Queen of Kundiman Sylvia La Torre passes away

Mario Dumaual, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 02 2022 09:08 AM | Updated as of Dec 03 2022 08:31 AM

MANILA -- (UPDATED) Sylvia la Torre, beloved Queen of Kundiman and veteran actress, has passed on, leaving behind a rich legacy in Philippine music and recording as well as unforgettable appearances in movie and television in the last seven decades. 

Her granddaughter, singer-actress Anna Maria Perez de Tagle, announced her passing on social media. 

“RIP to my grandmother, Ms. Sylvia La Torre Perez de Tagle. First Lady of Philippine Television, Queen of Kundiman and Tandang Sora Awardee, devoted wife of Dr. Celso Perez de Tagle, loving mother, grandmother and great-grandmother, caring auntie, and affectionate friend, died peacefully in her sleep on December 1st at 7:02 am. At the time of her death, she was with her husband, of 68 years and her children, Artie, Bernie and Che-Che, “ she wrote. 

Sylvia La Torre seating with Gloria Sevilla , Susan Roces, Lilia Dizon and other members of Balik Samahan Group. Photo from Pempe Rodrigo
Sylvia La Torre seating with Gloria Sevilla , Susan Roces, Lilia Dizon and other members of Balik Samahan Group. Photo from Baby K. Jimenez

Balik Samahan, the Manila-based organization of veteran artists, also mourned the death of Torre. 

“Nakakalungkot,” Pempe Rodrigo told ABS-CBN News, citing the passing on this year of their colleagues Susan Roces, Gloria Sevilla and earlier on Lilia Dizon, journalist Ricky Lo and other affiliated members of the group. 

“I knew her since we were very young. Napaka-natural niya at hindi plastik,“ Rodrigo said. “We would have a reunion every time andito siya sa Manila. Nakakalungkot, nabawasan na naman kami.” 

Seasoned entertainment writer and Torre family friend Baby K. Jimenez related to ABS-CBN News the last moments of the Kundiman queen: “Close friend ko her eldest daughter, Bernie. She told me on the eve of her death (that) all of them, lahat silang magkakapatid went to visit their mom and she was so happy seeing all of them. Yun pala the day after, she's going to die.”

Jimenez recalled the showbiz aura of the queen who was also a comedienne. “Conservative si Ibyang. When she was a movie star, bawal for her leading man to kiss or hug her. Hanggang holding hands lang!”

Best known for her crystal rendition of Manuel Velez and Levi Celerio’s 
 “Sa Kabukiran,” Torre started as a child singer on film in “Ang Maestra” in 1941 and went on to become an actress in several comedies in the 1950s. 

Torre recorded hundreds of Kundiman and Pinoy novelty songs including “Waray Waray,” “Mutya ng Pasig,” “No Money No Honey,” “Alembong,” “ Sa Libis ng Nayon,” “Kalesa,” “Peksman,” “No Touch, Filipino Kostum,” and others. 

She became a household name in the 1960s in the long-running ABS-CBN early evening variety show “Oras ng Ligaya” as well as other TV programs. 

She continued acting in film until the 1990s, appearing in “Jack n Jill” with Sharon Cuneta, “Ligaw Ligawan, Kasal Kasalan, Bahay Bahayan”, and “Biyudo si Mister, Biyudo si Mommy”. 

Torre continued her singing career when she and her family migrated to the United States, constantly advocating for the preservation and promotion of Philippine music. 

Her granddaughter, theater musical artist Anna Maria Maria Perez de Tagle, joined her in many stage appearances for Filipino-American communities. 

“My grandmother was my first inspiration when it came to singing and acting. She was my first vocal coach and taught me all of her kundimans," recalled Anna Maria.

"Thank you for passing on your love of music to me and I will surely continue your legacy. Gone too soon but always in our hearts. Your song has ended but your melody will linger on. Love you, Mama Cita. “ 

The Tagle family has yet to finalize memorial services for the kundiman icon. 

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