Saturday, September 13, 2008



By Nap C. Alip

Source: Jingle Extra HotMovie Entertainment Magazine
No. 9, April 6, 1981

The local movie industry will be virtually incomplete without mentioning the Muhlach clan. Since the mid-fifties up to the present, the ever intriguing Amalia Fuentes has never ceased creating waves, closely followed by her super moppet nephew Niño Muhlach. Liezl, Allan Ronald, Cheng and Alex Muhlach have their share of fame, fortune an controversies so much so that you cannot talk of one without speaking of the rest, so to say.

But how well doew the public know them? All these years every move of the Muhlach family has been magnified in print and in words. Still, many things have remained unsaid about them, especially their unguarded and private moments. Having practically seasoned and matured professionally in more than ten years of working with the Muhlachs, I’m lucky indeed to be among the few whom the Muhlachs consider a trusted confidante. Somehow, somewhere along the way, I can’t help but fully size them up individually.


Long before I became close to Nena, the impression that she was too strong in character struck in my mind. “Mangingilag ka at magkakaroon ng inferiority kapag kaharap si Amalia,” not a few echoed about Nena then. For that matter, the first time I interviewed Nena I made it a point to be prepared to the teeth. “Baka mapahiya ako,” I told myself. Contrary to what I expected, Nena was so accommodating that our conversation lasted for hours. Her straightforwardness, wit and sense of values touched me. Even that time, the way she treated me, how she showered me with advice and pointers truly elucidated her big sister image.

Not surprisingly, during the time I was already under the employ of her AM outfit, the big and small things Nena did to Alex and Cheng and to her four half-brothers all the more pointed out to the fullest her very loving attitude.

“Alam, noong maliliit pa kami nina Alex at Cheng ay parang tatay at nanay na nila ako. Pag may kaaway silang bata, sugod agad ako sa pagtatanggol sa kanila. Pag may problema sa school at sa kanilang teacher, inaayos ko. Pati ang damit nila, ako ang naglalaba at namamalantsa. Kasi okupado ang time ng aming mother sa paghahanap-buhay. Ang hirap ng buhay namin noon. Di nga naming natikman noon ang mga small luxuries tulad ng mga komiks at magasin. Never nga akong makapanood ng sine. Siguro kaya di ako nagdaan sa pagka-teenager. Iyon bang may crush to this and that o kaya’y gusting bumili ng ganito’t ganoon. Paano, wala akong nakikita noon dahil sa liblib na lugar sa Mindanao kami nakatira noon.

“But I have to admit na kahit kalian di ako nagkaroon ng inferiority complex. Ever since kasi, ako ang pinakamaganda at pinakamatalino sa grade school days ko. Ako rin ang nagtuturo kina Alex at Cheng ng homeworks nila. Come to think of it, my confidence helped and pushed me to where I am now,” Amalia often intimated to me.

Oftentimes, I remember Nena dropping by AM office just to greet Alex and Cheng, bringing along merienda and other food stuffs. She was always a big sister through and through. What amazed me was her over excitement everytime Alex and Cheng would notch their birthday. Nena always threw a bash in a plushy eatery in Ongpin and acted like she was the celebrant.

You should see Nena unleash her temper when provoked. Typically Muhlach, many wre the times Nena lost her cool if her brothers caught her ire.

“Talagang ganoon ako magalit. Sigaw dito, sigaw doon. Madaldal ako at nakakasakit ng damdamin. Pero pagkatapos ng init ng ulo ko ay bale wala na sa akin. Di ako ang tipo na pag may kagalit ay nagtatanim ng sama ng loob. Basta nasabi ko na ang niloloob ko, wala na sa akin.

“Pero yang si Alex, para bang walang emotions. Di magre-react. Did you know na noong papunta sa Amerika si Alex to take his master’s degree ay nag-iiyakan kaming lahat nang ihatid naming siya sa airport. Ang lakas ng iyak ko, gayundin sina mommy, Cheng at lahat sa family circle. Pero si Alex ay ni hindi naluha. He is the stoic type. He keeps his feelings intact. Kaya naman pag napuno na, sobra ang sabog nito. Unlike Cheng who’s demonstrative like me. Madali ring uminit ang ulo but also easy to cool off,” says Nena.

With the emergence of Niño Muhlach as the hottest child star, the twist turned unfavorably for the Muhlachs. It was a shocker to learn one day that Nena, whom everybody knew then had only eyes for the welfare of Alex and Cheng, broke ties with the two. Suddenly, the brothers formed their own outfit named D’Wonder Films. How did Nena take the said tiff?

To this day, I can still vividly recall what was inside Nena’s heart that time. A week or so after the supposed split with Alex and Cheng, I had a long chat with Nena on the set of her starrer “Babaing Hiwalay sa Asawa:”

“It’s really painful on my part. Alam mo naman kung gaano ang pagpapahalaga ko sa mga kapatid ko. Ang masakit sa akin, itinyempo nilang ganituhin ako at the time na Niño made it big at the box office. Di ba lumalabas lang na may ipinagmamalaki na sila kaya ganoon. Honestly, ako mismo ang unang natuwa sa pagsikat ni Niño. Pamangkin ko yata yan. Natural na I’d be glad dahil in more ways than one, Niño will be a big help sa aming family.

“About Rebecca Rocha, ever since Alex knew my feelings towards her. Personally, I’ve nothing against her. Kaya lang, pinag-aral ko si Alex at pinag-abroad pa so that he could find a better partner for him. I mean, it’s but natural na mag-expect ako na isang titulada at may sinasabi ang kanyang mapapangasawa. But they can not say na inapi ko si Becky dahil dib a kinukuha ko siya sa movies ng AM, pati nga ang mommy nito na si Nela Alvarez.

“What I’m fighting for is the principle involved, not the monetary considerations. Mahirap magsalita ng tapos kaya let the future decide.” Those were the words of Nena few years back.

Now in the thick of filming of “Dirty Games” her first starrer after a year of absence, Nena epitomizes a much more contented woman whose unbeatable looks and brains have matured gracefully.

“Look, what I told you before about Alex and Cheng still holds true presently. Oh yes, there are some changes. Wala na ang sobrang sama ng loob ko, wala na rin ang word war naming and once in a while, nagkikita-kita kami nina Alex at nag-uusap kami ng pormal. But everything is not back to normal yet. The future will decide. Although aminado ako na pag may balita against Alex and Cheng, ako ang unang nasasaktan. Iba talaga ang magkakapatid, no matter what,” Amalia disclosed.

It was not an easy climb to stardom for Amalia Fuentes. But her success story serves as all-time inspiration for movie fans who yearn to make it big as stars. Sometime in 1955, Amalia Muhlach was among the thousands of diehards who joined Holiday in Movieland, a whole day affair sponsored by Sampaguita, LVN and Premiere studios.

While inside the Sampaguita compound, Amalia was discovered, leading to her inking an exclusive contract. After a minor role as a fairy godmother in “Prince Charming” where she was billed Miss Number One, Amalia was formally introduced as Amalia Fuentes (she used her stepfather’s surname) in “Lydia”.

Then in the movie entitled “Movie Fan”, Amalia was launched to full stardom, together with Juancho Gutierrez. The rest was a series of successful starrers that saw Amalia the arch-rival of Susan Roces to the queenship of Philippine movies.

Unlike Susan who remained sweet and untarnished in image, Amalia fenced the controversial ways of a star. Siya ang kinilalang orihinal na kontrobersyal na aktres. Una, umalis siya sa Sampaguita na humantong sa demandahan. Ngunit lalong tumingkad ang pagkabituin ni Amalia. That time, siya ang unang tinawag na superstar na babae, a hot copy that she was, aside from the fact na noon, siya ang highest paid actress in her TIIP films, topped by her starring role in “Destination: Vietnam.”

Her marriage and break-up with reel boyfriend Romeo Vasquez enhanced to the fullest ang popularidad ni Amalia. Naging matagumpay din bilang producer si Amalia, commercially and on the quality side. Significantly, ang dalawang paboritong ginawa ni Amalia under her AM Productions ay ang “Ibulong Mo Sa Hangin” which earned kudos here and abroad at ang “Tatlong Kasaysayan Ng Pag-ibig”, both directed by ace megman Gerry de Leon. In the latter, Amalia shockedher followers by playing the role of a teenage prostitute in one of its episodes. Noong panahong iyon, di pa uso ang ganoong tipo ng boldness. But instead of losing her stature, higit na tiningala bilang aktres si Amalia.

For the record, Amalia won her first FAMAS best actress trophy in “Ibulong Mo Sa Hangin”. Nanalo rin siyang best actress sa Manila Filmfest sa “Pag-ibig Mo, Buhay Ko.” Not too mention na halos taun-taon noon, nominated si Amalia as best actress category.

Without Bobby, and as a family woman, ay masasabing tagumpay din si Amalia both as a doting mommy and father to her only daughter Liezl. As she always intimated to her chums, she has shortcomings as a person but as a mother, she keeps her best foot forward.

“I failed as a wife but I’ll try my best not to be a failure bilang ina ng aking anak,” says Amalia.

Although she rarely appears in flicks and hasn’t reactivated her movie firm, Nena has more than enough trophies, citations and the likes documenting her popularity, acting prowess and other achievements as an actress and as a producer. To name some: she won two awards for best actress (the FAMAS and Manila Filmfest). She was a consistent nominee year in and year out. Nena produced “Ibulong Mo Sa Hangin”, a critically acclaimed movie here and abroad. Nena spearheaded also the showing of local films in the United States for the Filipino community.

Many firsts wre tucked in Nena’s belt. She was the first in local tinseltown to be tagged superstar. At the height of her fame, Nena become the first highest paid actress via “Destination: Vietnam” and earlier than that in the TIIP tearjerker “Ako’y Iyung-Iyo”. The original controversial figure, Nena was chosen Asia’s most beautiful actress in a survey conducted by the prestigious Asia Magazine in the ‘60s, the first and hopefully not the last, accorded to a Filipino actress.

“Tapos na ang panahon ko pero wala akong regrets dahil narito pa rin ako at maraming maipagmamalaki kung tutuusin. I don’t give a damn kung halimbawang sabihin ng iba na laos na ako o kaya’y matanda na. What counts is how you project the best in you and the accomplishments you have made through hardwork and dedication,” Amalia philosophized.


It was in the early ‘7s when I got to know the real Alex Muhlach, that aloof-looking and reticent other Muhlach. Fresh from his studies and works in the United States, Alex exuded a composed,collected and learned young man appeal. Inside AM office, Alex displayed an American style in running the firm with conviction and discipline. A systematic mover, Alex found it hard to impose a western pattern in management.

“I realized na ibang-iba ang takbo ng trabaho ditto. Ako ang nag-adjust pagkat show business ang iniikutan ko. Slowly, I enjoyed socializing with the showbiz people and speaking their lingo,” Alex said.

Recalling his first few years as the general manager of AM Productions, Alex admitte that he would not have resigned from his lucrative job in the United States were it not for Nena’s frantic overseas call.

“Pinauuwi niya ako agad. Mismanaged ang AM noon at maraming personal difficulties si Nena. Would you believe na gusto kong right then and there I’d enplane back” Ganyan kami ka-close ni Nena at napakasakit sa akin if she worried that much.

“Paunti-unti, muli kong napatatag ang AM at the expense of other people’s faults. Yes, brutal ako sa pagpapatalsik sa mga taong gumawa ng anomalies. Pinaiiral ko ang disiplina sa buhay ko. I want others to do the same thing. Maraming asar sa akin pagka’t masyado akong mahigpit, di lang sa office regulations kundi pati sa pera. Ang point ko, paano aasenso ang isang business o ang tao kung di maghihigpit at magtitipid.”

To prove it, Alex recounted that not lng after he ran AM office, the latter was back in the black again, with a series of hits. Nena recovered her lost ground in the movies, not to mention that with Alex’s moral boost, she withstood the stormy period of her life.

“Naging big brother ako kay Nena as far as her businesses were concerned those years. Not that walang alam si Nena na magpatakbo ng negosyo. More on theories siya. Ako naman ay actual na pagpapatakbo at pagpapalago nito. Wala naman akong mairereklamo kay Nena noon dahil sunod ako sa layaw. Binibigyan niya ako ng lahat ng kailangan ko, from a car to my clothes. I could not ask for more except when time came na nagkaroon ako ng sariling pamilya.

“Medyo nagkalapit sina Becky at Nena. At times, binibisita namin si Nena sa bahay. Madalas nga noon pag nag-aaway kami ni Becky ay pinapayuhan siya ni Nena kung ano ang dapat gawin. Sometimes, we spend the weekend sa resthouse ni Nena sa Tali Beach or sa digs nito sa Baguio City.”

When Niño started to make a name in the movies, Alex doesn’t deny that the credit went to Nena via AM’s “May Lalaki sa Ilalim ng Kama Ko”. However, Ronnie Poe catapulted Niño to the top, no question about that.

“Inaamin ko na pagpasok ni Niño sa pelikula, nahati na ang pag-aasikaso ko sa kanila ni Nena. Di ko maaalis na magselos si Nena pero it’s but natural na intindihin ko rin ang anak ko. Noon ngang magkagalit-galit kami, maraming nadamay at nasaktan. Puro hot-tempered kaming mga Muhlach. Now, I believe it’s the right time to paste back the broken pieces dahil nag-subside na ang mga init ng ulo namin. Infact, I’m willing to forget what transpired between us. It seems that Nena refuses to bury the hatchet, so to speak. For the time being, I expect the best for her and for Niño’s Wonder Films. Minsan, naiisip ko na the best thing that could happen to us ay kung tuluyan nang magkakasundu-sundo kami at magiging sister companies ang AM at Wonder. Am I expecting the impossible? I hope not. In spite of our differences, I can always be a big brother to Nena.”

Regarding his marital trouble with Becky which ended up with them parting ways, Alex hopefully pins hope on their possible reconciliation. As he puts it, theirs is a trial separation for them to analyze the pros and cons of their marriage.


Kung may mangyayaring ano man kay Nena, handa kong ibigay nag buhay ko sa kanya.” Those were the words uttered by Cheng Muhlach to many more than ten years ago, signifying how intense his feelings were for his sister then. Understandably so, Cheng acted as Nena’s bodyguard, chaperone and trouble shooter for that matter. With all the affection, blessings and rewarding things given to him by Nena, Cheng could simply reciprocate on those terms. Yet in the years that followed, Cheng became not a mere brother but a dependable, trusted and enterprising production manager of Nena’s outfit.

In contrast to Alex, even during his school days Cheng had been noted for his ruggedness, Cassanova image and trouble-prone self. In fairness to Cheng, however, he beats Alex in the camaraderie department. All through the years, he has that passion for helping and aiding any friend in distress for which he earns the respect of others.

“Kung titingnan ako, sobra nag tapang ko at parang mahirap lapitan at pakibagayan. Nag tutoo, softhearted nga ako. Kahit nga may atraso sa akin, pag okey nag pakiusap o paghingi ng paumanhin ay madaling mawala nag asar ko. Sa away naman, never an magsimula nag gulo sa akin. Cool ako unless an nakataya an nag pagkalalaki ko,” Cheng sums up himself.

In the long time that Cheng worked for AM, he mentioned that Nena could never accuse him of neglecting his task or not going out of his way to iron out the kinks if these were visible.

“Sobra nag pagmamalasakit naming kay Nena dahil mahal namin siya. Lagi akong nasa likod niya, nakaalalay. Basta may problems here and there sa cast, sa technical men o sa lahat sa production side, ako nag umaareglo. That’s why, I was deeply hurt an dahil lang sa maliit an misunderstanding naming dalawa ay mauuwi sa pag-split naming magkakapatid.”

On this ground, Cheng asserts that there’s no need to go into details on that highly publicized feud.

“Sooner or later, maaaring maayos an nag nasabing gulo. So it will be better an tight-lipped an ako about this. I’m more concerned sa pagkayod nang husto para sa hinaharap ko. Ibang-iba an ako ngayon. Not so long ago ay talagang carefree and I didn’t give a damn about myself. Parang one day millionaire ako noon. Puro goodtime at kapritso ng katawan nag inatupag ko,” pagtatapat ni Cheng.

Time came when Cheng felt being left alone. He had nothing to brag about, fiancial-wise.

“I finally woke up to the truth, I’m not getting any younger. Na-challenge ako sa sinabi ni Alex that if I wouldn’t change I’ll die penniless. Bigla akong nagtipid at nag-save ng money. Eventually, I’ve branched out sa other businesses. Ngayon, puwedeng sabihing hindi an ako pahuhuli kina Nena at Alex. Di ako kasing yaman nila pero at least mayroon an rin akong naipundar.

Would his loyalty and love for Nena engulf Cheng once more in the days to come?

“Mahirap nag magsalita pagkatapos ay di mapapatunayan. Basta on my part, all I can say is that once a brother, always a brother.”


If Anna Lissa Muhlach Sumilang or simply Liezl would embark on movie acting, she could easily make it to the top without really trying hard. After all, since Liezl was a mere baby, she had already enthralled huge followers. No wonder, in her initial starrer “Portrait of an Angel” at the age of four, Liezl gave Snooky, the reigning top child star then, a stiff fight at the tills.

Despite lucrative movie offers, Nena reaffirmed her decision to let Liezl forego her career in favor of her studies in the USA and subsequently at the International School.

Liezl did quit the movies up to the present, but she has not been totally out of the limelight. The public has kept a watchful eye on her growing up into a radiant and stunning teener. Thanks to the pictorials and write-ups about Liezl which Amalia couldn’t turn down.

More than ever, this ’81 indicates more exposure on Liezl’s beauty and talents. Does it imply she’s all set to try the kleighlights anew?

Judging from the newly acquired gregarious and outgoing personality of Liezl (she used to be too shy and reticent), “puwedeng-puwede an siya sa pelikula,” so they say. Will Nena ever approve of it?

“It all depends on my daughter. Pero ako siyempre gusto kong mag-stick siya sa pag-aaral. Alam naman niya kung gaano kagulo nag movies. Frustration ko nag magkaroon ng college degree that’s why I hope that thru Liezl matupad nag mga dreams ko for a college education. She is so talented, she can do almost anything,” says Nena.

Querried on that matter, Liezl admits, “Sometimes I imagine I’m a big star. The idea excites me, especially since all my friends in school have crushes on this and that young actor. But Mama is right – I’m not prepared for that kind of life. Right now, my studies is top priority and I will only consider the movies after I get a college education.


How does a kid like Niño Muhlach cope up with the often hurting, depressing and sinful movie world? With his alleged millions to boot, the adulation and all the luck showered him, can Niño ever live up normally? What’s really inside Niño?

October 27, 1972 was the first time I chanced upon Niño who turned one-year-old that day. A grandstand performer even at that tender age, what with his nonstop dancing, singing, imitating noted singers and other gimmicks, Niño was already predicted to be a phenomenal child star. From three benefactors, Amalia Fuentes to Ariel Ureta to Fernando Poe, Jr., three years later saw Niño emerge as the hottest moppet performer.

At first, detractors surmised that he would be good for a year’s time. They were wrong. Again, they opined that Niño would lose his appeal after three years. That guess was faulty for of late, in his sixth year as a moneymaker, Niño sustains his box office charisma. The question is, if he were not a Muhlach, would Niño become the superstar that he is? On the set of his latest assignment “Cuatro Y Media”, Niño paused for a while before he replied.

“I’m proud of being a Muhlach. Siguro kahit I’m talented di ako sisikat kung di ako Muhlach. Eh, di wala sana akong Tita Nena an superstar. Ng isang papa an tsampiyon sa marketing at ng isang uncle Cheng an number one bilang manager ko at PM ng Wonder Films.”

Showing his views as an actor, anyone who listens to Niño would not dispute his advance maturity, sometimes too advanced for comfort you’ll simply be amazed at those quotes that come from him.

“Intriga? Naku, masisira lang nag ulo pag pinatulan yan. When I was younger I got hurt and mad by such things. Now, I ignore them. Eh, mas sisikat ka pag iniintriga. Would you believe I’m more depressed pag wala akong pelikula? Kaya lagi akong may movies. Kaya lang, papa makes it a point an hindi magko-conflict sa schedules ko sa school. Di ako puedeng maglakuwatsa.

“About the sinful movie world, eh nasa tao yan. Kahit puro temptation nag nakapaligid sa iyo, you can avoid them if you have strong self-control. Tulad ko, nag liit ko pa ay exposed an ako sa mga green jokes and lately sa x-rated movies sa betamax. But I don’t take them seriously. Pinadadaan ko lang sa tenga at sa mga mata ko. You see, I’m a disciplinarian a trait which I inherited from my parents.”

On the other hand, Niño exclaim that no amount of adulation could daunt him and would somehow hamper his lifestyle.

“Sa labasng kamera I’m just one of the kids. I’m not affected by my star stature. That’s why offscreen, I’d like to be treated like anybody else. Another thing, I’m not lucky all the way. Look what happened to my parents. Nag dream ko, magkasundo uli sila. It so happens I understand their situation. Wala akong kinakampihan sa kanila.

“Sabi nila, mayamang-mayaman daw ako. Aywan, wala sa loob ko yan. When I grow up that’s the time I’ll think about my money. Nag importante sa akin these days ay nag studies ko, my movie career, aside from my parents and my brother Allan Ronald.”

What’s really inside Niño? This early, those who are attached to him admit that the boy has a knack for serious things and seemingly growing up to be a responsible and cultured teener.

“I think I’ll be more dedicated years from now, just like papa. Sana when that day comes, makikita ko an one big family kami – sina Tina Nena at Liezl, Tito Cheng and his family and our family. Nami-miss ko an rin nag happy reunion ng Muhlachs.”


During his first few movie appearances, Niño’s kid brother Allan Ronald had disappointed his parents. They categorized Allan as an ordinary tot who had no acting motivation. In other words, his parents thought the movies was not for Allan.

But Allan proved they were wrong while filming “Tikboy en Pamboy”. He surprised a lot of people, including megger Baby Navoa who didn’t expect that Allan would react favorably to his instructions.

“Biglang nagka-interes itong si Allan. Na-encourage siya ni Niño an matiyaga rin sa pagbibigay ng pointers sa kapatid. Honestly, iba talaga nag kapasidad ni Niño. Pero in fairness to Allan, he has a style of his own at ayaw niyang patalo kay Niño in front of the cameras. This was good dahil naging effective nag scenes ng dalawa,” Alex recalled.

Admittedly, Alex confirmed the reports that “Tikboy en Pamboy” grossed much more than what they guessed primarily because of moviegoers’ curiosity over Allan.

“Before its showing, sinabi ko sa aming mg checkers an tanungin nag manunuod kung bakit nila type nag said pic. Nang matapos nag showing, they reported to me an karamihan ay interesado kay Allan at nagustuhan nila nag bata dahil cute at listo din. Kaya nga bida si Allan sa next ng Wonder Films, nag “Tropang Bulilit” with Niño and other child stars,” Alex stressed.

Shall we say that in the years to come, Allan can duplicate or even surpass the record of his brother?


Di kataka-taka nag Eurasian features ng mga Muhlach pagkat ang kanilang ina, si Ginang Concepcion Amador Fuentes ay mestisang Chinese at nag late father nila, si Alvaro Muhlach, Sr. ay Spanish-German.

Maliliit pa sina Amalia, Alex at Cheng nang mamatay nag kanilang ama, nang makatapak ng bomba sometime in 1945. According to Mrs. Fuentes, kung buhay pa nag papa ni Amalia, she would have never entered flickerville. He was conservative type an sobra nag pagiging disciplinarian.

A few years later, Amalia’s mother re-married Isagani Fuentes, a Protestant Minister. Ito rin nag dahilan kung bakit nakapag-aral si Amalia sa isang Protestant school, nag Philippine Christian College where she finished her high school.

Fate destined Mrs. Fuentes to be a widow again for the second time. But at least, grown ups na ang apat niyang mga anak na lalaki sa second marriage when the tragedy occured.

“Unlucky ako sa love matters dahil naging maikli ang buhay nila pero napakasuwerte ko naman sa mga anak ko at grandchildren. Si Isagani, Jr. ay nasa Amerika at maganda ang trabaho. Sina Bebot at Ruben ay may kani-kaniya na ring kayod. Ang bunso ko na lang na si David ang enrolled sa college. He’s only seventeen,” says Mrs. Fuentes.

Nang tanungin namin si Mommy Fuentes kung sa tingin niya ay sino ang mas maganda kina Amalia at Liezl, she smiles.

“Habang lumalaki at nagdadalaga ay lalong gumaganda si Liezl. Pero kung ihahambing ko si Nena noong teenager pa siya, sa tingin ko ay mas maganda pa rin siya kaysa kay Liezl.”

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Iconic Philippine showbiz family! Only showbiz clan that produced 3 superstars.. Movie Queen Amalia Fuentes, child wonder Nino Muhlach and super matinee idol Aga Muhlach.