MANILA, Philippines – Amalia Fuentes may have been dubbed as the “Elizabeth Taylor of the Philippines,” but the actress was more than just a Hollywood lookalike.
Born Amalia Amador Muhlach on August 27, 1940, she lived a simple life in Davao, selling fruits to help with the family expenses.
That life took a drastic turn when Amalia joined a talent search by Sampaguita Pictures – the premier film production company in the 40s and 50s. Amalia won the search in 1956 alongside actor Juancho Gutierrez, thus beginning a long and storied career in the pictures.
She was first introduced in the film Prince Charming in 1955, and was launched into stardom as Gutierrez’s co-star in the 1956 film Movie Fan. As a Sampaguita Pictures contract artist, she would go on to make 44 more films with the studio, including Rodora (1956), Madaling Araw (1958), and Amy, Susie, Tessie (1960).
As her filmography stacked up, so did her list of award nominations. She was nominated for a Filipino Academy of Movie Arts and Sciences (FAMAS) award in 1964 for her performance in Kulay Dugo ang Gabi, and in 1965 for Sapagkat Ikaw Ay Akin.
In 1966, the nominations turned into a win, when she was named FAMAS Best Actress for her performance in Ibulong Mo Sa Hangin where she played Leonore Escudero, a young woman who, along with her brother, discovers that their mother had been cursed to turn into a vampire.
After her FAMAS win, Fuentes was nominated for the same award several more times for films such as Divina Bastarda, Pag-ibig Mo, Buhay Ko, and Isang Gabi…Tatlong Babae!.
Her performance in Pag-ibig Mo, Buhay Ko earned her the Best Actress title at the 1973 Manila Film Festival.
Aside from being an awarded actress, Fuentes also worked behind the scenes. She ran her own production company AM Productions, and wrote the story for films such as Tatlong Kasaysayan ng Pag-ibig (1966), and Ito Ang Aming Kasunduan (1973).
She directed the film Mga Reynang Walang Trono in 1976 alongside Fely Crisostomo, and also co-starred in it with a young Vilma Santos.
In 2016, Fuentes’ contributions to Philippine cinema were recognized when she was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the PMPC Star Awards for Movies.
Fuentes married her co-star Romeo Vasquez in 1966, and the couple had a daughter, Liezl, who would also go on to be an actress herself before her death in 2015 at age 47.
Fuentes and Vazquez separated in 1969, and Fuentes went on to marry Joey Stevens, an American businessman with whom she adopted a son, Geric. Through Liezl, Fuentes had 3 grandchildren: Alyanna, Alfonso, and Alissa – Liezl’s daughters with actor Albert Martinez.
She was also the aunt to actors Aga and Niño Muhlach, the sons of her brothers Alvaro and Alexander. In his tribute to Fuentes following her death, Aga said "You started it all for us."
In the latter years of her life, Fuentes kept a low-profile and rarely made showbiz appearances, especially after she suffered a stroke in 2015 while vacationing in South Korea.
Fuentes was slated to reunite with her fellow Sampaguita Pictures actress Susan Roces in the 2013 ABS-CBN teleserye Muling Buksan ang Puso, but she would later back out of the role.