*Untold Pinoy Story No. 3*

Her Mother’s Joy

Her mother has always been proud of her. Mighty proud. And rightly so.

In the spring of 1991, Julia Roberts graced the cover of People Magazine’s special issue featuring its annual list of The 50 Most Beautiful People in the World. Together with Julia Roberts in this ultimate list of the most beautiful people were Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise, Madonna, Mel Gibson, Whitney Houston, Michelle Pfeiffer, Isabella Rossellini, supermodels Claudia Schiffer & Naomi Campbell and oops, a Filipina?

Yes, People Magazine’s 1991 list of The 50 Most Beautiful People in the World included a true-blooded Filipina who was born, raised and educated in the Philippines.

Unlike most beautiful Filipinas who were the products of mixed marriages and who have therefore acquired foreign physical features, this Filipina was born to a Filipina mother and a Filipino father. It is no wonder that she does not typify a beautiful woman by any standard: She is short, standing only 5’2″. She has a huge and deep acne scar on her forehead.
She has that distinct Asian nose (read: flat). She uses only Avon cosmetics (gasp!) and applies makeup by herself.

During her pre-Inno Sotto days, her clothes were not made by known couturiers: They were lovingly sewn at home by her mother who is a dressmaker. She does not even have the right genes to inherit beauty from: Her mother was plain, even stern-looking. Her father was a dark-skinned guy with the tough facial features of a hardened military man.

Although both the first names of her mother and father means happy in two different languages, their union was not as joyous. Her mother and father were never married, making her and her only brother illegitimate children.

In the mistress hierarchy, her mother was not even her father’s second woman. Her father had a first mistress who ranked above her mother.

She and her brother only belong to their father’s third family. And yes, the gay club performer who once appeared on national television was indeed her half-brother. She couldn’t therefore be faulted for not talking about her father. In contrast, too much has been known about her mother. Her mother was always visible, too visible for comfort.

Her mother gave her the name Carmen and raised her in a province north of Manila. However, when it was time for her to go to school, her overprotective mother brought her and her brother to Manila to give them the best education. Carmen studied in Preciosa Soliven’s Operation Brotherhood Montessori in Greenhills where she emerged as the school’s
valedictorian. However, Carmen’s academic rival protested the school’s decision to award Carmen the school’s highest honors, claiming that she had better grades than Carmen. Carmen’s rival even revealed that the school’s owner, Mrs. Soliven, was only fond of Carmen because she always performed in school programs which gave Carmen an edge in extra-curricular activities. But academically, Carmen reportedly did not really rise above her rival.

Lured into show business, Carmen became part of German Moreno’s inane daily afternoon TV show, That’s Entertainment, where she got paired with comedian and now Quezon City Vice Mayor Herbert “Bistek” Bautista. (Some say that Vice Mayor Bautista was so enamored with Carmen that he later refused to marry his partner despite their having a child.) As one of the countless stars of Kuya Germ’s That’s Entertainment, Carmen’s talent was overshadowed by the ridiculous mass appeal of the triumvirate of Sheryl Cruz,
Manilyn Reynes and Tina Paner.

Later, Carmen made a couple of forgettable films which were big flops.Unsuccessful in local show business, Carmen enrolled as a BS Biology student in Ateneo de Manila, hoping to become a doctor. However, the lure of fame and fortune shattered her medical ambition. She followed her other dream and landed in a Dreamland! Yes, instead of comforting innocent
and fresh-smelling babies in a hospital, she ended up entertaining horny, sweaty and foul-smelling drunken men in seedy bars.

When Carmen was a little girl, a local manghuhula predicted that she would be crowned Miss Universe. Her mother, legally known as Miss Imutan, was ecstatic upon hearing this. Sadly, the prophecy did not come true.

However, when Carmen was 18 years old, she bagged a beauty title. But it was farfetched from a Miss Universe crown. Carmen became Miss Saigon.

Yes, the only true-blooded Filipina who was included in People Magazine’s The 50 Most Beautiful People in the World in 1991 is Feliciano Salonga and Ligaya “Joy” Imutan’s only daughter: Carmen Lea Imutan Salonga.

Most of us know her simply as Lea Salonga.

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