A LITTLE more than a month after launching a book on her life in the theater, actress, singer, and painter Celia Diaz Laurel passed away on July 12, 8:30 p.m. She was 93 years old.
Celia Diaz Laurel was born on May 29, 1928 in Talisay, Negros Occidental. In a career spanning six decades, Ms. Diaz Laurel was known as a versatile stage actress, painter, set and costume designer, and writer.
She began acting during her elementary years in Assumption in Manila. She studied Fine Arts at the University of the Philippines where she was mentored by National Artists for Visual Arts Fernando Amorsolo and Guillermo Tolentino.
Her first major role was at the age of 19 when Russian-American director Sonia Rifkin tapped her to play Adela in The House of Bernarda Alba by Spanish dramatist Federico Garcia Lorca.
She went on to pursue a Masters in fine arts at Yale University, joining her husband Salvador “Doy” Laurel (who was later to become Vice-President of the Philippines) who was working on his master’s degree in Law at the same university at that time. Ms. Diaz Laurel later detoured to the Yale School of Drama following an impressive interview conducted by a school official.
She joined Repertory Philippines in 1968, where she did nearly 60 plays and worked as an actress starring in The Sound of Music, My Fair Lady, and The King and I; as set designer in Evita, Sweeney Todd; and costume designer for Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Coat, Camelot, and Pippin. Forty-seven of the plays she worked on were directed by Rep founder Zeneida “Bibot” Amador.
In 2016, she was the recipient of Philstage’s Natatanging Gawad Buhay for Theater.
In a Facebook post, her granddaughter, singer Nicole Laurel wrote: “…Life with you, Lola is beautiful simply because you are in it, your smile, laughter, beauty, kindness, wisdom, love for the arts, love for life, grace and warm embrace are like no other. Thank you for teaching us, nurturing us and loving us… you are the most giving and forgiving person I have ever been blessed to know. Our love for the arts is all because of you…”
In celebration of her 93rd birthday on May 29, Ms. Diaz Laurel launched My Lives Behind the Proscenium, a book dedicated to the people who she considered as having contributed to her growth as a person and as an artist.
She is survived by her children Suzie, Lynnie, Cocoy, David, Larry, and Iwi. — MAPS