From Niño Muhlach to today’s child wonders: The kids are all right

This is not a tribute piece to my favorite Annette Bening and Julianne Moore movie. But the movie title is the most appropriate description for all the Filipino child stars that have been amazing and wonderful on the silver screen and television, and that have made a lasting impact on the Generation X demographic (that includes me, a proud Gen Xer).

This also serves as a warm welcome and mabuhay to the latest set of kids who are set to spread joy and bring their own kind of magic to our entertainment scene.

The most important child actor in Philippine movie history, bar none, is Niño Muhlach. The nephew of movie queen Amalia Fuentes and cousin of Aga Muhlach had the charisma, confidence, talent and star quality that was never before seen in any child actor this side of Hollywood.

Adjectives such as precocious, innocent and lovable captured perfectly the child wonder like no other. His stellar reign during the mid-‘70s to to the mid-‘80s was solid and supreme, with box office hits, endorsements and epic collaborations, with, among others, the late great King of Philippine movies, Fernando Poe Jr. in Ang Leon at Ang Kuting, movie queen Vilma Santos in Darna at Ding, and the one and only Comedy King, Dolphy, in the movie that is now considered a pink motion picture classic, Ang Tatay Kong Nanay.

Muhlach became the standard by which all Filipino child stars have since been measured.

The after-Niño child wonders include Aiza Seguerra, Eat Bulaga’s biggest child discovery from the show’s Little Miss Philippines contest, who achieved almost the same footing and popularity as the original; Matet de Leon, Seguerra’s closest rival; the other EB boy finds Steven Claude Goyong and BJ Forbes; and last but not least, everybody’s lovable one-time Aling Maliit, Ryza Mae Dizon.

Credit must be given to the parents, guardians and support system of the kids mentioned here because their popularity did not spoil them. They were never branded as juvenile delinquents, becoming responsible adults who found what made them truly happy and content. A handful of them are still in show business, now working as competent and respected artists, while others are living private and fruitful lives.

Interesting kiddie show
Following in the footsteps of these league of extraordinary child wonders are Sebreenika Santos, Honey Love Johnson, Cheska Maranan and Tom Leaño. These clever kids are the hosts of Kids: Toy Kingdom Show, an online program with a second season airing by end-September.

What makes this kiddie show interesting, according to its resident uya Tom, is that “All of us are given the opportunity to play with different toys, whether they are the latest finds or vintage collections. I like the fact that our show, ginigising ‘yung imagination and creativity ng mga bata. We hope as they see us play with the toys, ‘yung audience namin, sila rin, they will close whatever gadgets they have and play, use their imagination and interact with other kids.”

Leaño also looks forward to doing Filipino games.

“From what I know, aside from playing with toys, we will also be doing and participating in Filipino games like the patintero, luksong baka, luksong lubid, piko, tumbang preso and many more. I believe that these games build character, discipline, diskarte and genuine friendships. Gusto namin na ‘yung mga bata will discover the fun in these games at hindi lang sila laging nakaharap at nakababad sa computers at gadgets nila.”

The girls’ unanimous toy of choice is Barbie. They like dressing up their dolls and pretend that Barbie converses with her friends. They are also fond of toys that allows them to build, create and think, and giggle and laugh with friends.

The kids in the show are appreciative of the fact that aside from all the playing and toys, their hosting talents are also being honed, and that they learn plenty from listening and observing during the tapings and being surrounded by the community of artistic and creative people that bring the show to life.

We can safely say that these child actors are all right, and that in time, we will witness their own blossoming — a welcome addition to the adorable roster of Filipino showbiz child sensations through the years.