ENTERTAINMENT industry stalwart, patron of the arts, actress, singer and promoter of the kundiman, Armida Siguion-Reyna took her final bow on the afternoon of Jan. 11, passing away at the age of 88 at the Makati Medical Center after a battle with cancer, according to her sister, Irma Potenciano.
Her love for the arts could be said run in the family as her mother was soprano Purita Liwanag and her aunt Carmen Concha was one of the first female Filipino film directors. Her involvement in film started early — in 1939, at the tender age of eight, she starred in the film Yaman ng Mahirap alongside Tita Duran. The film was directed by her aunt.
Ms. Siguion-Reyna, born on Nov. 4, 1930, was the daughter of lawyer/politician Alfonso Ponce Enrile and, along with her sister Irma, was raised in Malabon. She was the half sister of Senator Juan Ponce-Enrile.
In 1950, after returning from the United States, she met lawyer Leonardo Siguion-Reyna whom she married a year later.
The union produced three children including film director Carlos Siguion-Reyna, known for films including Hihintayin Kita sa Langit (1991), and magazine editor and TV producer Monique Siguion-Reyna.
In her 2015 biography by Nelson Navarro, Armida: The Singer and the Song, it said that her engagement with Mr. Siguion-Reyna was announced on the eve of Ms. Siguion-Reyna’s opera debut as Lucia Lamermoor in the Far Eastern University Auditorium. She was a coloratura soprano.
Ms. Siguion-Reyna, before agreeing to marry her husband stipulated one condition: that she be free to pursue her passion for the arts, and she did so with much gusto as she starred in several operas including Rigoletto, The Merry Widow, La Traviata, I Pagliacci and the zarzuela, The Mestiza.
It was in 1970 that she launched one of her biggest and most memorable projects — the musical TV show, Aawitan Kita, which ran for 35 years and is recognized for reviving the kundiman (traditional Filipino love songs) and balitaw (Visayan love songs).
Among the many performers who sang in Aawitan Kita were Rachel Alejandro, Robert Natividad, Gamaliel Viray, Aurelio Estanislao, Fides Cuyugan-Asencio, and Robert Seña.
A few decades later, in 1991, Ms. Siguion-Reyna ventured into another art form, this time film production with her own outfit, Reyna Films.
The company produced 12 films (it closed in 2000) including Carlos Siguion-Reyna’s Hihintayin Kita sa Langit and Ligaya ang Itawag Mo sa Akin (1997).
Aside from producing films, Ms. Siguion-Reyna also starred in a few of them including Ligaya.
After her childhood debut in Yaman ng Mahirap she acted in numerous films as an adult, including Kakabakaba Ka Ba? (1980) by Mike de Leon, Salome (1981) by Laurice Guillen, and Tahan na Empoy (1977) by Lino Brocka for which she won a Filipino Academy for Music and the Arts (FAMAS) award for Best Supporting Actress.
Ms. Siguion-Reyna was given the Gawad CCP para sa Sining Award in 2015.
She became the chairperson of the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board from 1998 to 2001, during which time she was her known for her stance against censorship.
Singers and actors went on social media to reminisce and to say goodbye to a mentor and a friend.
“I’m probably paraphrasing what she said terribly but GR Rodis and I recall Tita Midz once saying that if you produce a lousy movie, you could lose money and end up with nothing. But if you make a beautiful movie, even if you lose money, you have something you can be proud of forever,” said singer Rachel Alejandro in a Facebook post, referring to Ms. Siguion-Reyna by her nickname. “I’ll never forget this, Tita Midz. Thank you for taking me under your wing and changing me as a person, as a performer. To me, you are never gone. You live on.”
“You were one of the distinguished influencers in your time, a Tigress as they say but you Tita Mids left a soft spot in my heart and memories. She speaks her mind and she fights for you. You were the one who gave my first confidence in this Kaleidoscope like world of Show business. How can I not love you? My respect for you Tita Mids never withered a bit since I have met you so Its hard to bid goodbye,” wrote actor John Arcilla.
Ms. Siguion-Reyna was known for her unbending will, straightforwardness, and unwavering dedication to the arts. She is survived by her three children and grandchildren, some of whom followed in her footsteps including actors Cris Villonco and Rafael Siguion-Reyna.
Her wake is being held at the Heritage Memorial Park until Feb. 15, 11 p.m. — ZBC