It didn't take long for Filipino singer Lani Misalucha to shed the title of Multiplex Queen and trade it in for the appellation "Asia's Nightingale". During the early years, the vocalist with the exotic looks put in time doing covers of songs made famous by such divas as Celine Dion, Toni Braxton, Barbra Streisand, Whitney Houston, and Mariah Carey. By the mid-'90s, critics of popular music in Misalucha's native country were calling her a diva in her own right. She took home an award as Best Singer from the Asia Song Festival in 1998. The following year saw her star shine brighter yet when she took home top honors in the Aliw Awards category of Best Lounge Act. The Awit Awards also took notice. For the single "Can't Stop Loving You," the awards competition gave Misalucha her second consecutive prize for Best Performance by a Female Recording Artist. Also in 1999, she received a Best Stage Actress nomination from the Awit Awards for her starring role as Sita in the theater production Rama and Sita, a three-hour musical. In addition to winning over the critics, Misalucha also won the hearts of a wide and steadily growing fan base, including Manila's President Joseph Estrada, who invited the vocalist to perform during his daughter's wedding and reception.
Music was always a part of Misalucha's life. Mother Esperanza Dimalanta and father Benjamin Bayot sang opera, she as a coloratura soprano and he a tenor. During Misalucha's childhood, her parents emphasized singing practice, as well as an interest in sports. Her sister, May, also grew up to enter the music business. Three more siblings, Karlyn, Novi, and Osi, were also encouraged musically, but none followed in their singing sisters' footsteps. From the age of 15, Misalucha pursued an interest in school drama productions. She triumphed with the top prize from a 1986 singing contest for gospel music, and went on to work in stage productions with the Andres Bonifacio Concert Chorus for the Cultural Center of the Philippines. She continued to win competitions, including one sponsored by the Manila Institute of Religion. Later, at Manila's Philippine Christian University, Misalucha joined the glee club. Holidays, too, gave her the opportunity to pursue her love of singing, such as when she spent Christmas holidays singing at tree-lighting ceremonies held by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, also known as the Mormons. Misalucha still belongs to the church, along with spouse Noli Misalucha and daughters Lian and Louven.
The vocalist's first professional gig came in 1993, when she sang backup in the band Law of Gravity, which was led by Bodjie Dasig. With encouragement from the bandleader and his wife, Odette Quesada, Misalucha started work on her first album, the Alpha Records release More Than I Should. The 1996 debut picked up half a dozen Katha Award nominations and a pair of Awit Award nominations. In 1998, after she performed at the Asian Song Festival, she put out her second CD, which was her first for Viva Records. ~ Linda Seida