Famed filipino actress and singer “Linda Estrella” of sampaguita pictures, died at 89
Consuelo Vera Rigotti Agana, 1922 – 2012
Famed Filipino film actress and singer Consuelo Vera Rigotti Agana, 89, died Saturday, Feb. 18, in Hobart, Indiana, USA.
Her movie career was launched as a teenager under the stage name Linda Estrella. She appeared in her first film “Princesita,” by Sampaguita Pictures, playing the young Carmen Rosales. This experience ignited her desire for a film career. She went on to star in approximately 25 classic movies such as “Milyonara At Hampas Lupa,” “Batas ng Daidig,” and “Kasaysayan Ni Rudy Concepcion,” among many others. In addition, she was also a regular in a radio show called, “Kuwentong Kapit Bahay.”
On May 16, 1942, her daughter Tessie Agana, was born and followed in her mother’s footsteps. Tessie was a natural in the acting world. She first appeared in “Kampo O’ Donnell” as Consuelo’s daughter, along with Pancho Magalona.
But in 1950, Sampaguita Studios was ravaged by a fire that destroyed hundreds of film prints. Soon after, Consuelo’s first cousin, Nene Vera Perez and her husband Dr. Jose (Pinggot) Perez, owners of Sampaguita Pictures, asked if Tessie could star in a small budget movie called “Roberta,” and in 1951, Sampaguita created a film with a top-billed, unknown little girl named Tessie Agana. “Roberta” turned out to be “the motion picture that made history” and literally helped Sampaguita Pictures rise from the ashes. Tessie loved acting and later made several movies until 1957 when the family moved to the United States.
Consuelo Agana was born Dec. 3, 1922, in Pandan, Catanduanes, to Jose Alcala Rigotti from Polangui, Albay, and Francisca Vera, a native of Pandan, Catanduanes. There were five children although the oldest and youngest passed away as infants, leaving three daughters – Maria Corazon (Coring), Remedios (Mending), and Consuelo (Conching), the youngest.
Music has always been a part of Conching’s life. Her father Jose, being part Italian, had a beautiful voice and would sing to her mother, especially when she was ‘inis’ (angry) with him, which would change her mood and make her happy. Conching always loved singing around the house when she was a child. In 6th grade, she began voice lessons.
She continued her music studies while attending Philippine Women’s University in Manila where she had the honor of studying voice with world renowned opera singers Dalisay Aldaba, Felicing Tirona and Adoring Reyes. Her first year of college was interrupted by the start of World War II in 1941.
When she was 17 years old, she met the most important person in her life, one who would eventually be her husband, Dr. Adriano Acgoili Agana. They met at a Red Cross canteen during Philippine Women’s Night where he asked her to dance. In those days, however, she was not allowed to dance because her parents were strict. But like a typical teenager, she eventually ended up dancing with him since her parents were not around (and only after her chaperone cousin gave her approval).
Aning, as his family and friends fondly call him, phoned her after the dance and started courting her while he was beginning his career as a physician. After one year of courtship, they were married on June 8, 1941, and the marriage lasted 51 years until Aning’s death in 1992. They lived by the motto to “not let the sun set on a quarrel’ – one of the keys, they believed, to a good, lasting happy marriage.
Not many people know Aning and Conching had a second child, Cynthia. Unfortunately, she passed away due to complications from the flu, after only twelve days on this earth. Cynthia’s death was Conching’s greatest heartache. Later, several adoption attempts did not come to fruition.
Years later, while they were attending a bridal shower of Aning’s relative, above all the party clamor Conching heard a baby crying. When she asked Aning’s relative about hearing cries, the relative stated there was no baby in the house. Conching heard the cries again. This time, called by a greater power, Conching followed the cries to a room where she discovered a beautiful baby girl born on Feb. 6, 1954.
The baby was Maria Lourdes (Marilou), the daughter of Aning’s first cousin. Marilou’s paternal grandmother, with the consent of her parents, agreed to give their child to Aning and Conching who could provide the child a better life. The next day, the two week old Marilou was delivered to Aning and Conching’s home in a basket. The red tape took years to sort out.
At six years old, Marilou traveled to the USA by herself to the welcoming arms of her parents and new sister. Finally, at the tender age of eight, she was legally adopted to complete the Adriano and Consuelo family as Maria Lourdes Agana.
In addition to caring for her growing family, Conching continued to perform, both as a singer and an actress. She was able to share the spotlight with Tessie in movies such as “Anghel Ng Pagibig”, “Kerubin” and many others.
Conching acted with some of the best leading men – pioneers in the Filipino movie world, Pancho Magalona, Fred Montilla, Oscar Moreno, and Rogelio Dela Rosa. During these times, she always remembered where she came from – her small town of Pandan.
In 1957, the Agana family sought a different life and moved to the United States, where they were out of the limelight and could embrace the American dream and a “normal” life. Aning had his medical residency in OB/GYN at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, MD, and Conching continued to pursue her music by studying at the Peabody Conservatory of Music in Baltimore, MD. Tessie attended high school, and Marilou was in grade school. In early 1960’s, Aning received a job as a doctor at the U.S. Steel Mills in Gary, IN.
In the years that followed, Conching worked at the Philippine Consulate in Chicago and the Philippine Embassy in New York, providing the bridge between her new American life and her Filipino roots and foundation. She was honored with an invitation to sing for the diplomats of both the consulate and the embassy.
In addition, Conching was active as one of the earliest past-presidents of the Women’s Auxiliary Association of Philippine Practicing Physicians in America, president of the Women’s Auxiliary of the Indiana Philippine Medical Association (IPMA) and one of the founders of Bicol USA.
Aning was very active in many Filipino medical associations. He was a member of the board of governors of the Philippine Medical Association in Chicago (PMAC). It was at a PMAC Dinner Ball where Aning introduced Tessie to Dr. Rodolfo Jao. Two years later they married on June 20, 1964.
Rudy and Tessie moved to Valparaiso, IN, and now 48 years later, they have nine children, and 13 grandchildren. Marilou married David Green in 1975, and they have four children and three grandchildren. They also live in Valparaiso.
Conching was called “Mommy” by her 13 grandchildren and “Gigi” (short for great-grandmother) by her 16 great-grandchildren. She has described her life as being a wonderful journey blessed with the love and support of her friends and family.
“There’s a wealth of history throughout my life, but one thing remains true – happiness within your own family,” Conching said in an interview for a magazine article. “Although a part of my history was being a movie star named Linda Estrella, my greatest achievement was being the best and loving wife to Aning, a doting mother to Tessie and Marilou, and an adoring and great ‘spoiler’ of my grandchildren and great-grandchildren. I believe that unconditional love and happiness within your family, hard work and dedication provides the strength and empowerment to have true success in one’s life.”
A true light has been extinguished in this world.
“We can only imagine she is now singing with the angels and watching over us all,” said Radmar Agana Jao, Conching’s grandson.
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