Niño looks back misty-eyed
DIRECT LINE - Boy Abunda (The Philippine Star) - November 2, 2015 - 9:00am

He was known in his heyday as the Child Wonder of showbiz and was one of the most popular child stars of his time. Now in his early 40s and a father of two — one of whom is budding child star Alonzo — Niño Muhlach fondly looks back on his own days in the limelight.

Niño was introduced into showbiz when he was made an extra in one of the movies that his Tita Nena (Amalia Fuentes) made. He went on to make more than 30 solo films, all title-rolers. He also won several Best Child Performer awards in awards-giving bodies like the FAMAS. As far as Niño can remember, his first movie was May Lalaki sa Ilalim ng Kama Ko that also starred Romeo Vasquez. After that first break, he went on to star in a number of other films and work with other directors, some of whom were really big names in the business. They include the late Lino Brocka, who directed him in the tearjerker Tahan na Empoy in 1977, and then in Tatay Kong Nanay in 1978. “The first time I was told to cry, while delivering some parts of my dialogue. That was the first time I realized that what I was doing was work. At first, I thought shooting was just like playing; it was so easy. Pero nu’ng Lino Brocka yung director ko, kailangang papatak yung luha ko eksakto sa dialogue. If I didn’t, mag-cu-cut kayo, mag-uulit-ulit. From then on, I had told myself that this was work.”

But Niño had a lot of fun working with these titans of the industry. When he was working with the late Fernando Poe Jr., Niño remembers that there was always a big box — as in a balikbayan box — of toys on the set for him to play with. “Pero ito yung mga toys na mumurahin, ha, toys bought from Divisoria, yung mga plastic. But every shooting day, there was really a box (full of toys).”

He experienced many such moments. Niño also remembers how one day, after his movie with FPJ hit theaters, the late King of Philippine Movies showed up at his house with a folded piece of paper that had the names of several different provinces written on each fold. Niño — also called Onin — recalls: “Maraming sides yun, may nakasulat… let’s say Pampanga, Cebu, Bacolod, Bohol, ganu’n whatever. Basta puro probinsya yung nakasulat. Then he asked me to choose from the list, tapos kung ano yung mapili kong probinsya, lahat ng kikitain ng pelikulang yun mapupunta sa akin, bonus ko.” He picked Bicol.

But it wasn’t all fun and games working with them. Niño also had many deep conversations with them in which he learned values and more important lessons in dealing with people that up to now, have stayed with him.

These were valuable lessons. “With Daddy Dolphy, I learned that if you’re good in comedy, you’re also good in drama, mas magaling kang magpa-iyak. Pag komedyante magpaiyak ng tao, mas grabe. And (he) was very nice to the people. He’ll make sure na kung ano’ng kinakain ng artista, yun din ang kinakain ng tao sa production.”

As father to Alonzo, Niño says he tries, as much as possible, to teach his son the same values so that when he grows up in this business — as he likely will — he will learn how to be kind to the people that he works with. It’s very important, says Niño, that his son grows up with the right values. He and his wife make sure that they constantly remind Alonzo of things he should remember. “Of course, it is important that he is God-fearing, kilala niya talaga si God and these are basic things he should know. And there’s also the school to guide him, and we’re also guiding him sa mga mali niya at sa mga tama niya. We teach him kung ano yung meron sa ginawa niya. We tell him and talk to him.”

Alonzo is still young, and he still has a way to go in this business before he reaches Niño’s status or his achievements. But Niño says he will always be there to guide his son and dreams that one day, it will happen.


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