Remembering Amalia Fuentes, the Philippines’ ‘Elizabeth Taylor’

Leah C. Salterio

Posted at Oct 05 2019 05:20 PM

Remembering Amalia Fuentes, the Philippines’ ‘Elizabeth Taylor’ 1
Amalia Fuentes, a legend of the local entertainment industry, passed away early Saturday, her family said. Facebook, Alfonso Martinez

MANILA - Tagged as the “Elizabeth Taylor of the Philippines” during her younger years, Amalia Fuentes was Amalia Muhlach in real life.

Not a few would agree that Fuentes was one of the most beautiful faces in local showbiz.

Fondly called “Nena” by family and close friends, Fuentes was of Filipino German-Spanish descent. The last name, Fuentes, was actually that of her stepfather’s.

Her father, the late Alvaro Muhlach Sr., died early that was why Fuentes was compelled to become the breadwinner for the family. She would have turned 80 on August 27, 2020.

Fuentes last appeared on TV in the teleserye, “Huwag Ka Lang Mawawala,” starring Judy Ann Santos, Sam Milby and KC Concepcion in 2013.

In October 2015, Fuentes suffered an ischemic stroke while on vacation in South Korea. That was seven months after her only daughter, Liezl Sumilang Martinez, died at 47 years old after a lingering battle with breast cancer.

Fuentes’ first husband was veteran actor Romeo “Bobby” Vasquez (Sumilang in real life), who died in Los Angeles, California on May 2, 2017. They were married in Hong Kong in 1965, but separated after only four years.

Fuentes’ second husband, American businessman Joey Stevens, passed away in 2012. They were married for 28 years, but later also got divorced. They had an adopted son, Gerard “Geric” Stevens, who died from cardiac arrest on November 10, 2018 at the young age of only 35.

The actress’ youngest brother, Alvaro “Cheng” Muhlach, father of Aga and Arlene Muhlach, died on November 12, 2018 at the age of 74. He briefly acted on the big screen with his sister. Fuentes’ other brother is Alex Muhlach, father of Nino Muhlach and grandfather of Alonzo.

The actress even graced the 75th birthday party of Alex in June 2017. She was in a wheelchair and could hardly speak. She merely cried upon seeing her brothers.

Fuentes started acting at a young age of 15, Her father died in the war when she was only five. As the eldest in a brood of three children, Fuentes became the family’s breadwinner.

She made her big screen debut in the comedy-drama, “Lydia” (1956), starring Carmen Rosales, Rogelio de la Rosa and Paraluman. Armando Garces was the director.

However, it didn’t take long before Fuentes was given her solo launching vehicle. The same year she joined the movies, she was immediately paired opposite Juancho Gutierrez. Their love team had their first starring roles in “Movie Fan” (1956).

Fuentes and Gutierrez acted together in many other films – “Inang Mahal,” “Bituing Marikit,” “Sonata” and “Hahabul Habol” – all shown in 1957. “Madaling Araw,” “Baby Bubut” and “Tawag ng Tanghalan” were all screened in 1958.

More films with Gutierrez followed – “Ipinagbili Ko ang Aking Anak,” “Pitong Pagsisisi,” “Kahapon Lamang” and “Pakiusap” were exhibited in 1959.

The year was also 1957, when Fuentes was paired with Romeo Vasquez in “Pretty Boy.” That was the start of their reel and real love team. It was followed by many other films in succeeding years – “Bobby” (1958), “Ako ang May Sala” (1958) and “Bilanggong Birhen” (1960).

“Wedding Bells” (1959) seemed like a prelude to an altar date between Fuentes and Vasquez. Yet, before Fuentes and Vasquez formally exchanged “I Do’s” in real life, they were paired in the romance-drama, “Sa Muling Pagkikita,” “Ang Mahal Ko’y Ikaw” and “Ako’y Iyong Iyo,” all shown in 1963.

“Mariveles” (1964) was a salute to the gallant stand displayed by Filipino soldiers in a historic place in Mariveles, Bataan. They were paired in two more films – “Aloha” and “Sapagkat Ikaw ay Akin” – before they became husband and wife.

After their altar date, more film projects for the newly-weds then followed – “Tatlong Kasaysayan ng Pag-ibig,” “Hanggang sa Kurtinang Bakal,” “Sa Digmaan at Pag-ibig,” “Ikaw, ang Gabi at ang Awit,” “Blood of the Vampires” – all shown in 1966.

They co-starred in more films – “Yes, I Do” and “Honey, Honeymoon” (both shown in 1967), “Nabubuhay Lamang Ako Upang Ikaw ay Ibigin,” “Almira,” “Rowena” and “Lorela” (all shown in 1969).

Fuentes starred in the 1967 film, “Anna Lizza,” where she played the title role. That same year, her only daughter was born and she was named Anna Liza, nicknamed Liezl. The latter was married to actor Albert Martinez, with whom she had three children – Alyanna, Alfonso and Alyssa.

Fuentes had one great grandchild, Adalynn Riley, born on January 19, 2018, the son of Alyanna and her photographer-husband, Roy Macam. The couple was married in San Francisco, California in 2016.

Fuentes acted on the big screen with her late daughter Liezl in such films as “Portrait of An Angel” and “Europe, Here We Come” (both shown in 1971), “Anghel ng Pag-ibig” and “Poor Little Rich Girl” (both shown in 1972). The last film featured a new co-star, Mario Montenegro.

Father, mother and daughter – Vasquez, Fuentes and Martinez – were all seen together in “Sa Aming Muling Pagkikita” and “Nagbalik na Lumipas” (both shown in 1973).

Martinez’s other film appearances with Fuentes were “Durugin ang mga Diyablo sa Punta Fuego” (1974) and “Ibulong Mo sa Puso” (1984).

Even after the break-up of their marriage in 1969, Fuentes and Vasquez were still paired in a number of other films that were nonetheless still patronized by moviegoers. Aside from “Angelo” (1970), the other titles of their subsequent films seemingly depicted their situation as an un-couple – “Sa Aming Muling Pagkikita” (1973), “Nagbalik na Lumipas” (1973), “Pwede Ako, Pwede Ka Pa Ba?” (1976).

In her heyday, Fuentes was really very prolific, churning out 10 or more films a year, with many, different leading men.

Carlos Vander Tolosa’s “Baby Face” (1959) saw Fuentes working opposite Jose Mari Gonzales. The two stars worked together anew in “Operetang Sampay Bakod,” “Joey, Eddie, Lito” and “Sa Linggo ang Bola” (all shown in 1961).

“Pitong Kalbaryo ni Inang” and “The Big Broadcast” still both with Gonzales, were shown in 1962.

Fuentes played the title roles in “Amy, Susie and Tessie” (1960) with Susan Roces and Tessie Agana, “Esperanza at Caridad” (1963) with Gloria Romero as her older sister, “Prinsesang Kalapati” (1964) with Bernard Bonnin as her leading man.

With Luis Gonzales, Fuentes also made films like “Ismol Bat Teribol” (1957), “Dayukdok” (1961), “Amaliang Mali-Mali” (1962).

Apparently, the last film was so highly successful that it was later made in tandem with Fuentes’ screen rival, Susan Roces. Thus, the title, “Amaliang Mali-Mali vs. Susanang Daldal” came out in 1963.

Fuentes became the leading lady of former president Joseph Estrada in the action-comedy, “Ang Sanggano at Colegiala” (1963) and the war picture, “Mga Daliring Ginto” (1964). They also worked together in “Hamon sa Bandila” (1965), “De Colores” (1968) and “Parehas o Laban” (1969).

Action star Fernando Poe, Jr. was one of the big names paired with Fuentes. They shared acting credits in “Walang Hanggan” (1964) and the landmark “Aguila” (1980). She even bankrolled their film, “Baril at Rosaryo” (1967), one of the few times she became film producer.

One of Fuentes’ leading men with whom she made a number of films was Eddie Rodriguez, her co-star in “O, Pagsintang Labis” and “Oh! My Papa!” (1968), “Kapatid Ko ang Aking Ina” (1969), “Santa Teresa Da Avila” (1970), “Anghel ng Pag-ibig” (1972).

They also shared stellar billing on the big screen in “Babae… Ikaw ang Dahilan” (1972), “Ito ang Aming Kasunduan” (1973), “Pag-ibig Mo, Buhay Ko” (1973), “Minsan, May Isang Pag-ibig” (1974), “May Lalaki sa Ilalim ng Kama Ko” (1975), “Dirty Games” (1981), “Ibulong Mo sa Puso” (1984), “Where Love Has Gone” (1984) and “Paano Ba ang Magmahal?” (1984).

Notably, Rodriguez played Fuentes’ leading man and also directed her in two films – “Pag-ibig Mo, Buhay Ko” (1973) and “Huwag Pipitas ng Bubot na Bunga” (1977).

Up until 1990, Fuentes’ last big screen credit before she opted for semi retirement in acting, she starred with Rodriguez in “Higit na Matimbang ang Dugo,” which also topbilled Christopher de Leon, Lorna Tolentino and Eddie Garcia.

Meanwhile, another Eddie (Gutierrez), was Fuentes leading man in “Pitong Puso” (1962), “Siyam na Langit” (1962), “Bulaklak at Paru-Paro” (1970), “Heredera” (1970), “Europe, Here We Come” (1971), “Divina Bastarda” (1971), “Huwag Mong Angkinin ang Asawa Ko” (1972) and “Asawa Ko, Huwag Mong Agawin” (1987).

“Bulaklak at Paru-Paro” was the first time Fuentes worked with then young star Vilma Santos. They worked together again in “Mga Reynang Walang Trono” (1976), where Fuentes even tried her hand at directing – only once – which she shared credits with Fely Crisostomo.

In the said film, where Fuentes also starred in, she interestingly transformed Vilma Santos into a daring actress. Others in the cast were Eddie Gutierrez, Rudy Fernandez, Eddie Garcia and Robert Arevalo.

Fuentes shared acting credits with yet two more Eddies in local showbiz. With Eddie Mesa in “The More I See You” (1968) and Eddie Fernandez in “Magandang Bituin” (1965) and “Anna Liza” (1967).

With Vic Vargas, Fuentes appeared on the big screen in “Durugin ang mga Diyablo sa Punta Fuego” (1974), “Psssst… Halika Babae” (1974) and “Babaeng Hiwalay sa Asawa” (1976).

Fuentes was also paired with Bernard Bonnin in “Simbangis ng Tigre” (1964), “Dwende sa Kampanaryo” (1964), “3 Musketeras” (1964), “Oro Blanco” (1965) and “Mga Prince Charming ni Lola Cinderella” (1969).

Tito Galla, the younger brother of Gloria Romero, was Fuentes’ co-star in “Tulisan” and “Pitong Puso” (both in 1962), then eventually went on to become also her leading man in such films as “Dream Girl” (1965), “Let’s Go Merry Go Round” (1967) and “Anino ni Sisa” (1968).

Fuentes also worked with Zaldy Zhornack in the action Western, “Tigre Zapata” and “Escarlata” (both in 1969), “Mga Batong Buhay” (1970) and “Urduja” (1974).

Van de Leon was Fuentes’ leading man in “Sino Ka, Madame X” (1966), while Leopoldo Salcedo starred with her in “Destination Vietnam,” “De Colores” and “Anino ni Sisa” (all shown 1968).

Fuentes also dabbled in comedy and was paired opposite known and veteran comedians like Panchito in “Good Morning, Titser” and “Kaming Taga Bundok,” both shown in 1968; Chiquito in “The Magic Carpet” (1974).