By Tante de Ramos
One of the earliest child stars in the Philippine movies was Tita Duran, who became wife to Pancho Magalona, mother of Francis M. and grandmother of Maxene Magalona. Tita was later paired with Oscar Moreno (father of Boots Anson-Roa) in Kapilya Sa Daang Bakal, Unang Pag-Ibig, Dahil Sa Ina, Anak Ng Dagat and Maharlika. One of her memorable movies was Sa Isang Sulyap Mo, Tita which had Pancho Magalona for her leading man.
Tessie Agana gained fame in Sampaguita Pictures with the movie Kerubin. As a grown up, she appeared again in Amy, Susie And Tessie, also for Sampaguita Pictures. Tessie co-starred with Amalia Fuentes, Susan Roces, Romeo Vasquez, Jose Mari and Lito Legaspi.
Action star Ace Vergel started as a child actor named Ace York. He played the role of Ding, the brother sidekick of the first Darna movie by Royal Production. The film starred Rosa Del Rosario, as Darna, with Fernando Poe Sr. as the leading man. Ace also appeared as a child star in Anak ng Bulkan, this time with Fernando Poe, Jr., Ronald Remy, Edna Luna, Bruno Punzalan among others. Ace Vergel is the son of Alicia Vergel and Cesar Ramirez. His sister Beverly Vergel also appeared in some movies.
Mila Nimfa essayed the role of Narda in the first Darna movie. As a grown-up she appeared once in a cowboy film with Fernando Poe, Jr., who played lead role in his own FPJ Productions movie. Mila did not pursue the acting career for unknown reasons.
Boy Francisco appeared as a child in the movie titled Batang Lansangan. Later he joined Lo waist Gang with Fernando Poe , Jr., Zaldy Zshornack, Boy Sta. Romana, Berting Labra, Butch Bautista, Paquito Toledo and Mario Antonio among others. He appeared in all the series of such movie titles.
Vilma Santos started her career as a child actress in the film Trudis Liit where she played the title role. Branded as the Shirley Temple of the Philippines, Vilma is one of the durable actresses who stayed on in the movies and never took a vacation from acting. She’s now mayor Lipa, Batangas.
Jay Ilagan of the Ilagan clan started with a cowboy film by Fernando Poe, Jr. He remained in the movies getting lead or supporting roles. Jay has children with Hilda Koronel. He was living in with Amy Austria when he died of a motorcycle accident.
Gina Alajar gained public attention in her portrayal of a young “ate” in Wanted Perfect Mother. The tearjerker movie had Boots Anson-Roa and Dante Rivero in the lead roles. In the same film, Snooky easily became the darling of the audience with her natural flair for crying. Snooky lasted as a child actress for quite a time.
Roderick Paulate started also in movies as a child star, mostly in dramas. As a grown-up, he had perfected essaying gay roles in comedy films. Roderick starred in Petrang Kabayo and some other fantasy films.
Maricel Soriano caught public attention in her role as the daughter of John and Marsha, a TV sitcom. Like Vilma Santos, Maricel stayed on in the movies and never took a vacation. For a long time now, she remains to be a favorite leading lady in drama and comedy genres.
Lorna Tolentino also started as a child star until she got the lead role for the movie Baby Doll. Aside from films, Lorna also hosted TV shows with 30 Days as the most recent. She has two sons with Rudy Fernandez.
The record-breaker, in terms of box office sales, for child stars is no other than Niño Muhlach. Be it in drama, action or comedy, Niño was a hit with his acting skills. It didn’t take long for Niño to become the favorite of many actors. He starred with Fernando Poe, Jr. in Ang Leon at ang Daga.
Aiza Seguerra started as a contestant in Eat Bulaga’s Little Miss Philippines. Catching the fancy of Tito, Vic and Joey, Aiza became a mainstay in the popular noontime TV show. Soon she strayed to the movies, taking the throne left by Niño and Snooky. As an adolescent, Aiza took a rest from showbiz and came back by re-inventing herself as a singer. Pagdating Ng Panahon is her blockbuster signature song.
There are other child stars who didn’t stay long like Tom Taus, Camille Pratts and Serena Darymple among others. Right now, the only pretender to the throne is Sam Bumatay, another winner in a child search of GMA-7′s Starstruck Kids. But Sam can only be up there if given the right vehicle.