Behind the Music: 'Tuliro' by Celeste Legaspi

Leah C. Salterio

Posted at Apr 24 2021 11:53 AM

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Celeste Legaspi may have scored massive successes in the local entertainment scene – on the concert stage, in recording, theater, TV, and films. However, did you know that her first album was, admittedly, a “flop?”

“Translations, Volume 1 of Rolando Tinio” recorded and released in 1975, was based on Legaspi’s first solo concert, featuring Tinio’s translations of pop songs.

“Although perhaps today, that album may be considered a collectors’ item,” Legaspi told ABS-CBN News. “Those who heard the recording loved it. The general public couldn’t care less.”

Hence, when Legaspi embarked on her sophomore outing, the 11-track long-playing album “Ako at si Celeste,” under Blackgold Records, she didn’t put her hopes too high.

“I was seven months pregnant when we started work on the album,” Legaspi recalled. “I wasn’t expecting anything.”

It came as a complete surprise to her when the OPM ditty, “Saranggola ni Pepe,” was discovered by DJs and became a hit. 

“Then, ‘Gaano Ko Ikaw Kamahal’ seemed to have a life of its own and also became a hit,” Legaspi continued. “When I thought ‘Ako at si Celeste’ was done, suddenly, ‘Tuliro’ was a hit, too.”

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She was invited to perform at De La Salle University and to her complete surprise, the students were crooning “Tuliro” at that time.

“They were noisily swooning to the song,” Legaspi beamed.

“Tuliro” became a much-requested and popular song on the radio and even in all of Legaspi’s performances then and now. The Tagalog ballad is something that will always be attached and identified to her.

With words and music by her better Nonoy Gallardo, “Tuliro” is undoubtedly a very personal piece for Legaspi. 

“Nonoy based it on how we felt when we realized we liked each other,” she disclosed. “He wrote it early on . . . early '70s . . . but it was only featured in my second solo TV special, ‘Iba’t Ibang Celeste’ around 1975 or 1976, for which Willy Cruz wrote the arrangement

“Then, I was able to include it in ‘Ako at si Celeste’ in 1977. We used the same arrangement of Willy with some improvements. Nonoy says he is very flattered that his melody is considered to be Willy’s. Willy was a master composer of such beautiful and sublime songs.”

The year 1977 was, no doubt, considered a banner year for Legaspi for her recording success for “Tuliro” and “Saranggola ni Pepe.” The album, “Ako at si Celeste,” was also certified with gold and platinum record awards.

“Those years were magical years,” Legaspi mused. “With a lot of firsts. First hit, a second hit, all organic. None was pushed by the recording company.

“1977 was also the year when I was recognized in the music industry as a performer and it was such an exciting time. Our family also enlarged in 1976 and 1977, with the births of our daughters.”

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“Tuliro” became one of the well-loved and best-selling ballads that kicked off Legaspi’s successful singing career. “I always thought Nonoy’s lyrics are so special,” Legaspi said, assessing the popularity of “Tuliro.”

“Then, his melody touches the heart. Together, these demand for you to listen and understand what it’s about. I also think because ‘Tuliro’ is based on actual happenings and true emotions felt, it always rang true and urgent. And that’s why the listener responds and continues to respond despite its age.”
Through the years, “Tuliro” had other versions by other local artists, like Daniel Padilla. Legaspi has not heard Padilla’s version yet, but she is nonetheless flattered, as when other artists also record her popular songs.

“Tuliro” eventually became one of her signature songs and among her biggest hits. “Tuliro,” as well as “Saranggola ni Pepe” are Legaspi’s personal favorites among the ones that she has recorded.

“Both are kind’a difficult, so they’re challenging,” she said. “I also enjoy my recordings of ‘Koleksyon,’ kundimans in a piano and voice format. That also didn’t succeed when it was first released, but has seemingly been rediscovered lately.”

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While this pandemic has yet to dissipate, Legaspi is definitely not keeping her music to the sidelines even after more than four decades in the business. 

“I’m working now on recording songs I have done before,” she offered. “This time in interesting collaborations, produced by my son Miguel Gallardo. It’s like looking again at the side B of my recordings. It’s challenging and new.

“With this pandemic, I’m giving myself several years of work before this project will be accomplished.” 

Still, she remains upbeat with other things she intends to accomplish. “We are also working on turning our original Filipino musical on Jose Rizal into an animated film, with libretto and music by Nonoy,” she disclosed.

Music remains an integral part of Legaspi’s life then and until now. She has other important things lined up on her musical roster of things to fulfill and she wants to eventually see them done.

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