September 04, 2007

Apat Na Sikat: Sikat No More

By: Guillermo Ramos

A futile exercise in resurrecting dead careers via Google

In 1977 the king of local TV was Ike Lozada. The mammoth starmaker’s flagship shows were Big Ike's Happening on TV and Dambuhalang DJ on AM radio. The unholy coupling of these two spawned Apat Na Sikat (the Famous Four), a variety show brought to our living rooms by the manufacturers of cooking oil and condensed milk. Apat Na Sikat was sort of like the Donny and Marie Osmond Show without the Ice Angels, and Seeing Stars With Joe Quirino if the presenters had just sprouted body hair.

Winnie Santos, Don Don Nakar, Lala Aunor and Arnold Gamboa were the Apat Na Sikat. These four teenyboppers defined pop culture and fashion for my generation. And although I told my friends that I only watched James at 15, I was a closet fan.

The Apat Na Sikat were famous mostly for being related to bona fide famous people. Winnie Santos was the younger sister of Vilma Santos. She was the show's resident mestiza. Her favorite shirt was a red blouse with butterfly sleeves, and the fact that I remember this makes me feel like a pathetic refugee from the Seventees. Winnie tried to be her sister's clone: she did a TV version of Vilma's hit Trudis Liit, and she sang the Ate Vi anthems Paper Roses and My Boy Lollipop. Unlike her sister, who is still a terpsichorean wonder, Winnie could only dance the Lady Bump. The more she copied her sister, the more she receded into oblivion.

Vilma's career soared in the late Seventies and early Eighties. Winnie's nose-dived with the lifting of martial law in 1981, because we no longer required the services of a 17-year-old mestiza to remind us of our miseries. She eventually migrated to the US and never came back.

Like Winnie Santos, Lala Aunor achieved stardom through cloning. Her famous relative was her "sister", none another than Vilma's arch-nemesis, Nora Aunor. Later it was revealed that Lala was not Nora's sister, but her cousin. It didn't matter because she was a carbon copy of the Superstar—if the carbon had been used 1,000 times previously. Lala sounded so much like Nora, it was as if she had been lip-synching to Nora’s records. The memory of Lala Aunor in a Minnehaha Indian costume by way of Disneyland, singing Karen Carpenter's Top of the World, can only be erased by years of psychiatric therapy.

No one knows what Lala is doing now. I did a Google search for her and got exactly one hit. I had more hits with Eddie Boy Villamayor, but that is another story.

The boys of Apat Na Sikat led more interesting lives. Dondon Nakar, a.k.a. Guillermo Nakar III, was the grandson of the famous army general. A military camp in Laguna is named after him (the general, not Dondon). Of the four, Dondon Nakar had the most musical talent, which is to say that he could play the guitar and carry a tune. He was also the sexiest, and there was an edge to him. Dondon was a boy on the verge of manhood. He was quite a sex symbol; the problem was no one wanted him to be one.

Among his notable film appearances was Lipad, Darna, Lipad with the aforementioned Vilma Santos. His most famous line was: "Ate Darna, ang bato!" With his smiling almond eyes and his moreno looks, Dondon was an early Richard Gomez prototype. Too bad he never achieved Richard Gomez status. Over the years he's figured in minor drug offenses and sex scandals duly reported in the metro sections—not a good place for an ex-teen star to be mentioned. In the Eighties he tried to revive his music career by recording the theme of the TV soap Flor de Luna, but it didn’t work out. He was sighted recently in a Catholic Charismatic Renewal concert.

I could compare Arnold Gamboa's career to that of Mark Lester and Pepito Rodriguez. Arnold started out as a child star, and certainly was cute and innocent-looking. On Apat Na Sikat he was the resident mestizo, and was therefore paired with Lala Aunor. Of the four he had the longest showbiz career. He had a horde of fans, who lovingly called him Not Not. He was quite a looker, but in contrast to Dondon he always seemed to be on the verge of a nervous breakdown. He always looked nervous onscreen, and later in his career, spoke in a voice two octaves lower. That is where the Pepito factor comes in.

After about fifteen years in showbiz, Arnold retired to lead a quiet life of a hotel concierge and was regular fixture at the Manila Hotel. The last time I saw Arnold was at the Manila Diamond Hotel. This Arnold Gamboa is not to be confused with another Arnold Gamboa, a basketball player who played for San Miguel Beer and the Philippine National team. There are more entries on Arnold Gamboa the basketball player than Arnold Gamboa the child actor on Google; the ratio is almost 9:2. Ironic that you name your son after a famous child star, then he becomes more famous than the famous person he was named after. I don’t blame the parents. It was 1973 when Arnold the basketball player was born and it was 1973 when Arnold the actor was gracing television screens singing Wheeeeeere is Love? and other songs from Oliver! Daddy, he’s so cute let’s name our child Arnold!

Also read: Chicks to Chicks Family Values

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Photo Cache said...

my goodness, i remember i watched that show and was buboy villamayor part of that as well? my memory is fuzzy but i did like that show.

Unknown said...

Correction regarding Camp Guillermo Nakar. It is located in Lucena City, Quezon and not in Laguna. FYI.

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