Fans of Toni Gonzaga trooped to SM Mall of Asia Arena on October 3 for her 15th year anniversary concert titled Celestine.
The audience cheered when the large video screen at the center of the stage came alive a few minutes past 9 p.m.
It showed a verse from the bible: "Before you formed in the womb, I knew you."
These words quickly dissolved and were replaced with black and white slow-mo images of a dancing Toni Gonzaga. Later on, these transitioned to black and white images of a teenage and then unknown Toni as well as pictures of her as a glamorous actress/singer/host and woman that she is now.
The Guillermo Mendoza 2012 Female Concert Performer of the Year awardee finally appeared on stage to the excited screams of her fans. For her first song, she belted out "This Love is Like," a single from her sixth studio album Celestine.
She followed it up with Zedd’s "Clarity," after which she knelt on stage and greeted audiences at the arena.
"Hello, Philippines. Hello, SM MOA Arena. Magandang gabi sa inyong lahat. Thank you very much for celebrating fifteen years with me. Thank you.
"Siyempre `pag anniversary dapat hindi lang kami dito ang nag-eenjoy on stage. So if you feel like dancing and singing, please do so. And let’s all have a great time tonight."
She then sang "Kahit Na," a Jumbo de Belen-penned song she interpreted during the 2013 Himig Handog songwriting competition. The song is also included in her Celestine album. Its lyrics were simultaneously shown on the giant screen as she invited audiences to sing along with her.
After the song she walked off stage while a black and white video of her is shown on screen where she revealed the origin of her self-titled concert Celestine. She also shared with the audience her dream.
"Toni Gonzaga is my screen name. My full name is Celestine Cruz Gonzaga. Si Celestine ang dream lang niya talaga…ever since I can remember, I’ve always wanted to be a singer. My biggest dream is to be known as a singer. I used to line up sa Mother Ignacia sa may ABS-CBN Audience entrance.
Nakakatuwa nga every time I pass there. I used to reminisce din sa mga times na pumila ako dun kasi gusto ko mag-audition sa Ang TV or sa kahit anong…audition ng noontime shows nila… Akala ko talaga when I entered the entertainment industry, singing lang gagawin ko. I never thought na mag-ho-host, aarte, or mag-e-endorse ako ng products, di ko na-imagine na I’ll be working with the best directors in the country and work with some of the most good looking leading men...sa bansa natin.
"The reason why we named this concert Celestine…is because it’s about time I show the people who I really am. All these years they just know me as Toni--she hosts, she sings, she does movies. A lot of people just know me by my name. But they don’t really know who I am in real life.
"This is something to share to everyone: my musical influences, the struggles I’ve been through, the hardships, the endeavors and how through it all, I was able to surpass it and fulfill my dreams."
After the video, Toni Gonzaga appeared in a sparkling red gown. She sang her single "We Belong" from her second album You Complete Me but suddenly stopped in the middle of the song to disarm the audience with her candidness:
"Ang hirap magbihis! Twenty-four ang bewang ko, sa kakabihis namin ng masisikip nag-twenty-two ngayong gabi. Di ko alam kung paano nagkasya bituka ko at liver ko."
After the song, she further engaged in humorous self-depreciation as she remarked, "Thank God talaga for the blower…May igaganda pa pala ako," in reference to the blower below the stage that helped create her gorgeous wind-swept hair.
She greeted the audience again, this time more emphatically, "Magandang, magandang gabi po ulit SM Arena. Yan! Di ko kayo nabati ng maganda kanina kasi sunod sunod yung [songs]. Maraming maraming salamat po you all made it tonight. Alam ko na traffic."
The audience responded with rapturous applause and deafening screams after being acknowledged. Toni had to pause and wait for the screams to die down. She quips, "Okay na? Di n`yo kinaya?
"Nagpapasalamat ako na kahit traffic, kahit malayo ang MOA, nakarating kayong lahat.
"I was standing at the exact same spot kanina, eight hours ago. Before I left the stage, wala pa kayong lahat, I closed my eyes and said a very simple prayer…I open my eyes tonight and I’m looking at an answered prayer kasi nakarating kayong lahat. You don’t know how much this night means to me.
You’re probably thinking na yung 15 years sa iba parang it’s a short time…but it’s half of my life. I’ve been through a lot. I’ve learned so much & lahat yun mawi-witness n`yo ngayong gabi. I’m still learning…"
"Anyway, I would like to share with you my very first single under Star Records. Flashback tayo ng 2006 ‘We Belong.’ That was my very first single under Star Records."
Toni again stopped mid-sentence when she saw and greeted the audience seated at the bleachers.
"Uuuy! Ngayon lang kayo nailawan kasi..Sabi ko kay Paolo [Valenciano the concert’s director] pwede pakipatay mo muna lahat ng lights paglabas ko para kunyari nag-re-rehearse lang ako para `di ko kayo makita kasi kakabahan ako. Maraming, maraming salamat.
"Anyway going back to my story, this year I did a movie that made a huge impact in my life. It changed me not just as an actress but as a person because I learned so much from it."
Toni again stopped to almost drink water but remembered that she might not be able to.
"Kaya pala, alam n’yo yun ang problema ko. Ang sikip-sikip ng damit ko pati pag-inom ng tubig iniisip ko kelangan every other song kasi pag-inom ako ng inom ng tubig di na magkakasya ung damit.
"Everybody who watched this film, sana you learn from the movie, you learn from the story & you learn from Ginny."
PIOLO PASCUAL NO-SHOW. At this point, the two screens on each side of the stage showed celebrity audience members, namely Bianca Gonzales and Mariel Rodriguez.
"Ay! Si Mariel saka si Bianca. Yung isa kasal na, yung isa ikakasal this year. Ako na lang natitira."
Other personalities seen in attendance and were featured in the giant screens were Dr. Vicky Belo, Edgar Mortiz and Chavit Singson and newly engaged couple Isabel Oli and John Prats.
John Lloyd Cruz, Toni’s leading man in the blockbuster movie My Amnesia Girl, also took time to attend the Celestine concert.
"I was talking about the movie, I just want to share with you the theme song. Let’s relive the love story of Ginny and Marco."
Toni proceeded to sing the movie’s theme song, "Starting Over Again."
Upon finishing her song, she revealed: "Alam n’yo po, this is the part where Piolo is supposed to come out…but siyempre di naman natin hawak ang mga pangyayari. Sir Marco couldn’t make it tonight.
"Balikan n’yo naman yung pelikula di naman kami nagkatuluyan. Iba naman nakatuluyan ko sa pelikula. Minsan ganun talaga. Di mo talaga dapat ipipilit yung bagay na `di para sa `yo. Kasi once you accepted and embraced reality then you’re ready for what God has something for you.
"We were supposed to do this song together. We rehearsed and I just fell in love with this song. I still want to do this song...kelangan may mag-duet sa `kin."
Toni looked for an audience member to have a duet with and she spots in the audience The Voice PH Season 1 Team Bamboo member Paolo Onesa.
He comes up on stage to do a duet of the song "Say Something" by A Great Big World.
ENDING UP WITH TRUE LOVE. When Paolo exited the stage, Toni continued with her spiel:
"You know there are some people in our lives that we just have to give up. There are people in our lives na seasonal lang. They’re not meant to stay forever. Dapat daw `di n’yo nilalabanan yung ganun. Sabi nila, some people are meant to fall in love with each other but are not meant to be together. Baka dun kayo tinuturan ng leksyon. Lumaklak din kayo ng realidad, `wag adik sa pag-asa.
"Kasi nabasa ko, `You really don`t end up daw with your great love but you end up with your true love. Some great love stories are meant to be great – yun na lang yun. Parang great love stories: Romeo & Juliet, wala. Jack & Rose ng Titanic.
"If something has made you a better person, someone leaving, hayaan mo lang. Let them go kasi `pag pinakawalan n`yo na ang taong yun then you’re ready to meet the one you’re supposed to spend the rest of your life with. If you found the person, whatever happens you’ll never give up on him. [This song is for] that one person who never gave up on me."
Toni sang Jason Mraz’s "I Won’t Give Up" with her chair positioned in front of boyfriend Paul Soriano who is in the audience and seated near the stage.
After her song, she once again exited the stage while a video of Toni rehearsing with the G-Force is played.
After the video, Toni danced to 2Ne1’s "I am The Best."
VICE "POGI" AND RICHARD YAP. After her dance number, she introduced Vice Ganda as her very special friend.
"May espesyal na espesyal na tao sa puso ko. Natutuwa kami naging bahagi siya ng fifteen year anniversary concert ko. Napakasarap magkaroon ng kaibigan na tulad nya. `Di mo kelangan kulitin, `di mo kelangan pakiusapan. Kaya siguro nag-iisa na siya saka phenomenal siya kasi yung pagmamahal n’ya sa trabaho n’ya at sa kaibigan n`ya ibang klase talaga.
"I’ve worked with him twice – isa sa TV, isa sa pelikula. I’m very proud to say – I’m very proud to welcome – my very good friend. The phenomenal box-office superstar…Vice Ganda."
Vice Ganda came out decked in a military style-inspired ensemble. He sang a lively "Boom Panes" while wearing dark shades. Half naked G-Force male dancers served as his back-up performers.
After the song, Toni Gonzaga thanked the G-Force – a cue for them to exit the stage - to Vice Ganda’s disappointment.
Vice Ganda remarked, referring to the male dancers, "Sayang naman etong mga ganito naman, `di ko mapapakinabangan…`di ko pa sila nakakausap pinapaalis mo na."
Vice Ganda then changed his tone and asked that Toni leave the stage instead.
"Thank you so much Toni Gonzaga. Please remain here G-Force."
When several male G-Force dancers assisted Toni Gonzaga change her costume on stage, Vice Ganda was quick to use it as a hilarious punchline.
"[Uy hinuhubaran n’yo si Toni], `di ako papayag na inaabuso nyo kaibigan ko! Hinuhubaran n’yo kaibigan ko, huhubaran ko rin kayo."
He proceeded to grab the jackets of the male dancers to reveal their bare chests. The audience laughed in glee at the comedian’s antics.
Vice added: "Toni kung eto ba naman ibabayad mo, maski mag-guest ako araw araw."
When the audience cheered Vice on and called him pogi – Vice expressed anger and not flattery.
"Iihian ko kayo. Ang babastos n’yo. Ang kapal ng lipstick at makeup ko Vice Pogi ang sinasabi n’yo sa `kin."
Vice then turned his attention to Toni:
"Ang hirap naman ng kalagayan mo, papalit-palit ka ng damit ano? But congratulations my very good frind Toni Gonzaga. Andami-dami mo na namang napasaya ngayong gabing ito. Fifteen years ka na sa show business at walang patlang, walang puknat ang mga achievements mo…`Di lahat ng celebrities o performers nabibigyan ng pagkakataon mag-stay na ganyan."
When Toni returned the compliments and praised Vice, he quickly replied:
"Porke’t libre guesting ko, kung makapuri ka sa `kin ng ganyan."
Vice also noticed Toni’s military-style costume to which Toni proudly said, "May ganito si Michael Jackson."
Without batting an eyelash, Vice quips: "Tingnan mo namatay. Wag mo isuot, baka sumunod ka! Wag mo suot! Ako magsusuot, mas bagay sa `kin."
Toni turned serious as she revealed how Vice said agreed to perform in her concert.
"Gusto ko mag-pasalamat sa `yo kasi si Vice grabe. Isang sabi lang kung pwede sya mag-guest sa anniversary concert ko, `di nag-isip! Sabi niya, `Okay go!’"
Vice explained, "Ba`t ako mag-iisip, ikaw naman `di ka naman nag-dalawang isip nung tinaggap mo akong kaibigan mo.
"Makikipagaway talaga ko `pag may magsabing hindi mabuting tao si Celestine. Nung nagsimula friendship namin, di pa ako Vice Ganda noon. Ako’y isang putso- putsong bakla pa lamang pero pinapasok n`ya ako sa dressing room n`ya at kinaibigan n`ya ako ng husto nang walang pag-aalinlangan.
"Kaya yung nanay mo nang pumasok doon sa kwarto ng clinic ni Dr Belo habang kinukutkot kilikili ko, wala akong nagawa. Napa-oo na lang ako kasi nahihiya ako kasi nakikita n`ya utong ko kasi nakahubad ako sa clinic ni Dr. Belo."
Vice then introduced his co-star in his upcoming movie Praybeyt Benjamin for the 2014 Metro Manila Film Fest: Richard Yap.
Richard Yap serenaded Toni with the Eraserheads’ "Huling El Bimbo."
RECONCILING WITH SISTER ALEX. After the song, the two exited the stage as a video of Toni and her sister Alex is seen. The video revealed details about the two sisters.
Toni: "Si Alex nung bata kami, hindi kami magkasundo."
Alex: "Lagi niya ako binu-bully."
Toni: "Kasi naiinis ako sa itsura n’ya nung bata."
Alex: "Tinitingnan ko naman sarili ko, cute naman [ako].
Toni highlighted the evening as memorable due to Alex’s unique song number with her.
"Espesyal etong gabing ito kasi ngayon lang gagawin ni Alex iparinig yung totoong boses n’ya sa inyo."
The two proceeded to sing Celine Dion’s powerful ballad "It’s All Coming Back to Me Now" and Iggy Azalea’s "Fancy."
After their number, Alex joked: "Natutuwa naman ako ginuest mo ako dito kahit walang bayad."
But Toni is serious when she confessed a personal detail about their relationship, "Kasi alam n’yo po--honestly this is from the heart--lagi kasing mapagbiro si Alex. Yung relationship namin lagi nagbibiruan. If there’s one person na gusto ko pasalamatan--si Alex talaga. Malaking bahagi siya ng fifteen years ko kasi `di ko alam kung paano ako makaka-survive ng 15 years sa industriya na wala akong kapatid na tulad niya. Kita n’yo naman, loka-loka, masaya, laging positive. `Pag uuwi ako pagod, madaming issues, controversies. [Pero] `pag kausap ko siya parang lahat okay, walang problema. Kaya ko lahat dalhin kasi andyan si Alex. Totoo yun. One week kaming di nag-usap ni Alex. Ngayon lang kami naging okay."
Alex once again joked, "So plastic lang po ito."
Toni further revealed, "Nagkatampuhan kami. Ni request ko si Alex na mag-shoot…ng VTR for the concert. Wala siyang time tapos galit na galit ako. Nagtatampo ako, `Ba`t ganun di mo priority concert.’
Nag-text siya: `Pasensya na ate, priority naman talaga kita. Lagi nga schedule mo inuuna ko.’ Nung nabasa ko yun, na-realize ko for 15 yreas ang life ni Alex was always on hold. Kung kelan ko siya kelangan lagi siya nandiyan. Ngayon may trabaho na pala siya. May True Love siya. May buhay na siyang iba. Dati buhay ni Alex kung ano yung buhay ko…Ngayon she has her own life to live."
Alex continued with an affectionately harsh comment: "So anong lesson? `Di lahat umiikot sa mundo mo."
Toni then sang Whitney Houston’s "Count on Me" for Alex while Alex sang "Do you Want to Build a Snowman" for Toni.
GIVING BACK. After the Toni and Alex good-natured rivalry, Toni took her place behind the keyboards to play a song that she composed while shooting Starting Over Again, her blockbuster movie with Piolo Pascual. The song titled "Awit ni Ginny" is also included in her album Celestine.
Toni aimed to inspire when she introduced her next number:
"I want to do something really special tonight. There are two important moments in someone’s life: the day you were born and the day you find out why. Fifteen years ago, I found mine. I didn’t get to this stage because I’m better than anyone or I’m the best. I’m standing here tonight celebrating 15 years of my life in the industry, due to God’s grace. I want to share with you one of the first few songs I learned in grade school. This really describes what I’m feeling right now."
She sang "Amazing Grace" with the Payatas Boys choir.
After which she proceeded to sing Beyonce Knowles’s "I Was Here."
The last thirty minutes of the concert is where she gave her version of Demi Lovato’s "Neon Lights" and Zedd’s "Stay The Night."
Her last song for the audience is "Catch Me I’m Falling," from her third album Falling in Love.
She again expressed her gratitude for everyone who watched her concert.
"Napaka-importante ng oras at nang bigyan n`yo ko ng dalawang oras sa inyong araw…maraming, maraming salamat."