To be loved . . . by the King of Love Songs

by Cynthia de Castro/AJPress
“Balatkayo lahat ang buhay sa mundo Nakangiti kahit hindi totoo Magandang bulaklak ang s’yang katulad mo Nguni’t paglapit ko’y walang bango.”
The lines above are from the classic love song entitled Balatkayo composed by the Philippines’ King of Love Songs, Anthony Castelo . The song laments how his lover has turned out to be a phony. So, he grieves that most people live life pretending; putting on an act; faking love or happiness; being balatkayo.

Fortunately, the multi-awarded singer/composer is exactly the opposite of being a balatkayo. A truly accomplished international artist, Anthony is a genuinely caring and loving human being who has lived to make a difference in the world he lives in. Despite a long list of gold records, sold-out concerts and outstanding performances for world dignitaries like US President George W. Bush, Saudi King Fahd, Moroccan King Hassan II, Princess Margaret of England, Premier Suzuki of Japan, and Pope John Paul II, he has not been dazzled by show business. He has always had an innate charitable interest in others; looking for ways to extend help, show kindness and give support.

Born in the Philippines, Anthony has a unique Eurasian mix of Filipino and Portuguese/Spanish ancestry. He studied in Los Angeles and it was there, while in his teens that he began his music career, joining the world-famous choral group The Young Americans.

Later, while still a student at the University of the Philippines, Castelo joined the Gentle Rain—a group led by well-known songwriter/producer Nonong Pedero. The quartet, whose members included Boy Camara and Rody Picar, developed an amazing quick and faithful following among the collegians. Later, Anthony was discovered by famous recording producers and OPM pioneers Vic del Rosario, Tony Ocampo, Orly Ilacad and Tito Sotto. A marvelous singer and performer gifted with a soulful baritone or tenor voice, he instantly gained the respect of his audiences everywhere.

Anthony’s success as a solo artist has been nothing short of remarkable. His songs such as Hahanapin Ko, Panaginip, Ibig Kong Ibigin Ka, Nang Dahil sa Pag-Ibig, and numerous others quickly hit the charts and Castelo was dubbed as the “Philippines’ King of Love Songs.” He has earned numerous awards for his music; among them were the ALIW and CECIL Awards (the Philippines’ version of the Grammy Awards).

In addition to music, Anthony has also starred in several hit movies together with the Philippines’ finest actors such as Christopher De Leon, Dindo Fernando, Vilma Santos, and Lorna Tolentino. His 1982 Movie of the Year Pakawalan Mo Ako, garnered him a nomination for the FAMAS (the Oscars of the Philippines).

While many would be contented with a successful career in the arts, Anthony did not rest on his laurels to give more contributions which are significant to the society. He had served as a councilor of Quezon City for which he received the BANTAYOG Award for the “Most Outstanding Quezon City Councilor” in 1999 and 2000 given by the Quezon City Press Club.

Several years ago, Castelo immigrated to the States, making his home in Los Angeles with his family. While continuing his career as a performer, Anthony also used his talent to help organizations such as the International Red Cross, the March of Dimes and other humanitarian institutions. In one occasion in Las Vegas, Anthony performed for the Sammy Davis Memorial Concert, which was held in honor of the late entertainer for the benefit of the March of Dimes Foundation.

After the 911 terrorists’ attack, Castelo composed the song, Long Live America, which he himself presented to President George W. Bush during his visit to the White House in 2002. The song soon became a best-selling hit and for this patriotic composition, the State of Maryland House of Delegates, the City of Los Angeles, and the San Diego, California Congressional District honored Castelo with special awards of artistic recognition.

“Through the years, our people have always been my inspiration in everything I do. It was through music that I’ve learned how to love God, our people and our country, and my role as a public servant is the articulation of that song of love,” Castelo said.

In 2004, through his established non-profit organization Long Live America Foundation, the singer helped secure for Engracia Gutierrez a humanitarian visa to come to the United States. Engracia is the sister and only living next-of-kin to US Lance Corporal Jose Gutierrez, an immigrant from Guatemala who died in Iraq. Likewise, with the help of city officials from Lomita and Carson, Castelo organized a 2004 Fourth of July event honoring Gutierrez and another immigrant soldier, Philippine-native US Marine Gunnery Sgt. Joseph Menusa, who gave the ultimate sacrifice for their adopted country.

All of Castelo’s philanthropy and help for the needy has recently earned him his most cherished award and recognition. Last April 2008, he received the prestigious “President’s Volunteer Service Award” during ceremonies at the Rose Bowl Stadium in Pasadena. The award was issued by the President’s Council on Service and Civic Participation, a committee formed by President George W. Bush in 2003 by Executive Order. It recognizes outstanding efforts of individuals and organizations towards their community and country.

“On behalf of Long Live America Foundation, it is a privilege for me to receive this recognition and I share this honor with all Filipinos around the globe,” he said. “Through the years, America has shared its blessings of freedom and prosperity with the nations of the world. As a thankful immigrant whose native Philippines has been liberated by the United States in World War II, it is truly an honor to be of service to this great country.”

Albert Einstein once said that “Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile.” Anthony Castelo has truly made his life worthwhile by making a difference in the lives of others. (www.asianjournal.com)

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