Filipino artists remember the legacy of the late theater icon Celia Diaz Laurel

Published July 14, 2021, 2:27 PM

by John Legaspi

A most luminous star

Celia Diaz Laurel (Photo from her Facebook page)

The Philippine art scene mourns the passing of Celia Diaz Laurel last July 12, 2021, due to stroke. Apart from being the wife of former Vice President of the Philippines, the late Salvador Laurel, Celia was known for her love for the arts as a thespian and actress.

To commemorate her legacy, Filipino artists expressed how the theater icon touched their hearts and strengthened their love and passion for the arts.

Tony award-winning actress Lea Salonga reminisced on the first time she worked with Celia both on stage and behind the curtains. “I first worked with her when I was Princess Ying Yawolak to her Lady Thiang in ‘The King and I’ in 1978. She was also the costume designer, and the pieces constructed of pink silk and gold thread she put me in made me feel like a princess,” Lea posted. “The first picture was when she played my mother in ‘The Bad Seed.’ I will never forget her kindness, and how her face could just light up a room. I’ll always remember the parties she threw in the backyard of the Shaw Blvd. home she shared with Tito Doy.”

Nicole Laurel, a singer and a songwriter, described her grandmother as her “inspiration” and “a true woman of the Lord. “Our brightest star now shines in heaven,” Nicole said. “Our love for the arts is all because of you, thank you for opening our hearts to the beautiful things God has created, thank you for teaching us how to act, sing, create… I will always remember the glimmering costumes and dried roses, the sound of your deep soothing voice as you would sing, your impeccable strokes as you would paint your beautiful face, the taste of your queso de bola dip, duck recipe, cakes and strawberry mousse… the way you made our home feel just like home simply because your love filled every space, the way you were an amazing listener but when you spoke, we all were changed… softened and cradled by your encouragement.”

Celia was known for her iconic portrayals. But for actor Franco Laurel, he will remember his Lola Celia in her best role—as a family woman. “The role I admire her the most was that of a wife to Papa Doy and mother to Tita Suzie, Tita Lynnie, Tito Cocoy, Tito David, Tito Larry, Tita Stella, Tito Kristipi, and Tita Iwi,” he said. “She was a loving grandmother to all her grandchildren and great grandchildren.”

The late artist’s legacy spans from her days at the University of the Philippines (UP) to various theatrical institutions in the country. Repertory Philippines’ artistic director Liesl Batucan shared a video of Celia with another stage icon Carmen “Baby” Barredo who passed away last May.

“A most luminous star and stalwart of Repertory Philippines, Tita Celia was a phenomenal actress who starred in [a] myriad REP productions. She was also an astounding production and costume designer whose astute eye for detail illuminated countless REP productions through the decades,” Liesl shared. “A thespian with a heart of gold and a great love for the arts, Tita Celia’s artistic light will continue to shine through her amazing children and grandchildren, and we join her entire family in honoring and celebrating a life so beautifully lived and etched into our memories forever. You are deeply loved, Tita Celia!”

Her life and legacy in the arts can be summed up by the lesson visual artist Francisco Antonio Laurel Sanz learned from his Lola Celia. “Thank you for always reminding me that an artist is never about the strokes, colors, and drawing but about touching the lives of other people through art,” he said.

According to Celia’s Facebook page, her remains were already cremated and returned to her home in Taguig. A virtual mass will be offered for her daily.

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