2001.

Cayabyab also received a landmark recognition when he won Silver Prize in a competition that is considered the ‘Olympics for the Arts’: Greece’s Onassis Cultural Competitions 2001. His religious oeuvre, ‘Misa 2000,’ beat the works of some of the best composers around the world.

The composer confesses that some of his greatest influences in spirituality are his sisters Barbara and Melody. Their work with Opus Dei left a deep impression on him, he said. His spiritual expressiveness in music was honed by his singing and composing for the UP Chapel of the Holy Sacrifice choir, UP Concert Chorus, the Madrigal Singers and the Edsa Shrine Choir.

He reflects that, though he is nearly 60 and has achieved much in the realm of Philippine music, he still has a long way to go when it comes to artistic maturation.

Cayabyab will receive the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice medal at the Archbishop’s Palace on 21 December.



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