MANILA, Philippines—Azucena “Nene” Vera-Perez, matriarch of Sampaguita Pictures, died Wednesday morning due to old age, said grandson Toff de Venecia.
She would have turned 97 on May 22.
She was the woman behind Dr. Jose Perez, producer of Sampaguita Pictures, one of the Big Four studios during the Golden Age of Philippine cinema from the 1950s to the 1960s (along with LVN, Premiere, Lebran).
Sampaguita Pictures discovered some of the country’s biggest screen luminaries: from Gloria Romero to Susan Roces, from Amalia Fuentes to Gina Pareño.
“Mommy Nene is like a grandmother to me. I consider the Vera-Perez clan my second family. My first big film was under Sampaguita, ’Trudis Liit’ in 1963. I will pray for her always,” Batangas Gov. Vilma Santos, who started as a child star in Sampaguita, told the Inquirer.
Another big star Nora Aunor also made her first few movies under Sampaguita. “After winning in ’Tawag ng Tanghalan,’ I was introduced in a Sampaguita movie (“All Over the World”). I have to be at the wake. I have to pay my respects.”
Tirso Cruz III, Aunor’s screen partner, related: “Mrs. Perez was very loving and caring … always like a mother to me during my days with Sampaguita. It was truly my home studio.”
Pepito Rodriguez, who was part of Sampaguita’s Stars ’66 batch of teen stars, recalled: “Everyone in the studio loved her, especially since she held the purse strings. People who needed to make bale (cash advance on their salaries) would have to talk to her. She might give you a scolding, but eventually she would grant the loan. She was very sweet. If you had problems you could always run to her.”
Fuentes recounted: “She was very strict. She was always comparing us to Gloria Romero. She didn’t like giving me a cash advance, but Doc Perez was very generous.”
Former child actor Toff de Venecia has fond memories of his grandmother. “I would try to conduct conversations with her in Spanish, but I wasn’t able to say anything more than ’si,’ ’gracias,’ and ’Hola, que tal?’ She spoke fluent Spanish. She was a kind and caring lola who would tolerate us even if we (her grandchildren) would crowd her in her bed as we watched ’Crystal Maze’ and ’ASAP’ during our Sunday lunches.”
De Venecia is the son of Jose and Gina de Venecia.
Survived by 6
Wake will be held until Friday at Mount Carmel Church in Quezon City and will move on Saturday to the Vera-Perez ancestral home (Sampaguita Gardens) on Valencia Street (also in Quezon City), said De Venecia.
The funeral is set on Sunday in the family mausoleum, at the Manila Memorial Park, Parañaque, said De Venecia.
She is survived by six children: Marichu, Pepito, Gina, Lilibeth, Kokoy and Chona (one son Bobby had already passed away), 19 grandchildren and 16 great-grandchildren.