Levi Celerio was a Filipino composer and lyricist. Celerio was a prolific songwriter, with over 4,000 songs to his credit. He is perhaps best known for being a leaf-player, a feat for which he was put into the Guinness Book of World Records. In 1997, he was named National Artist of the Philippines for Music.
Levi Celerio was born on April 30, 1910, in Tondo, Manila to parents that hailed from Baliuag, Bulacan. He received a scholarship to the Academy of Music in Manila and became the youngest member of the Manila Symphony Orchestra. He wrote several number of songs for local movies, which earned for him the Lifetime Achievement Award of the Film Academy of the Philippines. Celerio has written lyrics for more than 4,000 Filipino folk, Christmas, and love songs, including many that became movie titles.
Known for being a good lyricist, his songs cherish life, convey nationalistic sentiments and utter grand philosophies. Celerio wrote more than 4,000 songs, among them are popular pieces, which many consider to be immortal. At one time or another, no Filipino could miss the tune or lyrics of Levi’s Christmas songs: Pasko na Naman, Maligayang Pasko at Manigong Bagong Taon (Ang Pasko ay Sumapit), and Misa de Gallo.
His more popular love songs include: Saan Ka Man Naroroon?, Kahit Konting Pagtingin, Gaano Ko Ikaw Kamahal, Kapag Puso’y Sinugatan, and Ikaw, O Maliwanag na Buwan,Dahil Sa Isang Bulaklak, Sa Ugoy ng Duyan, Bagong Pagsilang, and Sapagkat Kami’y Tao Lamang, while his folk songs include Ang Pipit, Tinikling, Tunay na Tunay, Itik-Itik, Waray-Waray, Pitong Gatang, Ako ay May Singsing, Alibangbang, Alembong, Galawgaw, Caprichosa, Ang Tapis ni Inday, Dungawin Mo Hirang, Umaga na Neneng, Ikaw Kasi, and Basta’t Mahal Kita. Celerio also wrote nationalistic songs such as Ang Bagong Lipunan, Lupang Pangarap, and Tinig ng Bayan.
Celerio, for a time, was also recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as the only man who could play music with a leaf. Because of his talent, Celerio was invited to The Merv Griffin Show, where he played “All the Things You Are” with 39 musicians. Using his leaf, Levi wowed the crowd and got the attention of the Guinness Book of World Records. The Book later listed the entry: “The only leaf player in the world is in the Philippines”. He would also later appear on That’s Incredible!.