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MOVIEGOER: Amalia Fuentes lives on in social media

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JUST A THOUGHT: “Happiness is the seed; shared happiness is the flower.” – Unknown

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LOVING MOVIE QUEEN AMALIA:
A Facebook page, Loving Movie Queen Amalia (LMQA), pays tribute to Amalia Fuentes as Queen of Philippine Movies, more appropriately, circa 1960s.

The social media page is deemed most relevant in the wake of the iconic superstar’s passing on October 5, four years following a massive stroke that downed her in Seoul, South Korea.

Amalia Fuentes (Photo from Aga Muhlach's Instagram account)

Amalia Fuentes (Photo from Aga Muhlach’s Instagram account)

Back in the 1960s, the limelight was split between Amalia and Susan Roces, herself a movie queen, so that between the two of them, a fierce rivalry erupted and persisted.

LMQA, as the site is called for short, posts pictures and remembrances of a bygone era, capturing the classic, legendary beauty of Amalia and her numerous accomplishments. There are photographs of Amalia as a young teenager of 15 discovered by Sampaguita Pictures, launched in a movie called Movie Fan, and later, in Ang Senyorito at ang Atsay, opposite Juancho Gutierrez, himself crowned Mr. Number One. Juancho was to become the husband of Gloria Romero, movie queen of the 1950s.

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AMALIA IN TRANSITION:
The Facebook page, managed and maintained by Joey Perlado, a devoted Amalia fan from way back, an accountant in real life, provides a refreshing trip down memory lane.

It contains layouts of movies that starred the idol, dates when they opened, events that were of importance to her life (movie premieres, her wedding to fellow actor Romeo Vasquez, milestones in her daughter Liezl’s life, etc.).

Through the posts, one is informed of the path that Amalia had taken as an actor. From her beginnings as a sweet-faced, Eurasian star of innocence, she blossomed as a no-nonsense woman of strength and character.

Amalia transitioned from being star of romantic comedy films into a more daring performer. She took on unconventional roles that weren’t expected of movie queens at that time, they who were always expected to be prim and proper on and off screen. The roles were in keeping with Amalia’s off-screen persona, brutally frank, a highly opinionated intellectual.

Amalia played a vampire in “Ibulong Mo sa Hangin,” the first film that she produced under her own label, AM Productions in 1966. She was the first Filipino actress to turn movie producer, a very successful one at that.

She set up AM Productions where she worked behind the cameras and in front of them. She was among the first independent film producers, cashing in on her bankability as a box office star throughout her five-decade career.

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NEVER AFRAID:
In succeeding posts, young moviegoers learn that Amalia wasn’t afraid to tackle roles such as those of prostitutes (“Dalawang Daigdig ni Carlota,” “Pssst…Halika Babae”) or women of a certain age falling for younger men (“Isang Gabi, Tatlong Babae” opposite Orestes Ojeda; “Si Raquel at si Rafael” with Christopher de Leon).

Her vampire role in “Ibulong Mo sa Hangin” was met with skepticism by veteran producers and actors, including Fernando Poe, Jr. Amalia told me that FPJ warned her not to play a vampire, as it could compromise her career.

Yet, she went against public opinion, as is her wont, and came out of the venture a winner. Amalia won her first FAMAS best actress (1967) for her vampire role in “Ibulong Mo sa Hangin,” directed by no less than would-be National Artist Gerardo de Leon.

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NOT JUST ASIA’S MOST BEUTIFUL:
Amalia was not just a face of beauty; she was once named by Asia Magazine as the most Beautiful Face in Asia.

In a book, “Amalia Fuentes and Other Etchings,” Nick Joaquin noted that Amalia knew how to reinvent herself, the best way to keep the public interest high on her, resulting in a string of movie hits.

For years and years, she dominated the Manila Film Festival, the forerunner of today’s MMFF. She is known to have among the longest reigns as box-office star.

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RIDING THE MOVIE TIDE:
Through the posts, we learn that Amalia experimented with trends, rode the movie tide, so to speak.

The late 1960s saw the upward rush of movie musicals in keeping with a similar trend in Hollywood. Though not in any way a singer, Amalia sang and danced in musicals, some of which she produced herself.

Some magazine covers capture her in the mid-1970s wearing a two-piece bikini, showing off her ample physical assets. She wasn’t afraid to be called a sexy star, then a derogatory term for lesser actresses.

She gamely played it sassy, sexy, and controversial in films like “Pwede Ako, Pwede Ka Pa Ba,” “Isang Gabi Tatlong Babae,” both directed by Elwood Perez. Such variety of roles kept her in the public eye despite the rise of younger stars like Nora Aunor and Vilma Santos.

Alas, Amalia Fuentes has secretly left behind a film in waiting. We are referring to Elwood Perez’s current indie film, yet untitled, however.

Elwood says, “Amalia’s larger- than-life participation in the project defines her essence as the ultimate screen goddess of Philippine movies.’’

It is to be Amalia’s very last film, her swan song.

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