ent3.jpg" border=0 align="left">In the old days of clean and wholesome movies, there were three royal families in local show business: the De Leons of LVN, the Santiagos of Premiere Productions and the Vera-Perezes of Sampaguita Pictures.
Dr. Jose Perez was not one of the original founders of Sampaguita Pictures and cannot be called the father of this film outfit. It was a business he only assumed from his in-laws. But it cannot be denied that he nurtured and helped make this movie production grow into the biggest dream factory in the history of Philippine cinema.
Actually, film wasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t even his line in the beginning. His background was really medicine Ã¢â‚¬â€œ the course that he finished at the University of Santo Tomas before the outbreak of the Pacific War.
When he was a medical intern, however, his father was rushed to the hospital due to acute appendicitis. At the operating room, he was only a few meters away observing the delicate operation when he witnessed his own father die in the hands of experienced surgeons. (His father, it turned out, was allergic to anesthesia). The whole experience left him traumatized and unable to practice medicine for the rest of his life.
All those years he spent in UST studying medicine didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t exactly go to waste. For it was in that Dominican campus along EspaÃƒÂ±a street where he met and fell in love with his future wife, Azucena Vera, who was then a student of chemistry.
Jose and Azucena originally planned to get married on Dec. 20, 1941. But when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on Dec. 8 of that year (Manila time) and war came to the Philippines in the days that followed, they decided to advance their wedding date to Dec. 10, 1941. (If they were going to be killed in the war, they must as well die together as husband and wife Ã¢â‚¬â€œ they figured that time.)
The grand wedding reception was cancelled and Azucena Vera stole a march in a simple dress at the San Marcelino Church in Manila. She never got to wear her Ramon Valera wedding gown since it was still unfinished when she and her groom rushed to their altar date. The wedding dress intended for Azucena Vera Perez was eventually worn by Chona Kasten when she became Mrs. Ysmael much later.
Mercifully, Dr. Jose Perez and his wife survived the war. Azucena bore Dr. Perez seven children: Maria Azucena (Marichu), Pepito, Georgina (now Mrs. Joe de Venecia), Bobby (who died at the age of 26), Lilibeth (now Mrs. Nakpil), Chona (now Mrs. Ampil) and Jose Gregorio (Kokoy).
As a father, Dr. Perez loved and treated all his seven children equally. But Marichu knows that she had a special place in her fatherÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s heart.
Dr. PerezÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s special bonding with his eldest child began when Marichu was still a young girl. Marichu Ã¢â‚¬â€œ dusky, but not exactly an ugly duckling Ã¢â‚¬â€œ was badly affected by comments made by family friends who loved comparing her to her younger brother Pepito who inherited their fatherÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s mestizo features. As a result of these cruel remarks from people around her, Marichu developed inferiority complex. At the age of nine, she would lock herself in her room and knit all day.
Dr. Perez knew that the only way to bring Marichu out of her shell was to make her realize that she was loved and cared for. He would also have heart-to-heart talks with her and Ã¢â‚¬â€œ often Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Marichu would hear her father tell her: "Hija, youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll grow up in this studio surrounded by beautiful faces. But you have a beautiful heart and that is what is important." "My father was the only man who gave me unconditional love," claims Marichu.
Dr. Perez also proved to be a loving father to the contract stars of Sampaguita. "They could approach him even for their personal needs," Marichu remembers.
Away from the camera, Dr. Perez also trained his stars on how to dress up and conduct themselves during social gatherings. Stars who swore, cuss and cracked off-color jokes were given a dressing down at his office.
Aside from building up glamorous stars, Dr. Jose Perez also took pride in the fact that he produced the most number of blockbusters in his day.
Unfortunately, the bomba era came along in the late Ã¢â‚¬â„¢60s and he was unable to ride the crest of this new wave in cinema. And by the early Ã¢â‚¬â„¢70s, he already became quite sickly and was confined mostly at home. On July 28, 1975, he died at the age of 60.
To this day, Marichu Maceda still misses her father terribly. "All my life, he was very protective of me," Marichu says. "And I miss him. I miss his love for me. . . his concern for me. He was the only one who really, really loved me."