One of my most enduring images of Armida Siguion-Reyna was her set jaw and blazing eyes after a visit to the Philippine Senate.
One of my most enduring images of Armida Siguion-Reyna was her set jaw and blazing eyes after a visit to the Philippine Senate.
The unforgettable Tita Midz
SOUNDS FAMILIAR - Baby A. Gil (The Philippine Star) - February 18, 2019 - 12:00am

Feisty and beautiful and always straightforward, Armida ‘Tita Midz’ Siguion-Reyna, was famous for her frank language and indomitable ways. But she was also one to take the cudgels for the underdog. In an industry notorious for short-changing its people, she made sure that workers were paid right and that in turn those workers be at their best with what they were supposed to do.

One of my most enduring images of Armida Siguion-Reyna was her set jaw and blazing eyes after a visit to the Philippine Senate. She had just confronted a popular politician. No, it was not one of her personal battles. She was fighting for the rights of a victim who would have merely suffered in silence. 

There was no way Armida could have allowed that to happen after she learned of the wrong. So she marched off to the Senate, all by herself and made sure the politician did the right thing. Of course, she emerged victorious and the victim felt a lot better than before. “Akala niya makakatakas siya,” was how she described the visit.

Armida, an actress, singer, film and TV producer and industry leader, wife, mother, also a very good cook, died last Feb. 11 at the Makati Medical Center after a terminal illness at the age of 88. It was a long goodbye, but her passing still hit friends and family and the entire entertainment industry like a thunderbolt. 

Feisty and beautiful and always straightforward, Armida was famous for her frank language and indomitable ways. But she was also one to take the cudgels for the underdog. In an industry notorious for short-changing its people, she made sure that workers were paid right and that in turn those workers be at their best with what they were supposed to do. 

Once she mentioned that she was searching for a composer who has not been seen around for years. Finding him was taking a long time and affecting her schedule. She wanted to use one of his songs and she was not going to do that until she has found him and paid for the rights. She could have just done it. But that was not how she was.

But let this New York-educated daughter of a successful lawyer and opera singer find a dusty window or a soiled floor in the house and the maid in charge would get the dressing down of her life. In some instances, Armida would lash out by taking mop and pail and scrubbing the floor herself. “Ako na ang mag-iisis,” she would say.

Always a stickler for what she felt was right, Armida stared down many famous and influential people and went to war with guns cocked during her lifetime. Sometimes she won. Like when the chairmanship of the Motion Picture and Television Review and Classification Board, an agency she was constantly at odds with as a producer due to arbitrary decisions, landed on her lap. She was reluctant to accept the position but she did a great job for three years.  

Sometimes she lost, like when some critics panned her opera singing. She felt bad. But only for a while. She ditched the opera and emerged from her disappointment the producer and host of Aawitan Kita. The TV show focused on Filipino music and stayed on the air for over 30 years. To this day, the series, shot in beautiful places around the country, is fondly remembered for the excellent singing, authentic costumes and songs by the best composers.

And what about her father’s decision to send her to the US to keep her out of showbiz. She obeyed. But years later, then already married to Atty. Leonardo Siguion-Reyna and the mother of three, she got her chance to appear in the movies. She grabbed it. And what an actress she turned out to be. Tahan Na Empoy, Kakaba-kaba Ka Ba?, Dung-aw, Paano Ba Ang Mangarap, Mga Bilanggong Birhen, Filipinas showed her at her best.

Of course, being constantly in a movie set opened up the possibility of producing her own films. And she eventually did with shooting and post-production schedules that were a marvel in perfect organization. Those included punctuality for everybody on the set, feeding everybody well, down to the immaculate editing rooms and proper storage for the finished product. Among her most memorable films were Hihintayin Kita Sa Langit, Ligaya Ang Itawag Mo Sa Akin and Azucena.

Armida Siguion-Reyna was feared by many but she was also loved and admired by many more. These past years, after illness had already forced her out of the local entertainment circles, it was not at all unusual for somebody facing a difficult problem, say, “Kung nandito lang si Tita Midz…”

It is a fact. Tita Midz will always be missed and oh so fondly remembered.

ARMIDA SIGUION-REYNA TITA MIDZ
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