The gorgeous Paraluman captivated a whole generation of appreciative moviegoers since she began her film career in 1940. And for 35 memorable years, she delighted them with her distinguished beauty and colorful film performances.
But behind the silver screen lies a solid woman whose poignant tale of survival rivals her most intense movie role. After all, she has survived three husbands, endured a world war, and left fame in the name of love.
And when it was time for her curtain call, she bid her audience goodbye, and remains a total recluse to this day.
She is Sigrid Sophia Agatha von Giese, born to Tecla de Torres of Tayabas, Quezon and Lothar von Giese, a German royalty, who made history as the designer of Bayview Hotel (Manila)–the first building in the country with a floating foundation.
Sigrid, nicknamed Mousy, was the family’s muse being the only girl and the youngest in a brood of four that included brothers Ronald, Lothar and Sigwalt.
She grew up on Leveriza Street in Malate, Manila. And like her mom, she too studied at the Assumption Convent.
At the age of seventeen, Paraluman a.k,a Mina de Gracia graced the screen via the movie “Flores de Mayo” (1940) —– thanks to neighbor Norma (sister of Corazon Noble), who introduced her to Luis F. Nolasco of Filippine Films. Her first screen name was Mina de Gracia but it was later changed to Paraluman by Fernando Poe Sr. after the movie of the same title that she made for FPJ Sr’s X’otic Films.
Paraluman’s flourishing career was halted by a global war that brought the planet into the Nuclear Age. But while the world drifted into anxiety, the beauteous Paraluman fell in love, and to a most unlikely man —-a Japanese in the propaganda movement named Yoshifumi Abe.
To marry Paraluman, the smitten Japanese went through the lengths of converting into Catholicism.
At the height of war, the couple was able to help many Filipinos who were falsely captured by the Japanese military. But as fate had it, they weren’t able to save Paraluman’s eldest brother, Ronald — a guerrilla who was eventually beheaded for killing two Japanese officials.
Before the war ended, Paraluman gave birth to her only child, Cecile Kristin, nicknamed Kyoko (Baby OBrien).
When Yoshifume was sent back to Japan after the war, Paraluman, who had the choice to resume a promising showbiz career, decided to join her husband.
Unfortunately, they lived in a dangerous time, and people were more sensitive. Abe’s homeland, fresh from its war wounds, was unfriendly to a foreigner like Paraluman. Heartbroken and forlorn, Paraluman decided to go home with her child, Kyoko.
She decided to go back to the movies and became a contract star of Sampaguita Pictures. Her decision proved wise because she became a bigger star. “Her best movies were made by Sampaguita Pictures,” says her only child Kyoko (Baby O’Brien). “She even won a Famas award in 1957”.
While not overly blessed with material wealth, Baby said, her Mom made sure that the family had all they needed.
“Mom told me that I shouldn’t look down on people, and if I had nothing nice to say, I should keep my mouth shut”, says Baby of her mother. “She’s very patient at saka hindi palasigaw. Hindi nagsusugal, yanong-yanong tao ba”.
She continues, “Masaya siya bilang Mommy. Noong bata pa ako, kapag gusto kong sumama sa shooting, kahit sa nightclub, puwede. Ako ang chaperone niya. Lagi akong may ice cream habang naghihintay.”
“Pananahi ang hobby niya. She used to cross-stitch, ang gaganda. She learned that from Assumption. Marunong siyang magluto lalo na yung stuffed chicken, pero hindi alam ng tao ‘yon. Kasi, ang glamorous daw hindi nagluluto saka nananahi,” explains Baby. “She also loves anything chocolate. That’s her guilty pleasure. And she loves to read. She likes the works of Erle Stanley Gardner, Isaac Asimov and Ray Bradbury.”
The late Makati Mayor Nemesio Yabut convinced her to serve as barangay captain of Bel-air. But after a term, she decided to leave politics as well. “Sa politics daw ‘Damn if you don’t, and damn if you do.’ So, ayaw niya. “
Through the years, Paraluman fell in love again, not once but twice. Her second husband was Captain Tony O’Brien, a Philippine Airlines pilot, who at one time was also her showbiz manager.
Many years after he died, Paraluman married Brigido Sibug, an entrepreneur who was also connected with the airline business. His death compounded by her vertigo, left Paraluman to depression.
But she has come to terms with her fate. After all, hers is a good life. She had the taste of fame, and experienced the love of three wonderful men. She was able to do the things she loved doing, and was greatly rewarded for it by the adoring public.
“Okay siya pero medyo mahina na, “says Baby of her Mom today. “Ayaw niya talagang lumabas kasi hindi na raw siya yung dati. Happy na siyang manood ng telenovela. Si Piolo Pascual ang favorite niya. So, anything na may Piolo, binili ko for her.”
Paraluman have played multi-hued characters in hundreds of films but it turns our that her greatest role is as herself, Sigrid Sophia Agatha von Giese
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