Excellence in Music Awardee: Sylvia La Torre

Citation by Ruben Nepales

Before there was Beyoncé, before there was Madonna, and even way before Barbra Streisand…

We had Sylvia La Torre.

Our beloved Queen of Kundiman pioneered and conquered them all — the stage, radio, television, recording, and film. She is the first Pilipina talent to enjoy a very successful career in all those major entertainment fields in the Philippines.

Just imagine in 1938, when Sylvia was only five years old, she entered singing competition and won.

At age nine, Sylvia made her debut on the Manila Grand Opera House stage, performing in vaudeville show not one, not two, but three times a day.

Close your eyes and picture Sylvia performing with other legendary musicians, like Katy de la Cruz and Bayani Casimiro.

Sylvia, a scholar at the Conservatory of Music of my alma mater, University of Santo Tomas, began appearing on records in the 1950s. She recorded over 300 songs, including “Sa Kabukiran” and “Waray Waray.” And more — beautiful kundiman like “Bituing Marikit,” “Mutya ng Pasig” and “Nasaan Ka, Irog,” just to name a few.

In the 1950s and 1960s, Sylvia successfully branched out into radio and television, capping her conquest of all five entertainment fields in Manila. We loved her in the TV show, “Oras ng Ligaya.” Her domination of TV earned her the title, the First Lady of Philippine Television.

So we at FASO were flattered when we heard that Sylvia had been impressed when she watched a FASO concert for the first time, under the baton of our maestro, Robert, or Bob, Shroder. We got even more excited when Sylvia agreed to perform with FASO for the first time.

Needless to say, at that concert in August last year, Sylvia brought the house down, and drew a standing ovation. Sylvia was especially proud and glad that she got to perform with her talented granddaughter, Anna Maria Perez de Tagle.

Next year, Sylvia will celebrate a special milestone. She will mark her outstanding 80th anniversary in show business. That’s Eight-Zero, my friends!

When FASO announced that Sylvia will be one of our two Excellence in Music Awardees, a friend of mine commented that Sylvia should be declared a National Artist of the Philippines. That recognition is long overdue.

But to me, Sylvia is already our National Artist and treasure in our hearts and minds. Ladies and gentlemen, may I present to you, our Excellence in Music Awardee, Sylvia La Torre.

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