Blast from the Past; Linda Estrella, One of Post-War Cinema's Gems
Byline: Gypsy Baldovino
A year after Hollywood's Judy Garland became famous in "The Wizard of Oz" (1939), the country's very own, Linda Estrella started to grace the local silver screen as the young Carmen Rosales in Sampaguita Pictures' "Princesita."
We mentioned Ms. Garland because the double success she and her daughter Liza Minelli achieved was mimicked by the mother-daughter team of Linda Estrella and her daughter Tessie Agana, the first child wonder of Philippine cinema.
The only difference is, they did it ahead of Judy & Liza by exactly twenty one years. Tessie's "Roberta" was the biggest hit in 1951 while Minelli did it only in 1972's "Cabaret."
Linda Estrella's extra-ordinary fate as a celebrity took shape when she married the kind doctor, Aning Agana, just before World War II broke out in December of 1941. She was but a college freshman in Philippine Women's University then.
However, marriage and war didn't deter Linda from continuing a career in showbiz. During the 2nd World War, Linda, like most performers, was into stage shows. She was a featured singer in Life Theater, along with other entertainers like Tony Santos Sr. and Chiquito's brother Rene Pangan, who were fantastic dancers.
Linda's fine singing was credited to a degree, to her fine genes. Thanks to a half-Italian, half-Spanish dad, Jose Alcala Rigotti, who had a very good singing voice.
"We're from Catanduanes," said Linda. "My father was once a school principal in Pandan, where he met my mother who worked as a Grade One teacher. We were five, pero tatlo na lamang kaming lumaki. Ako na lang ang surviving."
"After the war, I resumed my acting career at LVN Pictures," she continued. Nagpaalam ako sa mister ko, and he said: 'It's up to you, whatever you want.' He was very supportive and understanding."
In 1946, Linda did "Garrison 13" with Jaime de la Rosa & Carmen (Rosales) and "Dalawang Daigdig" with Mila del Sol and Leopoldo Salcedo.
"After two movies, I transferred to Sampaguita Pictures," she continued. The studio, owned by Linda's uncle, the late Senator Jose Vera, became her home until she retired in 1956 via the film "Pampanguena" costarring Rogelio dela Rosa and Myrna Delgado.
"Acting came naturally for me, I think," Linda said. "Hindi ka naman tuturuan noon. I just memorized my lines. Because I'm Bicolana, oftentimes I would ask the meaning of hard tagalog words so that I could emote properly. I was typecast as 'asawang martir' at saka palagi akong modista, api- apihan at mapagtiis. I did my best."
"My leading men were Pancho Magalona, Fred Montilla, Angel Esmeralda and Oscar Moreno. They were all nice. My competitor then was Tessie Quintana", she recalled.
During those days, Linda said quickie movies were no-nos. "A film would require twenty shooting days to a month. …