A book signing for the release of “The Legend of Tessie Agana: Beloved Child Star of the Philippines: An Intimate Portrait of My Mother” by author Mylene Agana Jao Richardson drew crowds and curiosity seekers Friday, Sept. 22 at the Barnes & Noble in Valparaiso.
Retired movie star Tessie Agana, joined her author daughter to sign books and pose for photos, following a short talk by Richardson and audience questions. After her self-described legendary movie career in the Philippines, Agana, now 81, settled in Northwest Indiana, first Gary and now Valparaiso, where she has lived for more than 60 years. Following her youth in movies, her parents moved her from the Philippines to Maryland in 1956 and in 1957, Tessie and her family moved to Lafayette, where she graduated in 1959 from Lafayette Central Catholic High School.
Author Richardson has much to say, and has written a fascinating work detailing not only her mother Tessie, but also grandmother Linda Estrella, since the two were the Philippines’ iconic mother/daughter film star duo of the early 1950s, starring in more than 40 films together and winning the hearts of millions of fans worldwide.
Tessie was affectionately deemed “The Nation’s Little Sweetheart” of her country and known as the “Shirley Temple of the Philippines,” the latter association likely coming from her role as the title character in the 1951 film “Roberta,” which was then the highest grossing Philippine film of all time. Produced by Sampaguita Pictures on a low budget after a fire destroyed the studio’s film library, “Roberta” was released in 1951, and was an unprecedented box office success and has since been credited with propelling the financially strapped studio’s revival in the early 1950s.
Two decades earlier, during the Great Depression, Shirley Temple was similarly credited with saving her film studio 20th Century Fox from bankruptcy with her box office hit films such as “Curly Top” and “The Littlest Rebel.” (Read more on Chicago Tribune)
By Philip Potempa
September 27, 2023