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Tribute to Zeny Zabala and two other ‘bad girls’

FAREWELL, ZENY! – This is a belated tribute to Zeny Zabala who died at 80 last week. In the late ‘50s and ‘60s, Zeny was one of the bad girls of Sampaguita Pictures, making life difficult for the likes of Susan Roces, Amalia Fuentes, Liberty Ilagan, Jean Lopez, Barbara Perez.

Offcam, colleague Pilar Mateo remembers Zeny as the opposite of her screen persona. Kind and caring. Zeny was her “ninang sa kumpil” in tandem with Boy Garcia. Pilar’s father, the late Renato del Prado, was Sampaguita’s reliable character actor. “Ang kinis-kinis ng balat ni Ninang Zeny,” Pilar muses.

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LEAD ACTRESS – After Sampaguita, Zeny Zabala signed up with NGI Productions, owned by businessman Don Narciso G. Isidro. She starred in “Kalinga,” “Luzviminda,” “Apartment No. 9,” “Our Lady of Peñafrancia,” “Mother Dear,” “Ruby.”

Don Narciso was the grandfather of Agot Isidro. He was also the publisher of Movielife, edited by Ethel Ramos. This is neither here nor there, but Agot’s father, Joe Isidro, was my favorite journalism professor at San Beda.

One of her favorite directors was Ben Feleo.

When NGI closed shop, Zeny rested from showbiz.

She staged a comeback, doing mostly “donya” roles – mean and even vicious. Bro. Nes (Cuartero) recalls Zeny’s role in “Ikaw Lamang,” starring Vilma Santos, Cesar Montano, and Ronnie Ricketts and directed by Chito Roño. Zeny was evil incarnate in the movie, torturing Vilma who played the wife of his twisted son Cesar, Ronnie was Vilma’s savior.

In “Tatay Nick,” a spoof of “Titanic,” Zeny was the social climbing and ambitious mother of Zsa Zsa Padilla. She couldn’t take Dolphy, a shiphand. But Zeny was more funny than “antipatica.”

OTHER BAD GIRLS – While at it, Highspeed also pays tribute (of sorts) to two other Sampaguita bad girls, Bella Flores and Rebecca del Rio who were ahead of Zeny Zabala.

Bella was the eternal “contravida,” from Gloria Romero to Susan Roces to Nora Aunor to Vilma Santos. Bella also appeared in other studios – from “the other woman” to cruel stepmother to scheming friend to exploitative “mama san.”

Rebecca, was Sampaguita’s classy contravida in the ‘50s. But she transferred to LVN, where she won Asia’s best supporting actress award for “Malvarosa.”

Bella and Rebecca died a few years back.

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