little lea


I turned 41 yesterday! Years ago, I promised myself I would never hide my age, and that I would greet each birthday with excitement. Besides, given that my career dates back to when dinosaurs ruled the earth (he-he), I wouldn’t be able to deny how old I am, anyway. Might as well celebrate with revelry!

This vow has given me reason to look back and count my blessings—not just the obvious ones of a wonderful family, an awesome clutch of friends and a fabulous career, but of things I’ve been able to see as I grew up in this business. It is because of all these that I count my generation (composed of those born in the late ’60s to the mid ’70s) as a particularly lucky one. Pardon me now, please, as I wax a little romantic about the good old days.

We used to own a black-and-white Zenith TV (my mother still has a photo of me in my playpen watching Tito Pepe on it)… Then, later on, an early Sony color TV which one had to actually approach to change the channel. Each screen couldn’t have measured more than 15 inches, diagonal; now it’s the age of 60-inch behemoths, with high definition and a gazillion colors. But at least, back then, you got some exercise by going from Channel 2 to 4 to 7 to 9 to 13.

Yes, back when I was a kid we used to have only five channels. Strange thing is, I was always able to find something to watch, whether it was “Uncle Bob’s Lucky 7 Club” on Saturday mornings or “Spin a Win” (with Jeanne Young) on Sunday afternoons, and “Two for the Road” on Monday nights (when I was allowed to stay up, anyway) with Nestor Torre and Elvira Manahan. There were also the Japanese robot cartoons early in the evening from Monday to Friday, which would make for conversation among my classmates the next day or week. Oh, how collectively furious we all were when “Daimos,” “Mazinger Z” and “Voltes V” were unceremoniously yanked off the air. No offense to “Candy Candy,” which the young ladies also enjoyed, but, come on. Those robots kicked some serious heinie. Thank goodness for eventual DVD availability, albeit nearly three decades later.

JESTONI Alarcon, Lea Salonga and Dolphy in “John ’en Marsha” (videograb)

“Flor de Luna” and “Anna Liza.” Enough said.

The Sunday-night variety show “Superstar” was a powerful show-biz force in the hands of diminutive Nora Aunor, who possessed one of the finest singing voices ever heard and produced. On Saturdays, we had “Discorama,” hosted by Bobby Ledesma and the Apo Hiking Society. A few other television programs beloved and missed are “Champoy” (with the team of Subas Herrero and Noel Trinidad, directed by Peque Gallaga), “Newswatch Junior Edition” (I got a kick out of seeing smart kids deliver relevant news) and “Penthouse Live” (first with Merce Henares, and later with Martin Nievera and Pops Fernandez).

I must make special mention of “That’s Entertainment.” I was on it during its first year, but what a powerhouse group Kuya Germs assembled. Sure, many people found it corny and even baduy, but camaraderie and professionalism needed to rule. We learned how to host as a team while aiming to still stand out as individuals; we performed countless solos, duets and group numbers which had to be rehearsed and costumed; and we learned how to give of ourselves if a member needed a bit of coaching from another in the recording studio during a session. We laughed a lot, although we worked very hard. I shall always look upon it with fondness.


Instant vocal recognition was common back in the day. Whether it was a male or female singer, local or foreign, one would often hear a unique singing voice on the radio. Think Karen Carpenter, Whitney Houston, Kenny Rogers, Michael Jackson, James Ingram on the foreign front; and Martin Nievera, Gary Valenciano, Kuh Ledesma, Zsazsa Padilla, Sampaguita, Sharon Cuneta, Freddie Aguilar, Florante, Ray-An Fuentes, Hajji Alejandro, Basil Valdez, The Apo Hiking Society, Jam Morales, Gino Padilla, Jacqui Magno, Joey Albert, Celeste Legaspi, Pat Castillo, Carla Martinez, Raymond Lauchengco and Keno on the Pinoy front. There are names that I know I’m forgetting—my sincerest apologies.

“Bagets”! I remember being a seventh grader trying to find a seat in a packed-like-sardines Greenhills Theater when a teenage Aga Muhlach appeared in the opening credits, dancing. The screams in the cinema were deafening, as his appeal was palpable and undeniable. He was able to incite many a preteen girl into playing hooky. Me included. I don’t think that movie could ever be remade, as there’s nothing quite like that collection of young men today (William Martinez, JC Bonnin, Herbert Bautista, Raymond Lauchengco and Aga). At least, not in my opinion.

The Sharon-Gabby love team phenomenon was a juggernaut no one could ignore. Yes, each of them had been paired up with other young actors of their generation, but nothing could compare to their chemistry on screen. Seeing them in their heyday was something special. As for what happened in their personal life, well, that’s an entirely different thing altogether.

little lea

There are show-biz gossip shows that abound on every channel today, but back then, there was only Inday Badiday’s “See True.” She would gather show biz reporters and TV/movie stars in one episode at one studio, and a live interview session would take place. I watched in rapt attention as most of the celebs bravely answered the reporters’ questions, some of which were a bit probing. A few stars were very outspoken in their replies (which I really enjoyed), while others were polite (which wasn’t bad, either). Through it all, Ate Luds remained calm, classy and “careful, careful.” She is most definitely missed.

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