Abdul Asia Imao (+) was the only Muslim to be honored as National Artist. Named National Artist for Sculpture in 2006, the citation states: "As a Muslim Filipino artist immersed in the rich and colorful tradition of the Muslim south, Imao's adaptations of the indigenous forms into modern art idioms have infused contemporary Philippine art and culture with uniqueness, authenticity and genuineness of expression. Through his works, the indigenous ukkil, sarimanok and naga motifs have been popularized and instilled in the consciousness of the Filipino nation and other people as original Filipino creations.
A native of Sulu, he obtained his Bachelor of Fine Arts in Sculpture from the University of the Philippines. He was mentored by Filipino masters Guillermo Tolentino and Napoleon Abueva. He earned his Master of Fine Arts in Sculpture from the University of Kansas as a scholar.
Imao helped indigenous communities develop their art in all aspects of the brass-making process. He has assisted these groups build inexpensive foundry systems which are made of materials from the immediate environment and thus gave greater viability to brassware both as a cultural and artistic heritage and as a livelihood activity.