Actress & Courageous mom Laila Dee celebrates 74th birthday



Laila Dee

By Boy Villasanta


We remember veteran actress and producer Laila Dee because of her courage to face up with life’s travails and uncertainties and coming out victorious in her search for her place under the sun. We remember her when she played minor roles in major stars’ unforgettable movies like Fernando Poe, Jr.’s “Isla Puting Bato” and National Artist for Film Ishmael Bernal’s “Dalawang Pugad, Isang Ibon” with Romeo Vasquez, Matt Ranillo III and Vilma Santos and a string of mushy drama and kiss-bang-bang action capers.


We remember Laila Dee when she put up her Eldee Films in the mid-70s and prolifically produced a host of box-office hits like “Anong Ginawa ng Ibon sa Pugad sa Ibon?” which starred his young action star-son Roy Rustan with Alma Moreno, Pia Moran and Beth Bautista, “Ahas Pugad ng Agila which headlined Roy and Ramon Zamora, “Limbas at Labuyo” which featured again, Rustan and this time with Bembol Roco, “Suicide Mama” which launched her to solo stardom, among others.

Celsa Visda and Laila Dee


Four years ago, about this time, Laila Dee had hurdled a bad turn and cried a river when her beloved Roy suddenly died of heart attack at a very young age.


Still, we remember Laila Dee as a controversial showbiz personality when she was criticized and laughed at for mispronouncing an English word because of her glottal inflection and when she would alter an idiom to another form like “cross the bridge when one gets there” to “cross the bridge when one reaches it.”


How Laila Dee would declare head up against her tormentors: “Tawagin na nila akong starlet pero starlet man ako, nakapagpundar ako (Let them call me starlet but I was able to invest in a lot of businesses).” 


Laila had survived the struggles against all odds from her younger days in Lipa City. After graduation from college at the Lipa Colleges with a degree of Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education (BSEEd).


Dee, Violeta Laygo Chua in real life met a dashing young man from a Dimaano clan in Batangas. After a short period of engagement, Violeta and the Dimaano guy settled down.


But the matrimony didn’t last long. “I couldn’t stand him anymore. He wouldn’t lift a finger for his children so I ran away from him with our kids,” Laila recalled. She has two sons with him, the eldest is Henry who’s now in the US and Roy.


The Mother Courage personified went to Manila with just herself bereft of anything. She rented a room with her children in tow. She looked for jobs however menial but found a better lot singing in a bar in Quiapo named Sariling Atin. There she met her knight in shining armor, a military man during the Marcos regime. They fell in love and started a new life.


When the man died, she was already a fulfilled woman with a lot of achievements under her belt. She went into real estate and learned the ropes of the trade.


She was still appearing in the movies and television but her business acumen was more active than acting before the cameras. “But I can’t forget acting. It’s really my life,” she admitted.


One day after the New Year, Laila celebrated her, would you believe, 74th year. “I am just lucky to have reached this age,” she chuckled.


More than herself, she is committed to deliver her immediate family from hunger and desolation so she strove hard to achieve more than what she wanted. She is the sole breadwinner of the Chua family which includes her only sibling, Danilo Chua. Roy has left five children, the first two, daughter Melanie and son JR with her former girlfriend Alma Fetalver, one of Joseph Estrada’s younger brothers and producer Jesse Ejercito’s Miss Tondo Girl during Amy Austria reign at Crown Seven Productions; the other three, all girls namely Aning, Maricar and Chot with her last girlfriend Jane. 


All these Chua descendants are under Laila’s care.


“I promised to my Mom and Dad before they died that I would raise all my children, my brother, my grandchildren, my nephews and my in-laws at the best of my capacity,” Laila quipped.


She just recently sold her Eldee building in Casino Street in Palanan, Makati City to build a new condo edifice at Matanzas Street near Cash and Carry Mall where she held her birthday bash with special guests like entertainment writers JC Nigado, Alice Vergara, Linda Cabuhayan and Art Tapalla. Her erstwhile listeners all of them has remained her loyal friends at DZME during her “Sentiments of the Heart” program where she just left for health reasons were also around to greet her.



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Saturday, 18 August 2018
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