When we say "midgets," we automatically remember the little people who perform during fiestas. On one side of the coin, people find them entertaining; on the other side, some make fun of them.
It would be hard to spot them in a large crowd; a miracle to notice them amidst a sea of faces. But a few were able to do more than just grab the attention of regular people, they got showbiz top honchos single them out for their innate humor.
The "unanos" started out with small roles. They would usually get slapped or kicked by main actors and kontrabidas. These little roles became instant recall for the viewers. And with that rose a throng of followers. One of these actors even got a tribute video from his fans.
PEP (Philippine Entertainment Portal) now puts the spotlight on themidgets who defied their "vertically challenged" fears and eventuallymade it big in showbiz.
Ernesto "Weng Weng" dela Cruz. This guy, standing two feet and nineinches only, was thesmallest actor to play a lead role.
According to Andrew Leavold's mini biography, Weng Weng's career began when his martial arts instructor introduced him tofilm producer Peter Caballes. Peter and his wife Cora Caballes then took Weng Weng with them and had him meet different film producers, until one meeting brought him to the King of Philippine Comedy,Dolphy. The comedian cast him as hiskung fu sidekick in his spy movie, The Quick Brown Fox (1980).
In 1981, former First Lady Imelda Marcos launched the ManilaInternational Film Festival. In thisevent, the Weng Weng-starrer titled For Y'ur Height Only (1981), amidget spy film which was a parody of James Bond movies, was a big hit not onlyamong Filipinos but also among foreigners abroad.
His popularity as Agent 00 in For Y'ur HeightOnly caught the attention of then Armed Forcesof the Philippines (AFP) General Fidel Ramos, who made Weng Weng an honorary secret agent.
The film also opened two more projects for him in moviedom: The Impossible Kid(1982) and D' Wild Wild Weng (1982).
Sadly, his career took a dip in the mid-80's. Ramos decided to putthe little wonder through paratrooper training and sent him on infiltrationmissions. Weng Weng was also seenpatrolling Manila Airport's (now the Ninoy Aquino International Airport) arrivalslounge. In 1989, he was once again included inthe cast of Dolphy's film, Da Best in Da West, as himself.
On August 29, 1992, nine days before his birthday, he died of heart failure. He was 35.
Noel "Ungga" Ayala. Noel's showbiz nickname, Ungga (short for "unggoy," monkey), was first heard in the movie Starzan III: The Jungle Triangle. The nickname became his screen name.
In his interview with the defunct ABS-CBN show Pipol,Noel told of how he began his long-and-winding road to showbiz.
He used his height to work in different carnivals duringfiestas. He also became a doorman atthe popular hangout in Malate, called the Hobbit House, where most ofthe staff are midgets.
Eventually he tried his luck in showbiz by accepting "extra"roles. Showbiz insiders began to recognize this extra's talent in making people laugh.
Ungga, who stands two feet-six inches, appeared inseveral films of Joey de Leon and his sidekick Rene Requiestas duringthe early 90's—Starzan's sequel, Starzan III: The Jungle Triangle (1989), LongRanger & Tonton: Shooting Stars of the West (1989), SuperMouse andthe Roborats (1989), and Romeo Loves Juliet... But Their Families HateEach Other! (1989).
Unfortunately, Noel Ayala's career in showbiz lasted onlyabout five years. His last project was MilyonaryongMini (1996), which starred Anjo Yllana. Afterwards, his popularity waned.
Noel confessed to Pipol that the failure of his second marriage turned him into a gambler, an alcoholic, and a womanizer. But he says that was just a phase in his life.
In his last TV interview, the little star said that he resides in Mt. Bethel, La Union, where he serves as a pastor in the All Christian Foundation.
Romy "Dagul" Pastrana. In Pampanga, "dagul" means "tall or big." But given Romy's height, it's the opposite. Dagul stands out among the midgets since he is still an active member of showbiz.
Romy is the only grownup in the hit kiddie Sunday gag show titled Goin' Bulilit (2005). His height blends so well with the kids, he's like one of them.
From doing smaller roles in movies such as Isprikitik,Walastik Kung Pumitik (1999) and Juan & Ted: Wanted (2000), Dagul gained even more exposure when he became Long Mejia's sparring partner in GMA-7's defunct comedy sitcom Kool Ka Lang (2001).
Viewers already appreciated the "Long and Dagul" tandem when the former decided to transfer to ABS-CBN. Dagul followed. Long Mejia became a regular co-host of Willie Revillame's MasayangTanghali Bayan, while Dagul did some guest appearances.
Soon the tandem split up. Long was included in the cast of HomeAlone da Ribber (2002) and Home Along da Airport (2003) and became preoccupied with doing movies. Dagul, on the otherhand, became more visible on TV. He was a mainstay of the defunct sitcom OK Fine Whatever (2003)and, up to now, a regular in Goin' Bulilit.
Noemi "Mahal" Tesorero. Of all the midgets in showbiz, Mahal is perhaps the "controversy-magnet." Some think the issues are for real, others say they're for publicity—from her romantic relationships to her"video scandal" to her "lasengga" issue.
The defunct GMA-7 noontime show Lunch Date discovered Mahal, the "little girl" who would sing and dance on top of the table, to the delight of the viewers. That was in the early 90's.
Twelve years later, the adorable "little girl" transformed into a "little lady." Mahal publicly admitted her relationship with first showbiz boyfriend Jimboy Salazar, a former member of That'sEntertainment.
Some did not buy it. They thought it was a fluke because the admission coincided with the launching of Jimboy's new album and Mahal's comeback after a long hiatus from showbiz.
Others deemed the real-life love team as "unpleasant." Film director Wenn Daramas was even quoted as saying, "Parang mas masarap kumain actually ng bagoong at manggakesa sa mapanood sila... Parang nakakangilo." [It's tastier to eat salted shrimp and mango than to watch them... They're like a toothache.]
Mahal andJimboy somehow proved their critics wrong because their relationship lasted almost two years. And their love team was even ranked number 10 in Ang Pinaka's "Nakakabaliwna TV Moments."
Their sweet beginnings turned sour and ended with a libel suit. Right after their separation, Mahal sang a song in MasayangTanghali Bayan with lines attacking Jimboy: "Jimboy, Jimboy, I hate You!/Kasi lalaki ang type mo./ Niloloko moako..."
In response to Mahal's insinuation that he was gay, Jimboy filed a libel suit against the MTB"twins" Mahal and Mura. The latter was included in the suit for joining Mahal in rendering "Ayoko na sa 'Yo," the title of the controversial song.
Another incident that headlined Mahal's name was the "shower scandal." The 32-year-old comedienne immediately admitted that she was the girl in the video taking a shower. And when shetook the hot seat in DJ Mo's "Forbidden Questions" on July 18, her last on-air guesting, the comedienne confessed that she was the one whodisseminated the video to some of her friends.
Other than being part of noontime shows, Mahal also appeared in the movies Last Two Minutes (1990), Anak ni Janice (1991),and Mr. Suave (2003).
Allan "Mura" Padua. The Bicolano Allan Padua considers his stint in MasayangTanghali Bayan as his way of penetrating the world of showbiz. Mura was discovered and introduced as the twin of Mahal.
Viewers actually thought they were kin because of their strong resemblance. Mura dressed up like Mahal, sang and danced like her, and even copied the way the "controversial" midget talks.
It turned out that Mura is actually a "he." The revelation was made after the Mura-Mahal tandem started losing popularity. There was an attempt to revive it by implying that he was attracted to Mahal, but to no avail.
After several months of absence in showbiz, Murafound a new home in GMA-7 and started bagging support and even villain roles in Majika, CaptainBarbell, Super Twins, and Magic Kamison. The 32-year-old comedian also starred in comedy hits Volta, D'Anothers, and Agent X44.
Mura said that if fate did not bring him to showbizlandia, he would stillbe working in a circus and dancing with fellow midgets. He's not "mura" (cheap), after all.
"Small but terrible" perfectly describes the showbiz midgets. Their height is inconsequential when we see their capacity to make people happy. They're actually larger than life!