Wednesday, September 23, 2015

*388. Our Lady of the Opera: FIDES CUYUGAN ASENSIO

KAPAMPANGAN DIVINE DIVA. Fides Cuyugan Asensio, the leading voice of Philippine Opera, traces her roots to the capital city of San Fernando, from where her father, Dr. Gervacio Santos-Cuyugan hails from.

In the field of musical opera, one Kapampangan who has done most for its appreciation and advancement is the acclaimed diva from San Fernando, Fides Cuyugan-Asensio (b. 1 August 1931). Asencio is considered as an institution in Philippine Opera for the last 5 decades, ranking as one of the most versatile performers in the country.

 Asencio was born to Dr. Gervacio Santos-Cuyugan of San Juan, San Fernando and Jacinta Belza. She took her elementary education at Philippine Women’s University in 1938, where she revealed her love for singing. When it was time to go to college, she stayed on at the Philippine Women’s University which had a good curriculum in Music.

With a diploma tucked under her belt, Fides applied and was accepted at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia U.S.A. in 1947—the first Filipina to be admitted to the prestigious music school—where she earned an Artist’s Diploma in Voice.

 When she returned to the Philippines, she took time to get married to Manuel “Jimmy” Asensio Jr. in 1954 with whom she had two children, Dennis (a doctor) and Manuel III. Then, she plunged headlong into musical opera, which had long had the reputation as an entertainment form reserved for the elite. Her rich, coloratura soprano voice was fitted to great classical roles, like Adele in “Die Fledermaus”and Lucia in “Lucia di Lammermoor”.

But in addition to that, Fides took on roles in Philippine-created operas that were adapted from historical works. Critics raved when she played the crazed woman “Sisa” in the opera, “Noli Me Tangere” based on Rizal’s opus. She left an indelible impression as Dña. Luisa vda. De Bustamante in “La Loba Negra” and Juana la Loca in the ethno-opera, “Lapu-Lapu”.

 To expand the portfolio of local operatic materials, Asencio, who was also a talented librettist-lyricist, took Nick Joaquin’s popular “May Day Eve”and transformed it into the opera “Mayo-Bisperas ng Liwanag”. One other noteworthy work was “Larawan at Kababaihan, Maskara ng Mukha”.

 She took her advocacy to television, by appearing in the well-received “Sunday Sweet Sunday (aired from 1969-74) where she sang arias, musical theater pieces and opera excerpts, together with husband Jimmy, himself, a known opera perfomer. As if TV and stage were not enough, she also appeared in such acclaimed movies as “Oro, Plata, Mata” (1982), directed by Peque Gallaga, "Aparisyon”(2012) and more recently, “Mana”(2014).

 Her great efforts and achievements were not lost on leading award-giving bodies of the Philippines. These singular distinctions include: 1989 Best of the Philippine Profile of Achievement as Performing Artist; 1990 and 1993 Asia Opera Award, and 1999 Aliw Awards Foundation’s Gawad Siglo ng Aliw Honorees. In 2005, she was the National People’s Choice for “Grand Achievement in Theater Arts”. She was honored by her proud city by naming her as one of the Outstanding Fernandinos in the field of Arts. This was capped by a Lifetime Achievement Award bestowed by Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on 7 July 2005.

 Fides Cuyugan Asensio has not rested on her laurels and continues to be a leading voice in local opera. After founding The Music Theater Foundation of the Philippines in 1986, she moved on to music education and is currently a Professior Emeritus of the U.P. Voice and Music, Theater/Dance Dept. and the Fides Cuyugan Asensio Institute of Music and Arts. Her rich, crystalline voice can be heard on the seminal CD of Kapampangan songs, “Pamalsinta Keng Milabas”, singing the classic favorite “Atin Cu Pung Singsing”, a tribute to her roots that she has not forgotten even after years of performing on the world stage.


JM Lee said...

I didn't realize Dennis became a doctor. In the mid to late 1970s, when I used to live in the Philippines, I was writing TV dramas for Channel 2. Dennis Asencio guested in Alindog (Alam Moreno's TV show) and Ulila (Rosa Roal's TV show) of which I was the writer for both. The guy surprised me, indeed. Despite not having any training in acting, he was rather fine in the acting department.

alex r. castro said...

Well, I didn't know he could act!! I knew he moonlit as an advertising model. Oh, I used to write for Tessie Tomas when she was in 'Champoy'.

Gilbert Manasan said...

Mrs. Asensio has a song in Spotify! She recorded a jingle for Sunta: