An intimate portrait of Tessie Agana’s life and times

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“She started out when she was about six years old, and (she did) ‘Roberta,’ the big movie when she was eight years old. From eight to 14, it was when she made a lot of her movies as a child star.”

That was Mylene Richardson speaking about the first foray of her mom, Tessie Agana, also known as the “Shirley Temple of the Philippines,” into acting in a recent virtual press conference.

Tessie is among the child stars that the local tinseltown produced in the ‘50s. In the chapter article titled A History of Philippine Cinema, written by Mario Hernando, from the book, The Golden Years: Memorable Tagalog Movie Ads 1946-1956, from the collection of Danny Dolor, (1994) edited by Ronald Constantino and Ricardo Lo, Tessie was described as “a child star virtually rebuilt the razed Sampaguita studio from the ashes” with her 1951 movie, “Roberta.”

Mario added that the other child stars at that time were “Boy Alano, Bebong Osorio, Boy Planas, Precy Ortega, Baby Zobel, Nora Dy, and Ike Jarlego, Jr.”

Mylene, during the online interview, shared that her mother’s journey in acting commenced more than seven decades ago and Sampaguita Pictures “was one of the big movie producers back in the 1950s.” Tessie was cast in “a low-budget movie called ‘Roberta,’” and “while filming, tragedy struck and Sampaguita Pictures studio burned to the ground.”

The filming of “Roberta” pushed through, and it had its gala premiere on Feb. 28, 1951. The movie became a blockbuster that led to Tessie’s stardom and solidified her child star status.

“My mother was credited as the child actor who gave Sampaguita the miracle to not only survive the catastrophe with this movie but come back bigger and stronger,” shared Mylene in a statement.

This and more perhaps constitute the child star’s professional journey as told in the book, titled The Legend of Tessie Agana: Beloved Child Star of the Philippines, written by Mylene Richardson. (Read More on The Philippine Star)

By Jerry Donato, The Philippine Star
March 7, 2024

Mylene Richardson

Mylene Richardson

Mylene Agana Jao Richardson was born in Manila, Philippines, and is the sixth of nine children (six boys and three girls) from Tessie Agana Jao and Dr. Rodolfo Jao. Although she grew up in Indiana, her trips back to the Philippines are her most memorable family vacations. Mylene currently lives in Arizona, with her husband Andy, and their two sons, Chapman and Harris.


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