Monday, May 11, 2009


When I visited Manila back in the late eighties, having migrated to California three years earlier, I saw Paraluman who was then working in projects launched by Mayor Nemesio Yabut of Makati City. I had not seen her for several years and she had not been making movies as often as she did.

I was able to meet Mayor Yabut in 1983 when I was elected President of Rotary Club of Makati West considering that our club had continuing projects for Makati City especially geared toward the blighted areas in old San Pedro, and the riverside areas where the military had their enlisted men’s quarters.

“How are you?” I asked in Spanish for she spoke elegant Spanish even if she was a descendant of German parents. In fact her real name is Sigrid von Giese. Before her fame in movies, her younger sisters were already well known in the swimming world in Manila. Paraluman, a screen name, was the daughter of German father and a Filipina mother.

Early in her career, Paraluman was likened to the great Greta Garbo of pre war years because they said that she had “perfect bone structure an impenetrable gaze” and fair skin. In fact, Paraluman, as a child, was herself a movie addict and pursued her favorite actors and actresses through movie magazines. Once when her family was living near the house of Corazon Noble, a shining star in Philippine movies during that period, Paraluman would clamber over the wall just to get a glimpse of her movie idol. Because of this activity Lily, the younger sister of Corazon Noble also a movie star, spotted this mestiza over their wall and noticed her rare beauty so she summoned Paraluman to come over. That started a close friendship leading Paraluman to meeting top managers of movie companies and directors.

One of these directors was Luis Nolasco of Philippine Films. Paraluman was only 17 at that time. At her first movie role in Flores de Mayo a year before the war she used the screen name Mina de Gracia. It did not last long. Later Fernando Poe Sr. came up with the screen name of Paraluman who signed her as a full-fledged star in X’otic Films’ in 1941. During the war years, Paraluman, like other movie stars had no films to make so she and the rest were appearing in stage shows in downtown Manila. It was during this period when she met a handsome Japanese officer who was smitten by her beauty and in no time at all they were married. Considering that the Japanese were the conquering enemy force, the wedding by a beautiful Filipina movie actress did not sit well with her fans and the rest of Philippine society, so during the war years until liberation she and husband kept a low profile. In no time at all they had a baby girl whom they called Kristin. Then tragedy struck, for some reason, his Japanese officer husband got sick and died. So, Paraluman was left a widow with a young child.

When war had ended Paraluman was back in the saddle making a lot of movies and by this time she had already married Tony O’brien, a mestizo American Filipino commercial pilot who worked for Philippine Air Lines. At that time a new subdivision was being cultivated by Old Man Andres Soriano Sr. who was then chairman of Philippine Air Lines. They called the subdivision Bel-Air (Good Air) which covered several acres the length of Buendia Avenue. All PAL pilots enjoyed a good rate for the real estate and bought lots in Bel Air. Tony, Paraluman and Baby Kristin moved to live in their new place in Bel Air subdivision. Since Paraluman was already Mrs. O’brien, Tony opted to adopt the girl changing her name to Kristin O’brien who during her post teen years also liked show business under the name of Baby O’brien. Moreover, Baby herself has a daughter Rina Reyes who is also in show business.

When I met Paraluman at the Mayor’s office, she was excited to refer me to a film ready to be shot, featuring Nora Aunor’s daughter Matet. Being the ham that I was I readily agreed without even knowing what it was about. Then she explained, I will be your partner in that scene. It turned out that the scene that Paraluman and I was to be in, was during the wedding reception of Matet in the movie. The scenario was that Paraluman was one of Matet’s guests whom I once knew. She is not aware of my presence until we see each other face to face. That was the short scene. The scene was about two minutes in the film but it took me the whole day sitting around chatting with Paraluman and others waiting to be called for the scene to be shot.

One quality I enjoyed chatting with Paraluman is her candor and sincerity. Even during the lovely winter of her years, Paraluman, or Sigrid von Giese still bears the classic beauty of a lovely Greek goddess.

Paraluman succumbed to cardiac arrest on April 27, 2009 at her home in Paranaque City.

She was 85.