"I'm a brat!" shrieks the energetic Lily Monteverde when we asked her to describe herself. "I'm krung-krung, but lovable. Hahaha!"
This lioness—she's a Leo, born August 22, 1939—was born to a good life. She was the youngest of the 12 children of former copra king Domingo Yuchu of Marinduque, who sent her to good schools. But the brattiness manifested itself at an early age. She was eight years old when she fell in love, not with patintero or other childhood games, but with the flickering lights of the silver screen.
"During my grade school—I was in Crusaders School sa may Ongpin—tumatakas ako sa eskuwelahan," she recalls, laughing. "I cut classes. Hindi alam ng parents ko. Nanonood ako ng mga pelikula sa Majestic Theater, Republic, Dalisay, saka sa Life."
Those were among the popular moviehouses in downtown Manila from the '50s to the '70s, before the moviehouses migrated to malls.
"I bring my yaya na mataba. I watched mga local films, sina Pugo and Tugo. Meron ding foreign. Basta I love watching movies."
To finance her movie addiction, she pinched her school-bus money.
"'Yong monthly na dapat bayaran sa school bus na every day na sinasakyan ko, mga twelve pesos a month, kinukupit ko. 'Tapos, sasabihin ko sa father ko, nawala. Kaya pinapalo ako."
She continued to cut classes in her high-school days at St. Scholastica's College in Malate, even if it wasn't so easy escaping from the American nuns who ran the school. By then, she was a big fan of the Nida Blanca-Nestor de Villa love team.
"Noong araw, when they have a movie showing, they make personal appearance in the theaters. So, what I did, umaakyat ako sa gate ng school just so I could get their autograph sa sinehan."
She was such a big Nestor de Villa fan that, "when Nestor got married, I got angry," she recalls. "I'm thinking, 'Why didn't you marry me instead?' Hahaha! Alam mo naman ako, ilusyonada."
Her father didn't give up on Lily. For college, he enrolled her at Maryknoll (now Miriam) College, in Loyola Heights, Quezon City. She took up Bachelor of Science in Education, or BSE. "Kasi my father owns a school, e—Uno High School [in Tondo, Manila]. Malakas 'yon noong araw, so I thought I could be a teacher."
But she never finished her course, because she fell in love anew—this time with a basketball player named Leonardo "Remy" Monteverde, from Sariaya, Quezon.
"At that time, he was also playing for the team of my father. 'Yong Yutraco? Parang Crispa noong araw. 'Tapos, dinadala sila sa Southeast Asia. He is good in basketball. Maloloka ka. He was so guwapo. Up to now naman, di ba? So, what I did, I made takas na naman just to watch him sa NCAA [National Collegiate Athletic Association]."
She admits that it was she who pursued Remy, the half-Chinese (but non-Chinesespeaking) captain ball of the San Beda team.
"I courted him," she giggles. "It's true. Siyempre, nagpapa-cute ka, kasi ang daming ibang girls." And by pa-cute, she means? "Bigyan ko ng Chiclets, chewing gum, ganyan. Kalandian ko noong araw."