League of their Own!
By Joseph Peter R. Gonzales
They have landmark performances which nabbed them acting recognition and starred in classic potboilers which made a big killing at the tills and cemented their status as top box-office draws.
Lorna Tolentino, Dina Bonnevie, Dawn Zulueta and Snooky Serna. Not only are they four of the prettiest faces in local show business but are major actresses, as well. Over the years, they have proven their worth as front-rank stars and premiere leading ladies. They may not hold titles like Superstar, Star for all Seasons, Megastar or Diamond Star, but their accomplishments can never be underestimated. Definitely, they are in a league of their own.
Their careers have spun more than three decades, and until now, they still get meaty parts, both in the big and small screens. They also starred in grand projects opposite the hottest leading men of their time and worked with the industry’s best directors. Their illustrious career are far from over as they’re still able to mesmerize the crowd with their arresting screen presence and seasoned acting skills.
She started out in the business as a child actress via the movies Divina Gracia, Mga Anghel na Walang Langit, Huwag Mo Kaming Isumpa and Lumuha Pati mga Anghel (where she won a FAMAS Best Child Actress statuette). During the mid-‘70s, LT became one of the country’s hottest sex sirens as she churned in one hit movie after the other like Dulce Amor, Ina, Katawang Alabok, Mga Huwad na Mananayaw, Aliw, Midnight Show and Waikiki. She also appeared in the coming-of-age-vehicle Apat na Maria, the socially relevant City after Dark, the remake of the classic horror Patayin sa Sindak si Barbara and the sexy drama fantasy Diosa, which until now remains to be one of her signature portrayals.
But it was in the film Moral (by the late Marilou Diaz-Abaya) that critics took notice of her acting ability as an adult performer. She received numerous acting nominations for her role as the impulsive Joey. From there, her status as one of the premiere leading ladies of her time was further cemented as she did projects opposite the brightest stars in the industry like Sinasamba Kita (with Vilma Santos), Uod at Rosas (with Nora Aunor), Nakagapos na Puso (with Sharon Cuneta) and Pinulot Ka Lang sa Lupa (with Maricel Soriano).
Along with Guy, Vi and Shawie, LT holds the distinction of being a Grand Slam Best Actress awardee for Chito Roño’s suspense-drama Narito ang Puso Ko. She also received acting trophies for Abakada…Ina, Luksong Tinik, Katas ng Saudi, Sa ‘Yo Lamang and in the late Lino Brocka opus Maging Akin Ka Lamang where she essayed a “bida-contravida” part.
Lorna used to be an executive producer for Reflection Films along with her late husband Rudy Fernandez who, like her was another screen icon. Some of these projects include: Hula Mo, Huli Ko (2002), Itataya Ko Ang Buhay Ko (1996), Matimbang Pa Sa Dugo (1995), Kahit Buhay Ko (1992), Kamay ni Kain (1992) and Kislap Sa Dilim (1991).
It can also be remembered that she was the first “Darna” on television (RPN-9) way back in 1979 and had the chance to become a talk show host for GMA-7’s Star Talk and All about You. Among her unforgettable soap operas are: Kay Tagal Kang Hinintay, Minsan Lang Kita Iibigin, Dahil May Isang Ikaw and Pahiram ng Sandali, in which she got a Best Actress nomination from the prestigioua Asian TV Awards.
She’s one of the original Regal Babies launched in the early ‘80s via the hit classic Katorse. From there, Dina’s star shone even brighter in teenage films such as: Underage, Blue Jeans, Temptation Island, Age Doesn’t Matter, Tender Age and School Girls. She was paired with the ‘biz’s most popular leading men like Christopher de Leon, Richard Gomez, Bong Revilla, Jr. Phillip Salvador, Cesar Montano and the late movie king Fernando Poe, Jr.
When she did Tinik sa Dibdib along with Superstar Nora Aunor, under the helm of the late Lino Brocka in 1985, critics noticed her depth in acting as she later romped off with the Best Supporting Actress trophies from the FAMAS and Film Academy of the Philippines. This was followed by Magdusa Ka, a dramatic vehicle which made her win Best Actress plums in the FAMAS, FAP and Catholic Mass Media Awards in 1986. Opposite Megastar Sharon Cuneta, she was part of the mammoth hit Sana’y Wala ng Wakas. She also did Palimos ng Pag-ibig with Star for all Seasons Vilma Santos.
Dina can be considered one of the last Brocka babies as she made three outstanding socially-relevant movies for the National Artist awardee namely, Gumapang Ka sa Lusak, Sa Kabila ng Lahat and Huwag Mong Salingin ang Sugat. For said vehicles, she received multiple acting nominations.
Her other notable hit and critically-acclaimed potboilers include: Bakit Kay Tagal ng Sandali?, Akin ang Pangarap Mo, Pangarap na Ginto, Orapronobis, Eskapo, Kung Kasalanan Man, Ang Babaeng Nawawala sa Sarili , Misis Mo, Misis Ko, Paano Tatakasan ang Bukas?, Abot-kamay ang Pangarap, American Adobo, Tanging Yaman ,Till We Meet Again, Tatarin, Hindi Nahahati ang Langit and Bridal Shower.
Opposite former husband Vic Sotto, the lovely actress did numerous projects that were warmly received by the public: Mama Said, Papa Said I Love You, Ride on Baby, Hindi Pa Tapos ang Labada Darling and Bakit Ba Ganyan (Ewan Ko nga Ba Darling).
Dina scored one big hit as a recording star through “Bakit ba Ganyan” and her maiden album of the same title under OctoArts Records reached the Gold mark.
Witty and articulate, the talented star top-billed her own talk show titled “Ms. D” over at GMA-7 which lasted for three years. It was one of the network’s consistent ratings chart toppers during those times. For her work, Dina was recognized as Best Celebrity Talk Show Host by the Philippine Movie Press Club (PMPC).
She first forayed into showbiz consciousness in 1986, as Megastar Sharon Cuneta’s best friend in the hit tear-jerker Nakagapos na Puso which also starred Lorna Tolentino. Viva saw her potential and soon cast her in many of its hit projects like Bondying, Isang Bala, Isang Buhay, Paano Tatakasan ang Bukas? and Bakit Iisa Lamang ang Puso?
Dawn’s popularity soared higher when she became a mainstay of the Sunday variety offering GMA Super Show headlined by the late German Moreno. She was one of the female co-hosts which include the likes of Sharon, Jackielou Blanco, Gretchen Barretto and Lani Mercado. Because of her gift of gab, GMA-7 gave her another weekly program titled RSVP wherein the veteran Ariel Ureta was her co-host.
The model-turned-actress proved that she’s not just a pretty face in Chito Roño’s Kasalanan Bang Sambahin Ka? in the early ‘90s where she pitted skills with Vivian Velez. That made the public and critics alike took a second look at her considerable acting talent. From there, she gradually achieved the leading lady status.
Dawn can take pride as the only actress who won the Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress plums in the same award-giving body. This happened at the FAMAS awards in 1990 in which she was adjudged Best Actress for Hihintayin Kita sa Langit and Best Supporting Actress for Una Kang Naging Akin, at the same time. Her performance for the movies Buhay ng Buhay Ko and Kung Mawawala Ka Pa also made her win acting trophies.
At one point, the lovely actress was named Box-office Queen by the Guillermo Mendoza Memorial Scholarship Foundation. This was at the height of the “massacre movies” in which her Maggie dela Riva Story made a huge killing at the tills.
Some of Dawn’s unforgettable screen outings include: Bakit May Kahapon Pa?, Lahar, Ikaw Naman ang Iiyak, Filipinas, Magkaibigan, Patayin sa Sindak si Barbara and last year’s The Love Affair opposite perennial screen partner Richard Gomez and Bea Alonzo.
It’s good that her marriage to a politician (Rep. Anton Lagdameo, Jr. of Davao del Norte) didn’t stop her from acting. According to Dawn, Anton is very supportive especially now that their two sons are growing up fast. He knows that acting is her passion.
In recent years, Dawn has made projects with ABS-CBN and its film arm, Star Cinema. Her latest soap titled You’re My Home together with Goma, Jessy Mendiola and JC de Vera was a certified prime time winner
Considered as a true child of the showbiz industry because of her pedigree, Snooky is the daughter of actors Von Serna and Mila Ocampo. Her maiden big screen appearance was in the Lino Brocka classic Wanted: Perfect Mother. In the said project, she was able to capture the hearts of the movie-going public through her cute and smart ways as a four-year old. She was named FAMAS Best Child Actress for her work in Sana Mahalin Mo Ako.
When the ‘80s ushered in, Snooky completed the triumvirate of aspiring movie queens with Sharon Cuneta and Maricel Soriano being the other two. One of the original Regal babies, she made a number of hit films like: Underage, School Girls, Summer Holiday and Story of Three Loves. Her love team with Albert Martinez was one of the most popular then as they did Bata Pa si Sabel, First Love, First Kiss and Teenage Marriage.
Some of Snooky’s memorable films are: Paalam, Bukas ang Kasal Ko, Strangers in Paradise, To Mama with Love, Hello Young Lovers, Don’t Cry for Me Papa, Daddy’s Little Darlings, Experience, and Dear Mama. She also had unforgettable hit projects with Maricel like Anak ni Waray Vs. Anak ni Biday, Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow and Inagaw Mo ang Lahat sa Akin.
The lovely actress is also very well-known for her fantasy flicks Blusang Itim and Rosa Mistica which are both blockbusters. She also breathed life to the role of Galema in the original film adaptation of Zuma.
Snooky got acting honors for Hahamakin ang Lahat (Best Supporting Actress) and Koronang Itim (Best Actress).