In 1969, from 11 a.m. to 12 noon every Sunday, practically all pinoy families were glued to DZXL listening to the country’s national past-time, Johnny de Leon’s “Operetang Putol-Putol.”
The radio show was a live broadcast of a comedy skit sprinkled with musical numbers, performed by a heap of talented teeners like Danny Taguiam, Dolly Favorito, Richard Merck, Joe Alvarez, Esperanza Fabon and Jay Ilagan.
In the program, Jay’s partner was a sweet youngster with cute eyes, nicknamed Perla Matang-Tuta. The matang-tuta girl was of course, Perla Adea. The moniker was coined by the show’s writer Manolo Favis.
“Those days, we were paid five to ten pesos per radio guesting”, recalled Perla. It was already quite a sum considering that with a peso, one could watch a double-program movie, may snack pa, and with ten centavos, a person can afford either binangkal, siakoy, maruya, tira-tira, bukayo, tri-color ice cream or Lemolime.
At her prime, Perla was among the potpourri of stars in the three biggest shows of the era: ABS CBN’s “D Sensations”; “Operetang Putol-Putol”; and the number one kiddie program “Tita Betty’s Children Show”, also on DZXL.
She was born as Perla Theresa Adea on October 16, 1952. Her parents are Virginia Era and Ramon Adea Jr, both from Paracale, Camarines Norte. “I grew up in Paracale and Jose Panganiban but when I was in Grade 3, I transferred to Manila. Kasi, noon ako nagsimulang kumanta. Marami na akong shows. So, I just continued my studies in Paco Elementary School. Eventually, my family joined me in Manila.”
Her first big break came in 1963, when she was proclaimed the grand champion in the Tita Betty’s Children Show”. Her winning piece was “High Noon.” She was nine.
Perla came at a time when the world lost its innocence. The U.S. of A. just experienced an assassination of a well-loved president, JFK. The result was a cultural explosion that preached of freedom, love, and all the new and radical ideas.
The country, being a kin to Uncle Sam was just too eager to follow the exciting trend. And Adea, like her peers in the “Ye-ye Vonel” generation became a major player of that psychedelic culture.
The success of “Opereta..” was just the beginning for Adea and her batch of stars. Soon, they were conquering television and the movies.
In the late 60’s to the early 70s, ”D’ Sensations”, hosted by Ike Lozada became the toast of television. Perla was among its mainstays along with Vilma Santos, Edgar Mortiz, Baby de Jesus, Janine Frias, Tony Santos Jr. and Angge. The TV show also gave birth to the love team of Perla and Romy Mallari—– thanks to the show’s director, the late Tony Santos Sr. who recognized their chemistry.
Perla also made waves in the movies. After her maiden appearance in Perlas Production’s “Grind, Grind” with Edgar Mortiz, she began assuming lead star status in Diamil Production’s “Yes, I Believe” opposite Tirso Cruz III, Sampaguita Pictures’ “From Both Sides Now”(1970) with Jay (Ilagan), JBC Film Production’s “Luha sa Bawat Awit”, with Eddie Peregrina, ”Basang Sisiw” with Novo Bono Jr., “Mother Dear”, Jukebox King”, “Young Lovers” and “Dalagang Nayon.”
“Ang ganda ng samahan namin noon. Parang namamasyal lang kami”, Perla mused. “Noon nga, nakasulat lang sa palara yung mga gagawin sa pelikula. Wala ring lip-synch. Lahat, live, even the accompanying orchestra. We had TV guestings daily and we were shooting two to three movies a day. Fifteen days lang, tapos na ang pelikula. Kaunti lang kami noon, and we all have loyal fans.”
She also earned equal success in recording. In 1971, Perla released her first music album, aptly titled Princess of Songs, with selections such as “I’m Gonna Knock on Your Door”, “Doggie in the Window” and “One More Time.”
In the ’70s, showbiz love teams ruled. The pack was lead by Nora-Tirso, Vilma-Edgar, Hilda Koronel-Jay and of course, Perla –Romy. The latter would evolve into a very durable life partnership as husband and wife. But of course, Perla didn’t know that yet.
“When I was thirteen, Romy and I were a tandem in Kuya Germs’ (Moreno) radio program “Ngayon Naman”. Parang may crush yata ako sa kanya noon pero playboy s’ya. When he courted me years later, ayoko namang magpaligaw because I was considering to be a nun.”
And how did Perla found her knight? “Through prayers”, she admitted. “I asked St. Jude to guide me. Sabi ko, kung sino magbigay sa akin ng puting bulaklak, yun na siguro. Then, during one of our “D’ Sensations” episode, he (Romy) gave me a garland of sampaguita.”
On Romy, Perla jokingly said: ”Mabait si Romy eh. Napabait ko.” He was her first and only boyfriend. “He courted me for two years and we were engaged for a year before we got married in 1973. Bale 33 years na kaming kasal.”
Ten years after the wedding, Romy offered Perla the chance to go back to college. “I was so glad, kasi among the four siblings I was the only one who wasn’t able to graduate. I already had three children then. With the support of Romy, I was able to finish BSBA and Education in Sienna College,” she said.
Today, the couple has six children and four apos. “Our grandchildren call us ‘Mamu’ and ‘Papu”, said Perla. Four of their children are accomplished in their careers: Ferdy, 32, is a mechanical engineer; Maria Imelda, 29, is a Banking and Finance graduate; Maria Claire, 28, finished Masscom; while Maria Sienna, 23, is an accountant. Lorenzo, 18, is into Info Tech and graduating next year; and the youngest Christy Ann, 12, is still in high school.
They now live in Zabarte, Novaliches. “Maligaya kami at satisfied. Iba siguro talaga ‘pag God ang nasa sentro ng relasyon,” revealed Perla. “Simple lang kami. Ang importante sa amin ngayon, makatapos lahat yung mga bata at maging masaya din sila.”
She used to teach in the Holy Child Academy and the Sacred Heart Academy. At present, she works as a Consultant in Quezon City Vice Mayor’s Office. She’s also into brokerage and car -sale business. Perla and Romy were last seen on ABS-CBN’s “Maid in Heaven” as Mr. and Mrs. Bomalabs.
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