A mixture of excitement and nervousness can be felt in the air as we prepare for the interview.
It was a night full of surprises as we set to meet the star. I heard from individuals in the community that she had always been an inspiration to many not only in the Philippines but also around the world.
As a young teenager, I had no idea what to expect out of the interview. In all honesty I was actually nervous and unwilling to do it due to my lack of knowledge about her. However, I was wrong to feel nervous because Dulce was a kind hearted person with great personality. It was a great pleasure meeting such a humble and down to earth artist.
I never heard her sing or perform live only in Youtube as I researched about her for the interview. After interviewing and meeting her in person, eagerness and enthusiasm made me want to watch her live in concert and to witness, prove her powerful voice as to what individuals said about her. Finally, I was given the opportunity to watch her live in Glendenning which she was able to indulge her audience not only with her strong powerful voice but also with her extraordinary life story that made her the person we now know. The struggles that she encountered made her a stronger person and enabled her to gain courage in conquering each obstacle. Her voice was so divine that I was in awe and mesmerize by it. An exquisite tone and quality of voice she gave me goose bumps as I was listening to her.
The opportunity of interviewing Ms Maria Teresa Magdalena Abellare Llamedo Cruzata well-known as Dulce Amor by her avid fans was an exciting venture as she gives insights about her personal life and how she became Dulce Amor. She was born on the 22nd of July 1961. A mother of 5 beautiful children with a loving husband supporting her singing career throughout the years.
Dulce Amor is a Filipino artist who was introduced in the industry as a singer of original Filipino music. She interprets songs from great composers from the Philippines. Visayan classics like Cebuano songs were her genre. However, Broadway musicals have always caught her attention as she delivers the message the music is trying to convey to the audience.
When she sang the theme song of the launching movie of Lorna Tolentino, a famous actress in 1978 she was discovered.
“Lorna was a child star, she was 15 when she was launched as an adult star. I sang the theme song of Dulce Amor Ina, but in that movie my name was still Maritess Llamedo,” Dulce said.
“However, producers and recording companies thought that Maritess Llamedo doesn’t have a place in the music industry as there are other artists present at the time that had the same name such as ‘Maria Theresa, a recording artist; Theresa Carpio, a Filipina who made it big in Hong Kong; and Maritess Temples, who was a child singer so they were thinking that I have a name, so composer George Canseco who discovered me singing, the theme song of the movie of Lorna, along with the producer of the film Jessie Ejercito, the brother of the former President Erap Estrada gave me the name Dulce,’ Dulce said
She started joining the music industry through amateur singing contests in her province, Cebu. “The parents play guitar, in those Sari Sari Store there’s guitarists then you just wanna sing with them,” Dulce recollected.
At the age of 2, she was able to join the amateur singing contest. Dulce explains, “I insisted on joining the amateur singing contest although they did not want to accept me. That time I could not understand why they did not want me. Of course, I didn’t consider the “age”, I just wanted to sing. S o anyway, because I was so “makulit” (so persistent), they allowed me to sing and without me knowing that I wasn’t really part of the contest proper. (So) they just let me sing, and then they gave me 45 centavos, so that was my first income my first talent fee. From that time, I know I was just singing continually and then in school I would always insist to be part of the program though I’m not supposed to be part of the program but I always just volunteer.”
Joining various competitions ranging from barrio fiestas to radio competitions gave her the exposure and made her gain confidence in singing. At the age of 12, she was singing in cocktail lounges until she insisted to go to Manila from Cebu and explore the opportunities ahead of her. In Manila, she joined Tawag Ng Tanghalan, a national singing contest in Philippines and she was able to win the grand prize however wasn’t able to get into championship. Nevertheless, a talent scout brought her to night club and at the age of 13, she started singing there.
At the age of 16 Dulce had her first break with Dulce Amor when she got discovered by George Canseco wherein she gained her name Dulce Amor. After this, she sang “Ako Ang Nagwagi”, which was her signature song during the big music festival the Metro Pop in 1979. She was able to fascinate the audience with her magnificent voice resulting for her to represent Philippines for an international contest, taking home the grand prize.
At a young age, Dulce did not consider singing as a form of art rather a means of income for her to help her family financially. Being part of a family who loves music, it influenced Dulce with her singing.
“I just sang that’s it, and when I joined the contest, whenever I win though, I didn’t get money, I didn’t get cash. I got food. They paid us like pancit, patis.. I got something from this…something that really helped my family because I couldn’t go to school, they couldn’t afford to send me to high school, so after grade school that’s it,” Dulce said.
It was a challenge upon entering the music industry as a Visayan singer. She experienced discrimination.
“Being a Visayan during the time when I entered the industry, I experienced discrimination and that’s why it seemed like no one from the place I came from really able to make it big..I wanted to make that breakthrough so I pursued and maybe that kept me occupied also because of that feeling that you have a tag you’re being a ‘okay you’re only for this kind of group of people’. It’s not that I don’t like it, it’s just that, maybe there are other people out there who will accept me,” Dulce recalled.
Hence, it is not easy to enter in the mainstream especially when individuals don’t want to make you feel welcome. Dulce was a strong person to be able to conquer these challenges in her life as she aspire for her dream.
“For me, to be able to breakthrough, to be able to make a name in Manila in the mainstream, I think that is quite an achievement because it was something more than just a singer and an artist but as a person that they accepted me that I found out and realized that people can really accept you just be who you are just be honest and sincere with your dealings and it’s possible it can happen and I’m thankful for that.’ Dulce said when asked about what her greatest achievement since she first started in the music industry.
What did you feel during your very first concert?
First few times I was actually so nervous it’s the feeling that you don’t want to do, you’re torn between, will they accept me? Or will I do good? You know those fears they really happen after all these years I’m old already I have come to realize also that you have the talent, the talent is being given to you. You don’t own it I always say this, God gave the talent to you. You ought to make good use of it when I came to understand the purpose through the songs that I sing I am able to touch people or send a message across, you know that’s why I only choose the songs that I sing. And if through that song you’re able to make a person feel better or make them see something better in life. I am not anymore afraid or nervous. All my performance I am excited because I know I will be able give some that will make them feel good and feel better.
What can people expect from a concert?
At first, I thought every time you’re doing a performance you always have to have new songs but it is not so, I used to try with that set up but I realized that people who follow you, they just want to hear you with the songs that you sing, that song that you became popular with and the songs that they used to hear from you before. When I came to Australia this time, there were songs that weren’t in the repertoire anymore and they were asking me to so I have to study them again. They have good memories. They want to have that same feeling again. It’s not the same songs all the way. I don’t think it fits me, singing the younger songs. I have some pop songs. Even young people who hear my songs, most of them appreciate it too. I believe that if a song has a message that can really touch the heart because that’s the most important thing with communicating. If I sing this song there’s a person out there that will feel better about living, about themselves.
Who is the composer you are more likely to sing their songs?
The one who really discovered me, George Canseco composed a lot of songs. The recording artists of my generation mostly took off with the ones he composed and because I started with him and he was like, we spent more time than all the other composers but there’s so many other composers even if I don’t know them personally they have songs that I really want to sing. Maybe I don’t really have a favorite, if it’s a good song then I’ll sing it.
Do you have other plans besides singing?
Plans there are many. I have a ministry. I’m a Christian and I share a lot about the bible, about the gospel. It’s really inevitable for me that wherever I go it’s not just about singing and performing. Like for example here I get to talk to people it really goes to that part asking questions and giving them answers I don’t know everything but because you’ve been through life and there are some things that you went through that you have overcome that can also inspire other people. In the Philippines that occupies my time aside from my children. Other than the home it’s the church or the ministry I have to go to. I visit Mercy Ministries, when I sell my cd albums in concerts it goes to Pilipinas Bansang Pinagpala and its just us, my husband who started it, we helped one of my co-singers she was very famous, but she got very sick she needs help that’s why I want to have more funds for this ministry. Also, in our church we have this feeding ministry it’s not really under our church but it is acknowledged by my church so that I can reach out more. I visit correctional, that’s part of the ministry, the funds I gather however little I give it to the ministry.
If you had a chance in having another career, what would it be?
If I had been schooled I thought I was going to be an architect but it was just one of those dreams but it’s so far away but I never got to high school that time it was impossible. My children they’re good children they know that’s my dream. With me I’m okay, because I’m able to use the talent the Lord has given me.
Do you regret upon entering the industry in such a young age?
I used to think I used to have questions. Why did it happen to me? Why were we poor? Why are we this and that? But at this age you come to terms with life and I just came to understand that everything happens for a purpose. The fact that I was brought to Manila from a very far away barrio province without education and I was brought there from the fields I used to plant corn and cassava and mani (peanuts) and kamote. But then I said why all of a sudden I’m in Manila? So for me, that was a great leap you know, some people think it’s nothing but for me it’s a big thing because I couldn’t have gone there if it was not really part of the plan of God’s plan. I auditioned in Ms Saigon before I was asked to audition I did not feel bad not making it there because for me being already there in Manila having a career, it’s really good and I come to realize that if it’s not meant to be it is not then I don’t feel about it. I just understand that I’m not fit for the role. Later on in life I also came to terms in life where are you really assigned to be? I am to be in the Philippines I get offers to perform abroad but there is something you have to do in the Philippines.
What advice can you give to young aspiring singers?
People tend to compare. There are so many singers. Actually I’m proud to say that in the Philippines. We really have well the group of Ms Saigon called the Philippines, a gold mine of talents. We really have a wonderful spring of talents it’s just that later on with the karaoke and videoke it came so easy for everyone. I really suggest or advise that you go more into what you have these tools are good because it’s so available but listen to yourself because the tendency is for the talent to mimic what the sound is of the particular artist they’re listening to. Because before during my time, I don’t have the radio, tv so I don’t have somebody to listen to all the time so you get to develop your own style so that’s what I want to tell them listen more to what you have and be creative don’t stop at just having them exactly with what you do and because if you listen to what you can express with yourself that really will come out. What I always say with having the relationship with the people you work with to be sincere and be honest with what you do. For me there are so many good talents but attitude is a big thing. With a big talent but if you have a very bad attitude towards the team, it can really bring you down. Attitude really dictates your performance. Keep that nice attitude let’s be good to other people. Sincere and be honest. You will feel it if it’s good if not, then get advice from other people.
At the end of the interview, I felt grateful to have done the interview and thankful to Ms Dulce Amor for allowing me to ask some questions about her career and experience in the music industry. The experience was amazing and I know I will always remember this first interview.
The Asia’s Diva, Dulce Amor held her concert in Liverpool, Central Coast, Canberra, Melbourne, Blacktown, Mount Pritchard, Lidcombe and Glendenning here in Australia on November 2012 which turned out to be of great success. Individuals all over Australia were able to witness her outstanding performance.
Here are comments from some people who have watched her perform:
“No doubt, an Asia’s Original Diva, not only in voice but presentation as well. It’s a blessing to have a friend like her - good hearted and a spiritual person. She’s a family to me.” AHL DIROY
“Dulce – a total performer, a role model. A delightful performer/singer to watch and listen to.”
“Dulce sings from the heart. Her voice is powerful, what a DIVA!”
“Watching and listening to Dulce is truly an amazing journey of music. With her magical performance, she took us on a beautiful journey as she rendered songs that she popularized in many years as well as selections by other artists. Her rich collection of songs enabled her to make a show different from her other performances. She is one Filipino artist whom I’ll always be proud of.”
“About Dulce’s show.....Dulce is one of my most admired Filipino singers for her beauty, her voice that only Dulce possesses, she’s got sense of humour which I admire for an entertainer. Dulce’s performance on stage is magnetic...she leaves her audience spellbound. I truly enjoyed her performance and I’d say Dulce is a real DIVA!!”
LILLIAN DE LOS REYES
“Dulce Amor has to be recognized as one of the top song performers to come out of Asia. When you are in one of her concerts, you simply are blown away by the spine-tingling strength and angelic purity of her voice. The finely controlled force she delivers her songs is, beyond doubt, incomparable and places her in a league of her own."
Photo courtesy by Bernadette Manthey