He has been awarded as a "National Artist for Literature and Music." But when you meet and talk with Levi Celerio, you easily come to see that for him, all of life is an art, and he has painted it well.
This Filipino was featured in the Guinness Book of World Records as "The Only Leaf Player in the World." Moreover, he appeared in the television programs, "That's Incredible and Believe it or Not."
I therefore felt fortunate for having been assigned by my editors (Nancy Reyes Lumen/ Mona Gonzalez) to interview this remarkable man. During the interview, which we held on a Friday night at Mario's Restaurant in Quezon City, Levi spoke of many things. Among them: pointers on diction, the proper use of certain words in grammar, his book which was in the process of being published, and Confucius. We personally believe that at 91 years of age, Levi is too young to quote the ancient master.
But Levi said, that Confucius says that one should choose a job one likes. That way, you will discover that you hadn't worked a day in your life, because your work had become your recreation.
He has written some 4,000-5000 songs and a number of them are among the most favored ditties (in Filipino). He has also written some popular songs sung by Filipino singers like the late Ric Segreto ("Kahit Konting Pagtingin"/ Even A little Tenderness).
Then out of the blue, he comments "I like the things that books cannot teach." And obviously, he likes entertaining, too. Imagine a meal with the music composed and performed by no less than our own National Artist? Surely, one's meal is digested well.
We were accompanied during our interview by two of Levi's sons, namely Edmund and Joey, and it was evident how they enjoyed one another's company. Joey is an artist/animator. Well, it runs in the family - the art and the passion. Suddenly, Joey whipped out some art paper and proceeded to draw Levi and me during the interview.
What does a National Artist eat? Levi says he eats vegetables, fruits and seafood. He also goes for sweets, but cautions that they are inappropriate for diabetics. And then, there are his favorites Filipino (lechon) and Chinese foods (patatim).
In just a few minutes, Joey's sketch was done. I ended the interview thanking him and gushing. I had never learned so much in one night, I said. He humbly replied, "These are my gifts from God, and I ought to share them with other people." Then he added, "I may forget the things I gave, but I hope to remember every little thing I received, no matter how small." See what I mean by art and life?
Levi Celerio died in 2002. May he rest with Jesus forever. Thank you Sir Levi, I will never forget you.
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