Celeste Legaspi back in spotlight with Mother’s Day concert, ‘Ang Larawan’ tour

Celeste Legaspi in her recent Mother's Day concert at the Shangri-La Plaza mall. (Photo credit: Shangri-La Plaza)

Celeste Legaspi is again enjoying a career renaissance.

Following a well-received solo concert at The Theatre at Solaire Resort & Casino last year and the critical and commercial success of “Ang Larawan” at the Metro Manila Film Festival, the 68-year old Original Pilipino Music icon continues to make headlines.

“Ang Larawan,” the big screen version of the stage musical adaptation of Nick Joaquin’s “Portrait of the Artist as Filipino” that Celeste co-produced continues to tour schools and the international festival circuit. The film has just received a very warm reception at the 20th Far East Film Festival in Udine, Italy.

Celeste, who was in Udine to represent Team Larawan along with director Loy Arcenas, fellow executive producers Girlie Rodis and Rachel Alejandro, line producer Alemberg Ang, and musical director Ryan Cayabyab, is thrilled to have made “new friends in the film world.”

“It was a wonderful memorable time. The screen was huge and clear. The sound system was the best we’ve ever heard. ‘Ang Larawan’ was presented to the Italian public in the most excellent fashion. And their long extended warm applause was awesome,” Celeste exclaimed in a recent interview with Concept News Central.

“With every festival we participate, we ‘Larawan’ producers learn a lot more and appreciate the international film community. Slowly we are given opportunities to showing other aspects of our unique culture. We are so looking forward to more exposures like this.”

With 'Ang Larawan' co-star and co-producer Rachel Alejandro in Udine, Italy.
With ‘Ang Larawan’ co-star and co-producer Rachel Alejandro in Udine, Italy.

Celeste, who like Rachel was also in the film’s cast, also admitted that she got teary-eyed when she saw the scenes of fellow actor Bernardo Bernardo who passed away early this year.

“Seeing Bernardo Bernardo vividly in the film was poignant and emotional. The last time I saw him was December of 2017. We will always miss and be grateful for Bernardo,” she mused.

The warm reception to “Ang Larawan” at Udine extended beyond its screening.

“While walking on the streets of Udine we would be complimented by those who had seen Larawan. Producers and directors and festival managers came to us raving about the music, the performances, the message of the film. How the film affected them. We have been invited to show ‘Ang Larawan’ in Rome and Brussels.”

Outside of “Ang Larawan,” Celeste has not totally forgotten that she is still a singer and a performer, and a very much in demand at that.

So when Shangri-La Plaza asked her to headline a special Mother’s Day concert at the upscale mall, she just could not say no.

“Shangri-La Plaza had long requested me to perform there. It is a great mall with a history of presenting wonderful music. And also because I was given the rare chance to perform with the ABS-CBN Philharmonic Orchestra as conducted by Ryan Cayabyab. [I remember] the last time I watched the ABS-CBN Orchestra as conducted by Ryan’s son, Toma [accompanying] Basil Valdez. It was magical,” she shared.

For the Shangri-La concert, Celeste used the same orchestral arrangements by Cayabyab from her 1985 solo concert, ‘Celeste Tunog PPO.’

“These were all vintage OPM Songs or songs translated for me by Rolando Tinio. Each arrangement is a true gem.”

As Celeste has also several OPM hits to her name including “Ako’y Bakyang Bakya,” Tinio’s Tagalog adaptation of the popular showtune, “The Lady is a Tramp” and “Mamang Sorbitero,” also a Tagalog adaptation of Jose Mari Chan’s “Mr. Songwriter,” they were also included in her well-received set list.

The audience’s response to her performance of one particular song left a lasting impression on her.

“It was so sweet that they knew the lyrics of ‘Minsan ang Minahal Ay Ako. It was from, ‘Katy,’ our 1987 first original Filipino musical production staged in the Rizal Theater and it kinda found a life of its own. What’s even more amazing is that people everywhere respond so profoundly to it! Truly a blessing,” she noted.

Although Celeste personally decided on choosing the songs she performed for the show, she admitted that she was not in her best singing form as she was “still recovering from very bad allergies from springtime in Italy.”

Drastic cuts had to be made during the show and a song from “Ang Larawan” had to be edited also because time was running short. Despite the last minute creative decisions, Celeste was still very pleased with how everything turned out.

“It has been 31 years since those priceless arrangements have been played, they were gorgeous and the ABS- CBN Philharmonic orchestra played them magnificently,” she enthused.

With the success of her recent concert and the ongoing acclaim that “Ang Larawan” continues to enjoy, it’s no surprise that Celeste Legaspi is on a creative high and is involved with several projects already in the pipeline.

“Right now I am working on an indie film for Cinemalaya called ‘Mga Bisita ni Mamang’ written and directed by Mario O’ Hara ‘s niece Denise O’Hara. When I was very young, I worked with Mario O’ Hara when I first met and worked with Lino Brocka. Mario was a delight to work with and it’s marvelous that I can work with a member of his family,” she revealed.

“We are [also] working on a film with music and young people. We are very much in its initial creation process so there’s nothing substantial to talk about yet.”