Sunshine Dizon: Evolution of seasoned thespian

by James Patrick Anarcon
Mar 25, 2021
Sunshine Dizon: child actress to teen star to drama thespian in her 34 years in show business.
PHOTO/S: GMA-7 / Cyrus Panganiban for PEP

Sunshine Dizon, 37, has been in showbiz for as long as television drama viewers can remember.

Making her screen debut at the age of three, she has remarkably transitioned from child star to teen actress to female lead, who is also good at being a kontrabida.

Sunshine has also ventured into doing work behind the scenes as a director and producer.

Sunshine Dizon

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FAMILY BACKGROUND AND EDUCATION

Sunshine was born Margaret Sunshine Cansancio Dizon on July 3, 1983 in Quezon City.

An only child of Isagani Dizon and Dorothy Laforteza, Sunshine has four half-siblings—Richard and Khottie from her mom’s first marriage; Sami and Isabel, her father’s children.

In grade school, Sunshine studied at the St. Joseph College until she transferred to Sunny Hill School.

She took homeschooling in high school, and was enrolled for one semester at De La Salle College of St. Benilde.

Sunshine would later take up cooking courses at the Asian Culinary Arts Institute and Le Roux Culinary School in Pampanga.

She got married in 2010 to pilot Timothy Tan. They have two kids: Doreen, 9, and Anton, 8.

The couple separated after six years of marriage, a messy situation that led to a court battle.

Sunshine filed a criminal complaint against Timothy when she discovered he was having an affair.

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However, she later withdrew the case against her estranged husband, but not the complaint of "concubinage" she filed against his alleged “mistress.”

Despite their “complicated” relationship, Sunshine and Timothy have remaind civil to one another for the sake of their two kids.

AS A CHILD ACTRESS

In 1986, Sunshine was three years old when she made her screen debut in the movie God’s Little Children.

She was discovered by a friend of her mother Dorothy, who happened to be a former producer and was part of Producers’ Guild.

As she was growing up, she appeared in several movies that starred veteran actors, such as Kung Kasalanan Man (1989) and Silang Mga Sisiw ng Lansangan (1993) with the likes of Dina Bonnevie and Timmy Cruz.

She would also appear in episodes of ABS-CBN’s Maalaala Mo Kaya and in the GMA-7 drama series Kadenang Rosas.

In 1995, FAMAS gave Sunshine her first acting award as the Best Child Actress for her role in the movie Kahit Butas Ng Karayom Papasukin Ko.

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TEENYBOPPER ROLES

A year after her first acting award, Sunshine, now a teenager, was signed up by the VIVA Artists Agency and talent manager, Veana Fores.

Her first project was the Sunday afternoon series Anna Karenina, produced by VIVA Television where she shared top billing with Antoinette Taus and Kim delos Santos.

Sunshine Dizon as Karen in Anna Karenina

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Sunshine played Karen, one of the three young women claiming to be the missing heiress Anna Karenina of the Monteclaro clan, and was paired with Polo Ravales.

In 1997, while doing Anna Karenina, Sunshine joined the second-generation teens of the youth-oriented show T.G.I.S.

Sunshine’s love team with Polo, as well as the Antoinette Taus-Dingdong Dantes and Kim delos Santos-Dino Guevarra pairings, became popular and together they were dubbed VIVA Teen Barkada.

As part of VIVA Teen Barkada, Sunshine and Polo did two movies: Honey, My Love, So Sweet and Kiss Mo ‘Ko, both shown in 1999.

Their love team was also part of the sitcom Mikee Forever and would do guest appearances in GMA Love Stories.

WORKING HER WAY UP AS A DRAMA ACTRESS

In 2000, GMA-7 started grooming Sunshine as a drama actress.

Back then, she was still doing Anna Karenina, whose story had transitioned along the lines of problems facing young adults.

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GMA-7 also gave Sunshine a kontrabida role in the miniseries Umulan Man O Umaraw, alongside Angelika dela Cruz.

Umulan Man O Umaraw was a success in the ratings department that the Kapuso network gave them both a prime-time series titled Ikaw Lang Ang Mamahalin.

Ikaw Lang Ang Mamahalin, which aired from 2001 to 2002, was GMA-7’s first venture into producing its own drama series after the short-lived series Di Ba’t Ikaw in 1999.

Ikaw Lang Ang Mamahalin became the first Kapuso series in then newfangled GMA Telebabad prime-time block.

Sunshine Dizon in Ikaw Lang Ang Mamahalin

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In the series, Sunshine was paired with Cogie Domingo, while Angelika had different leading men: Sherwin Ordoñez, Mark Anthony Fernandez, and James Blanco.

However, in the middle of the series, Sunshine suddenly left the show reportedly because of a brewing rift between her and Angelika.

But according to sources, the real reason Sunshine left the series was because her manager back then, Veana Fores, only allowed her to do 13 episodes, or a one-season stint in the show.

Sunshine told PEP.ph in a February 2019 interview, "Kasi naalala ko, si Tita Veana no'n, actually, part of the reason, kasi ayaw ni Tita Veana na magkontrabida ako.

"I mean, we were babies of Tita Veana, she wanted to put us in that pedestal.

"Yung image na dapat ang goal is parang Sharon Cuneta, hindi ka magko-kontrabida, sweet lang yung image."

Sunshine was then given her first lead role in the GMA prime-time series Kung Mawawala Ka. Meanwhile, Cogie was killed in Ikaw Lang Ang Mamahalin so that the network can continue building up their love team in Kung Mawawala Ka.

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The series, known as the first political-themed teledrama, had an ensemble of veteran stars: Hilda Koronel, Gloria Diaz, Liza Lorena, Princess Punzalan, Raymond Bagatsing, Ara Mina, Sharmaine Arnaiz, Alessandra de Rossi, and the late Eddie Garcia, who played the President of the Philippines.

Kung Mawawala Ka did well in the rating that it ran for one year and three months.

This was also the time within the first five years of the decade that Sunshine did the weekly shows Tuwing Kapiling Ka with Dingdong Dantes and Kahit Kailan with Dennis Trillo.

Sunshine Dizon in Kung Mawawala Ka

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BIDA-KONTRABIDA

In 2005, Sunshine played her first-ever hardcore kontrabida role in GMA-7’s groundbreaking telefantasya, Encantadia.

She played the role of Pirena, the eldest among the four Sang’gres of Lireo and the the keeper of the fire gem.

Sunshine Dizon as Pirena in Encantadia

Pirena is full of hate, believing that their mother Mine-a (Dawn Zulueta), favors her three younger siblings Amihan (Iza Calzado), Alena (Karylle), and Danaya (Diana Zubiri) over her.

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Encantadia was such a huge success that it was extended several times and had two more seasons: Etheria and Encantadia: Pag-ibig Hanggang Wakas.

For her versatility in portraying a bida-kontrabida role in Encantadia, she received best actress trophies from two award-giving bodies: the 2nd ENPRESS Golden Screen Entertainment TV Awards and 3rd Gawad Amerika Awards.

While doing the fantasy series, Sunshine also top-billed the afternoon series Now and Forever: Agos, where she played a lawyer looking for her missing siblings.

After Encantadia, Sunshine was tapped to play a supporting role as one of the villains in the superhero series Captain Barbell, with Richard Gutierrez in the titular role.

But Sunshine was pulled out in the middle of the series as she was tapped for a bigger project: the title role in the TV remake of Nora Aunor’s ‘70s movie, Bakekang.

It was Sunshine’s first time to do a title role, and at that a main star without any co-star or seasoned actor sharing the top bill.

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Sunshine Dizon as Bakekang

Bakekang, which tells the story of an ugly woman who falls in love with a movie star, had Sunshine wearing prosthetics for her character.

Sunshine recalled in her March 2020 PEPLive interview, “Nagte-taping kami sa Baseco compound, so kapag nandun kami, kapag umaga dumadating ako, e, ang puti ko, di ba?

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“So, kapag lumalakad ako, iyong mga tao, parang, ‘Ay, si Miss Sunshine…’

“Pero kapag hapon na, kapag naka-body make-up na ako ‘tapos naka-prosthetics na, iyong mga tao sa labas tinatawag ako, ‘Oy, Bakeks! Kumusta ka na?’

“Feeling nila, kapitbahay lang nila ako! Nakakatuwa!”

But the greatest challenge to her when she did Bakekang was portraying a mother to two 17-year-old girls: Yasmien Kurdi and Lovi Poe. Sunshine was 23 years old then.

Sunshine Dizon with Lovi Poe and Yasmien Kurdi, who played her daughters in Bakekang.

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She said in the interview, “Ang hirap at that age na kailangan kong maging nanay. I have to act maturely and older than these two girls na halos ka-edad ko lang din.

“Ang hirap na parang I had to study my mom. Ang mannerism ni Bakekang actually, mannerisms ng mom ko iyon.

"I would pattern how she would react to how my mother would react. Nandoon iyong physical nuances, sa nanay ko galing iyon.”

Bakekang was also a success in the ratings game that its supposed 13-week run was extended to eight months. Its final episode, in fact, was a big concert production.

After Bakekang, Sunshine played a dual role in the prime-time series Impostora, which reunited her with Encantadia co-star and good friend Iza Calzado.

She also top-billed the suspense-drama series La Vendetta with Jennylyn Mercado and Jean Garcia.

Sunshine Dizon in a dual role in Impostora

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SHOWBIZ HIATUS

In 2008, Sunshine was supposed to do the afternoon series, a remake of the 1982 VIVA Films movie Gaano Kadalas Ang Minsan?, with Diana Zubiri and Marvin Agustin.

Sunshine already had done her pictorial and shot scenes for the pilot week when she was stricken ill and had to beg off from the show.

In 2009, Sunshine then top-billed the prime-time series All About Eve, which again featured her duo with Iza. The series was a remake of the hit Korean drama that aired in GMA-7 in 2003.

After All About Eve, GMA-7 staged a back-to-back series with Iza and Sunshine in the afternoon slot for its Sine Novela umbrella series.

Iza top-billed the remake of Kaya Kong Abutin Ang Langit, while Sunshine headlined the TV adaptation of Tinik Sa Dibdib.

But after three weeks, Sunshine was pulled out of the show, again, for health reasons. She was replaced by Nadine Samonte.

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Sunshine Dizon and Nadine Samonte in Tinik sa Dibdib

Sunshine also declined an offer to become a council member of StarStruck’s fifth season.

Then came the rumors that the reason Sunshine couldn't finish her shows was because she was pregnant, which she denied in an interview with Showbiz Central.

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She explained, “The truth behind iyong mga lumalabas na intrigues talaga was I really got sick.

"I was hospitalized and then by the time I got out of the hospital, they [production] told me that they wrote me off the script.

“And I expected that and I knew also that I had to rest and GMA came out with this official statement saying that they also wanted me to rest. That's about it."

Apparently, Sunshine was burnt out after doing successive drama shows at the same time that she was hosting GMA-7’s morning show, Unang Hirit, and the Sunday show, S.O.P.

She said in a 2019 PEP.ph Anatomy series interview, "Parang feeling ko, noong panahon na iyon, I was really overworked.

"Kasi there was a time, I was doing an afternoon drama, I was also doing an evening drama, and then once a week na comedy show, plus I would do pa SOP.

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“Natutulog ako no'n sa GMA—nobody knew that. I would sleep here in GMA para lang hindi ako ma-late sa Bahay Mo Ba 'To or something.

"'Tapos, umuuwi lang kami to get clothes. It was really that bad."

In March 2010, Sunshine and Timothy got married in an intimate wedding ceremony and in October 2010, a year after Sunshine left Tinik sa Dibdib, she got pregnant with her first baby.

This was the time when Sunshine went on showbiz hiatus full time for almost three years.

ALMOST QUITTING SHOWBIZ

In two interviews with PEP.ph, Sunshine revealed that after becoming a mom to two kids, she actually thought of quitting showbiz altogether.

Her daughter Doreen was born in April 2011 and her son Anton in June 2012, barely 16 months apart.

In her PEP Live interview for PEP.ph (Philippine Entertainment Portal) in April 2020, Sunshine recalled she was still on maternity leave when she got a call from GMA-7 offering a project, which she was hesitant to accept.

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She said in the interview, “Actually, nakakatuwa naman looking back na when I gave birth to Doreen, GMA was still calling and asking if I’m ready to come back.

“Pero noong time na iyon, parang na-enjoy ko rin, kasi parang all my life I’ve been working.

"‘Tapos nagkataon naman na after giving birth to Doreen, ang pagitan lang kasi ni Doreen at Anton ay one year and four months, e.

Apart from receiving an offer from GMA-7 for a comeback project, Sunshine also got a call from TV5.

She continued, “So noong time na iyon, I actually got an offer from another channel, they wanted me to do this parang project pero parang…

"I kept on praying about it. ‘Lord, para dito ba ako? Saan ba ako pupunta? Babalik ba talaga ako or what?’ Nagkataon naman na bigla akong nabuntis ulit kay Anton.

“Bumalik ulit iyong offer na iyon from another channel after kong manganak kay Anton."

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Then came another offer from GMA-7, which was a guest appearance in Magpakailanman.

Sunshine was tapped to top-bill the life story of Lucy Aroma, the woman who committed suicide by jumping into the MRT railway tracks.

Sunshine did the project, thinking of it only as a one-shot deal.

She said, “Parang sabi ko, ‘Ay, ayoko pa ang taba ko.’ Sabi nila, ‘Hindi, okay lang bagay naman doon sa character.’

“Kumbaga it wasn’t a big deal. Ako naman, when I did that Magpakailanman episode, at the back of my head, ‘Ah okay lang, guesting lang naman, parang hindi big deal.’”

Sunshine was surprised when GMA-7 started plugging her guesting in the show as her showbiz comeback.

She told PEP.ph it made her tense, “Nagkaroon ng parang teaser, ng plug na, ‘Ang pagbabalik ng drama kiyeme!’

“Doon lang nag-dawn sa akin na, ‘Oh my, goodness, kapag hindi nag-rate ito, tapos na ako!’

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"Wala nang chance para bumalik. Hindi ko na-prepare iyong sarili ko for that situation.”

Sunshine Dizon as Lucy Aroma in Magpakailanman

To calm herself, Sunshine confided her misgiving to her good friend Mona Coles-Mayuga, executive producer of Magpakailanman.

Sunshine recalled, “Umiiyak ako, ‘Sabi ko, ‘Nay, bakit ganun?’

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“Parang ngayon ko lang na-realize na kapag hindi nag-work itong episode na ito, tapos na, wala na akong babalikan.

“Sabi sa akin ng friend ko, ‘Nak, wala naman talaga tayong hold if this will work or not.

"But, at least, if it doesn’t may closure ka na... di bumalik ka na sa buhay mo at manahimik ka na. If it works, e, di good for you.’"

After Magpakailanman aired with good ratings, GMA-7 creative manager RJ Nuevas, who is also a good friend of Sunshine, offered her to do a full-length teleserye.

Sunshine disclosed further, “Hindi ko pa sinasabi sa kanila na parang I had a different offer from another station and then si Kuya RJ, hindi ko alam, meron palang hidden agenda.

"Chini-chika-chika ako pero kinu-convince na ako na gawin ang Mundo Mo’y Akin.

“They were trying to convince me na, ‘Shine, we really want you to do this dahil parang Bakekang part two.”

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The role required her to wear prosthetics as she would do in her next drama series, Mundo Mo’y Akin.

She related, “Sabi ko, ‘Kuya, parang hindi ako prepared.' Kasi nga kakapanganak ko lang kay Anton noong time na iyon.

“Sabi nila, ‘No, it will be perfect and for sure na magagawa mo ito. Kumbaga parang patterned na ito for Sunshine Dizon.' Anyway, I took the chance na sige, go.”

SECOND WIND

In 2013, Sunshine did Mundo Mo’y Akin, her first full-length drama series after her hiatus. This signalled the beginning of her full comeback in showbiz.

In her succeeding shows, she would either play the mother or the kontrabida of the lead character: Villa Quintana (2013-2014), Strawberry Lane (2014), Pari ‘Koy (2015), and Little Nanay (2015).

Sunshine was also included in the requel (remake + sequel) of her 2005 series, Encantadia, in 2016.

A new character was specially made for her to join the show.

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Sunshine Dizon as Adhara in Encantadia 2016

However, in the middle of Encantadia, Sunshine left the show to top-bill another series: Ika-6 Na Utos.

In this series, Sunshine played the role of Emma, a wife whose quiet domestic life was turned into chaos when she discovered the infidelity of her husband Rome (Gabby Concepcion) and the betrayal of her friend Georgia (Ryza Cenon).

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Sunshine Dizon as Emma in Ika-6 Na Utos.

Followers of the Pinoy teleserye assumed the Kapuso network chose Sunshine for the role on the basis of her own troubled marriage.

It was partly true as clarified by GMA Vice President for Drama Redgie Magno in a 2018 interview with PEP.ph, "It was not really intended for Sunshine, it was just a story that was pitched and that was approved.

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"And then when we did the casting, dun na namin naisip na si Sunshine ang the best na ilagay dito kasi su-swak, makaka-relate siya dahil nangyayari sa kanya.

"That time, she was still doing Encantadia kaya we had to pull her out and assign her to do this."

How did Sunshine react to the offer?

Magno recalled, "Na-excite siya na parang sabi niya, 'Are you serious?' Akala niya, joke.

"Kasi that time, parang inaayos pa yata yung kaso niya. So sabi namin, kakayanin mo ba? Kasi, of course, may mga scenes doon that would be similar to what is happening to her.

"E, alam mo naman si Sunshine, artista naman yun. Sabi niya, 'Ay hindi, mahihiwalay ko naman yung trabaho.' But sobra siyang parang na-excite doon sa project, 'tapos yun nga, it turned out, okay naman."

The series was such a huge success that its intended six-week run was extended several times.

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Sunshine revealed in a set-visit interview with PEP.ph, "To be honest, I didn't expect it to be this big kasi when we did the show, it was supposed to run only for six weeks.

"And then it got extended. Parang dark horse, parang, 'Sige, let's do this show, let's see how it works.'”

Ika-6 Na Utos also went viral on social media for its campy yet entertaining fight scenes.

For her portrayal of Emma, Sunshine bagged two Best Actress awards from the 16th Gawad Amerika Awards and OFW Gawad Parangal 2017.

After Ika-6 Na Utos, Sunshine top-billed the afternoon series Inagaw na Bituin where she played a singer.

Currently, Sunshine portrays Laura Santos in the afternoon teleserye Magkaagaw, together with Sheryl Cruz, Klea Pineda, and Jeric Gonzales.

AS PRODUCER-DIRECTOR

Sunshine has also ventured into doing work behind the camera.

In 2019, Sunshine and her best friends and Encantadia co-stars Iza Calzado, Karylle, Diana Zubiri, together with their “D,” director Mark Reyes, put up a production company called Sang’gre Productions.

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The word "Sang’gre" is rooted in their characters in Encantadia.

Sang’gre’s first production was the four girls’ reunion movie, Mystified, which was streamed on iFlix.

Sunshine Dizon with Karylle, Diana Zubiri, and Iza Calzado in Mystified

In late 2020, Sang’gre Productions started the grind for its new project, The Story of the Battle of Brody and Brandy, also known as B&B, top-billed by Iza Calzado and Ian Veneracion.

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Aside from being a producer, Sunshine also made her debut as co-director for this project with Mark Reyes.

B&B started streaming on WeTV and iFlix in February 2021.

SOCIAL MEDIA

Sunshine keeps her fans updated with her social media accounts.

As of March 25, 2021, her Instagram account, @m_sunshinedizon, is verified and has 616K,00followers. It is where she is most active, sharing a glimpse of her life with her fans and followers.

Sunshine’s Twitter account, @m_sunshinedizon, is also updated and has 401,000 followers.

TV AND MOVIE PROJECTS

TV SHOWS

  • Kadenang Rosas (GMA-7, 1994)
  • Anna Karenina (GMA-7 and VIVA TV, 1996-2001) as Anna Karenina “Karen” Villarama
  • T.G.I.S: Thank God It’s Sabado (GMA-7 and VIVA TV, 1997-1999) as Calai Escalante
  • GMA Mini-Series presents Umulan Man O Umaraw (GMA-7, 2000) as Rebecca
  • Tuwing Kapiling Ka (GMA-7, 2000)
  • Ikaw Lang Ang Mamahalin (GMA-7, 2001) as Clarissa delos Santos
  • Kung Mawawala Ka (GMA-7, 2002-2003) as Rosa Camilla Montemayor
  • Kahit Kailan (GMA-7, 2002-2003) as Bettina “Betchay” de Guzman
  • Love To Love presents Yaya Lovely (GMA-7, 2003) as Lovely Santos
  • Encantadia (2005) as Pirena
  • Now and Forever presents Agos (2005) as Erika
  • Etheria: Ang Ika-Limang Kaharian ng Encantadia (2005-2006) as Pirena
  • Encantadia: Pag-ibig Hanggang Wakas (2006) as Pirena
  • Captain Barbell (2006) as Clarissa Magtanggol
  • Bakekang (2006-2007) as Bakekang Maisog
  • Impostora (2007) as Vanessa Cayetano / Sara Carreon
  • La Vendetta (2007) as Eloisa Salumbides
  • Kamandag (2008) as Reyna Ragona
  • All About Eve (2009) as Erika Reyes
  • Sine Novela presents Tinik sa Dibdib (2009) as Lorna Yadao
  • Mundo Mo’y Akin (2013) as Perlita
  • Villa Quintana (2013-2014) as Lumeng Samonte
  • Strawberry Lane (2014) as Elaine Morales
  • Pari ‘Koy (2015) as Noemi Cruz
  • Little Nanay (2015-2016) as Helga Vallejo
  • Encantadia (2016) as Adhara
  • Ika-6 Na Utos (2016-2018) as Emma De Jesus-Fuentebella
  • Kambal, Karibal (2018) as Maricar
  • Inagaw Na Bituin (2019) as Belinda Lopez-Sevilla
  • Magkaagaw (2019-2020, 2021) as Laura Santos
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MOVIES

  • God’s Little Children (1986) as Anna
  • Salamangkero (1986) as Freza
  • Guhit ng Palad (1988) as Sunshine Salvador
  • One Day, Isang Araw (1988) as Sunshine
  • Sheman: Mistress of the Universe (1988) as Prinsesa Aliksha
  • Si Malakas at Si Maganda (1989) as Young Anna
  • Kung Kasalanan Man (1989)
  • Huwag Kang Hahalik Sa Diablo (1989) as Kulit
  • Silang Mga Sisiw sa Lansangan (1993) as Teresa
  • Kadenang Bulaklak (1994) as Young Jasmin
  • Jessica Alfaro Story (1995) as Jessica’s daughter
  • Kahit Butas ng Karayom (1995) as Mimi
  • Honey, My Love, So Sweet (1999) as Liza
  • Kiss Mo ‘Ko (1999) as Dindi
  • Filipinas (2003) as Diana
  • Masikip sa Dibdib (2004) as Brigitte
  • Sabel (2004) as Toni
  • Mulawin: The Movie (2005) as Sang’gre Pirena
  • Sundo (2009) as Louella
  • Hustisya (2014) as Lorena
  • Rainbow’s Sunset (2018) as Marife
  • Mystified (2019) as Althea
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Sunshine Dizon: child actress to teen star to drama thespian in her 34 years in show business.
PHOTO/S: GMA-7 / Cyrus Panganiban for PEP
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