Artistic Legacy: Philippine Theatre Legend and Former Second Lady Celia Diaz Laurel Passes Away at 93 - Arts & Culture

Not long after her second autobiography’s release, the veteran stage actress passed last Monday.

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Performing arts veteran and stage actress Celia Diaz Laurel died on Monday, July 12, due to a stroke complication. On a Facebook post the following day, her family announced her death, “our star is home where she rightfully belongs.”

Diaz Laurel’s passing comes almost two months after the launch of her second autobiography, My Life Behind the Proscenium. In the book released last May 29, which was also her 93rd birthday, the post-graduate Yale University alumna chronicled nearly nine decades of her passion for the arts.

Colorful life

“[To] become a painter, one needs a medium such as charcoal, pastels, watercolor, oils, or acrylic. Armed with an instrument such as a brush, a palette knife, or even your fingers to apply the medium on any surface you choose, you are free to paint anywhere you please–indoors or outdoors,” wrote Diaz-Laurel in the chronicle. 

“But to become an actor, one needs a good script, a director, actors to work with, a producer, a stage, lights, and most all—an audience.” It was in Diaz Laurel’s first coffee table book, The Colors of My Life, where she shared more on painting, another passion of hers. Illuminating through anecdotes on her early childhood in Talisay, Negros Occidental, she shared how her interest in drawing and painting sparked.

Diaz Laurel studied Fine Arts at the University of the Philippines and trained under local art masters Fernando Amorsolo and Guillermo Tolentino. At the same time, she was discovered by playwright Wilfrido Ma. Guerrero as her theatre career began. 

During her UP days, she met her husband, Salvador “Doy” Laurel, who would become the Philippine vice president under Cory Aquino from 1986 to 1992. With her involvement in public service, Diaz Laurel is recognized for her humanitarian work, which garnered her a Woman of Peace award.

On and off-stage

In the course of her professional acting career under Repertory Philippines, Diaz Laurel portrayed over 50 roles on stage. From The Sound of Music to The King and I, the mother of eight became one of the most recognizable names in theater. 

To pursue other creative endeavors off-stage utilizing her fine arts degree, she designed production sets and costumes. In total, Diaz Laurel created nearly 80 notable Repertory plays, including Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “South Pacific” and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Evita.”

With that, the 2016 Philstage Gawad Buhay Awards recognized her consistent and multidisciplinary achievements on and off the stage with a “Natatanging Gawad Buhay for Lifetime Achievement Award.” 

While she lived a life fueled by her passions, Diaz Laurel is remembered by her family as a giving, loving, nurturing, and kind woman. Her granddaughter, Nicole Laurel Asensio described her as “a true woman of our Lord” in a Facebook post

Asensio continued her post with gratitude for her grandmother, “thank you, Lord, for allowing us time with our Lola, for allowing us to see her the last few days and make the most of her soft embrace. Your heart forever lives on in all of us who love you very much. See you again one day.”

Banner photo from @fjlaurel on Instragram.

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