Lights, Camera, Agana: Rediscovering the Golden Age of Philippine Cinema and 1950s Child Star Tessie Agana

Manila, Philippines – When we zero in on the colorful world of Philippine cinema, there are hundreds of films to unpack and discover–more so during the golden age of cinema back in the 1950s. 

During this post-war era, television was still at its infancy and the film industry was at the crossroads of tradition and modernity. Influences from our colonial past, from Spanish to American and Japanese occupations, significantly shaped the storytelling and cinematic plots of that time.

Anyone who has watched films from this golden era would easily recognize Tessie Agana, better known as the Shirley Temple of the Philippines and a child star whose works include Roberta, Kerubin, Ang Prinsesa at ang Pulubi, and many more under Sampaguita Pictures.

The legend of tessie agana beloved child star of the philippimes

This Nation’s Little Sweetheart has captured the hearts of many and together with her mother Linda Estrella, has carved out a name in an ever-evolving industry.

Even younger generations who took history and film classes don’t fall short of watching some of Agana’s iconic movie scenes in their trip down memory lane. 

Now, decades later, cinephiles and bibliophiles can take part in an immersive experience and watch the golden age of Philippine cinema unfold through fresh lenses.

Mylene Agana Jao Richardson, the daughter of Tessie Agana,

Mylene Agana Jao Richardson, the daughter of Tessie Agana, takes us back to our post-war history in a riveting narration of her mother’s life. Richardson’s book, The Legend of Tessie Agana: Beloved Child Star of the Philippines, is a fitting tribute to Philippine cinema and literature in a time where reconnecting with our rich cultural past enables us to embrace modernity with strong footing and awareness of our roots.

Mylene Agana Jao Richardson, the daughter of Tessie Agana,

“While I was writing the book, my mom had a stroke in 2017 and the following year, she developed dementia,” Richardson recalls. “It was crucial to record and cherish her stories. I had a million little goals throughout this journey. I wasn’t sure I would ever complete this book in time for my mom to see the physical copy. So I read every single chapter with her out loud.”

Mylene Agana Jao Richardson, the daughter of Tessie Agana,

From her humble beginnings as a child actor in post-war Manila to her experiences on mental health and motherhood, daughter Mylene details Tessie Agana’s contributions to Philippine cinema and how it has ultimately influenced the majority of our films to take on family-centric storylines.

Roberta became a blockbuster hit overnight that catapulted my mom to child stardom. My mother was credited as the child actor who gave Sampaguita the miracle to not only survive the catastrophe with this movie but come back bigger and stronger,” Richardson says. “She was also deemed as the ‘Take One’ actress, so other actors need to be ready for the emotional scenes as the directors knew she only needed ‘one take’.”

Readers and creatives can delve deeper into the artistic and cinematic direction and behind the scenes of creating a well-loved child star and the different characters she has played in over 40 films. 

Lights, Camera, Agana: Rediscovering the Golden Age of Philippine Cinema and 1950s Child Star Tessie Agana

This captivating journey through Tessie Agana’s cinematic legacy is now available in hardbound paperback and ebook formats. To explore this enchanting narrative, visit our website or visit You can also find the book on our Shopee and Lazada stores. Immerse yourself in the magic of classic Filipino cinema and relive the golden era through the lens of this remarkable tale.

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Bookshelf PH is an online bookstore and book publisher in the Philippines. The organization’s goal is to promote a richer Filipino literature that will contribute to individual empowerment, and in the aggregate, nation-building. At the core of these aspirations is the belief that the surest and simplest path to personal and professional growth is through reading, whether through physical books, ebooks, or audiobooks. Bookshelf PH thus welcomes collaboration with all book lovers in the country, including everyone from freelance writers and interns to local booksellers, self-published authors, and brands that aim to publish a book

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