Sunday, September 12, 2010


She was the most sought after leading lady of my generation but we almost missed her at this weekend’s TOFA (20 Outstanding Filipinos Abroad) awards gala in Washington DC.

There she was sitting in an obscure corner of the J.W. Marriott ballroom, with husband Dr. Oscar Ortiz.

They had driven from Toms River, New Jersey (near the more famous Jersey Shore) to root for a friend, the World Bank’s Solita Wakefield who was named one of the TOFA awardees.

They told us they were introduced by a common friend, a chance encounter five years ago that almost didn't happen because Marianne was already set to fly back to the Philippines. The rest, they say, is a love story.

At the time, Marianne shuttled between Manila and New Jersey on a “green-card” visa to visit her two daughters with estranged husband Ronald Corveau.

Dr. Ortiz went to New York for advance studies in 1987 but moved to New Jersey a decade later to open a private practice. He is an endocrinologist specializing in diabetes and metabolism.

“She’s a perfect wife and mother,” he proudly declares.

For her part, Marianne insists she doesn’t miss showbiz and is “perfectly contented” with her new role as housewife.

Discovered by Pitoy Moreno when she was only 16, Marianne has appeared in over 50 movies and “telenobelas”, the last a TV version of “Panday” made by ABS-CBN in 2005, where she reprised a role she portrayed in “Panday IV” 21 years earlier.

Marianne played leading lady to Fernando Poe Jr. more than any other actress.
She joined the cast of such classics as “Dekada 70” (which won over 13 major awards), “Mayor Latigo” (1991), “Delima Gang” (1989), “Isang Bala Ka Lang” (1983), “Ang Leon at Ang Daga” (1975).

She was also memorable on the small screen with “Anghel na Walang Langit” (2005) and “Basta’t Kasama Kita” (2002), among many others.

It’s always good to see a familiar face here, if not of old friends then of people who became part of our past without even knowing about it.

My family liked Marianne because she’s beautiful and steered clear of controversy that often seems part of showbiz life.

It was obvious she’s found what she’s been looking for in the arms of her man and her new home.

But the joy of finally meeting a famous actress was dampened by the sight of TOFA founder Nonoy Mendoza, who gave everyone a big scare, just days earlier when he was rushed to the hospital.

He established the TOFA after surviving a heart attack over two decades ago. He said he saw that event as a “sign from God” and so formed the awards-giving body to encourage achievement among overseas Filipinos.

Although he looked frail, we're glad Nonoy was up and leading the awards rites.

This year’s crop came from all over the US and Canada.

Among them were Jesse Gatchalian, one of the executive directors of the Virginia-based Migrant Heritage Commission (MHC) and tireless community leader and engineer Pablito Alarcon.

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