The Citizens Council for Mass Media (CCMM) honored him for best cinematography for A Portrait of the Artist as Filipino, 1965.
When not producing movies, they rent out their equipment to other filmmakers and conduct seminars and workshops for aspiring talents. His parents are Juan Abelardo, a scenic painter, and Cecilia Velayo, a designer of women’s costumes.
Aside from working in the movies as cinematographer and/or editor, Abaya also works as still photographer for commercial lay-outs and directs commercials for television. He studied at the University of the Philippines (UP) School of Fine Arts. Abelardo, brother to cinematographer Bayani Abelardo, and uncle to Ben Resella, art director of Sampaguita Pictures who later became a scenic artist in Hollywood.
His partners in this venture were his wife and two high school buddies, film assistant director Gregg de Guzman and sound director Amang Sanchez.
Their first movie production was Tanikala (Chain), 1980, a period film.
After learning all that he could about film in London, Abaya returned to the Philippines to set up the family’s own movie production outfit, Cine Filipinas, Inc.