He mentors young artists, composes and plays music that touches the soul of Filipinos, and has been a "moving force" in the Philippine music industry.
Still, Raymundo Pujante Cayabyab, popularly know as Ryan Cayabyab, was surprised when he was chosen as one of this year's recipients of the Ramon Magsaysay Award
, known as "Asia's Nobel Prize."
"What am I doing here?" he asked himself while seated beside the other recipients.
Cayabyab, named the Philippines' National Artist for Music in 2018, is one of the country's top composers, a "maestro," but he said he "felt too small" compared to the other Magsaysay laureates.
"It was so overwhelming to be with these people who had sacrificed a lot of their lives ... while I have had fun," he told ucanews.com.
He said his life has always been "joyous" without, it seems, any sacrifice. "For a long, long time, I was always asking why. I just did the stuff that I like to do," he said.
It was precisely his positive disposition and love for fun that made him one of this year's winners.
"[They told me] it was because of the joy that I bring through my music and the way I have been serving and mentoring young Filipino musicians," Cayabyab said.
His life journey has, however, not been without any challenges. Somebody in the family initially disapproved of him joining the music industry. Then there's the usual financial difficulties encountered by most Filipino families.
Still, Cayabyab said he felt like he never had it hard.
"We had quite a challenged life, but I didn’t suffer through it because no one was complaining," he said. "God has given you this, or has provided you with this, you cry because of that, but you accept it. That’s why I do not suffer so much because I just say, ‘well, that’s life.’"
For his generosity in sharing his music, Cayabyab has also received a Pro Ecclesia Et Pontifice
award from the pope.
"I am just a medium. It’s God’s work passing through me, and I just write what’s being said to me," he said. "Everything is there, all I need to do is to be right there at the perfect time."
Philippine Vice President Maria Leonor Robredo said Cayabyab's melodies "instill hope, pride and unity in the nation’s soul, teaching every Filipino to dream of a better world."
The musician said "teaching can transform lives." He said he wants his students to discover their maximum potential. "I want them to become better than me," he said.
His passion to mentor, educate and contribute to the flourishing of Filipino musical talent did not escape the award panel.
He has served in the music faculty at the University of the Philippines
, runs a music studio with his wife, and has conducted free workshops for thousands of students across the country.
Honored in 2018 as a National Artist for Music, Cayabyab was praised for music that "extols the exuberance of life and human happiness, thus capturing the very essence of our Filipino soul."
"I want the new generation of songwriters to be better than our generation so that our music community can move forward," he said.
He also wants the Filipino people to appreciate music not just as a form of entertainment but also as a "living tradition."
Cayabyab grew up in a house filled with music. His mother was an opera singer and music teacher who took in students of music into their home.
The young Cayabyab started to write music in the late 1970s and made his mark when his song "How Beautiful is Our Music" won the grand prize in the first Metro Manila popular music festival.
The Ramon Magsaysay Award panel said Cayabyab was chosen because his compositions and performances "have defined and inspired Filipino popular music across generations."
His "indomitable, undeterred confidence to selflessly seek, mentor and promote young Filipino musical genius for the global stage" was among the reasons for his selection.
Watch Cayabyab being interviewed in this ucanews.com video: