BIOGRAPHY OF ARNOLD GAMBOA
BALIKTANAW by Romy Protacio | SAN DIEGO, 7/25/2011 -- After my recent elbow rubbing with the cast of “Aawitan Kita sa Amerika”, where I met Lirio Vital, I tried to stay in touch with Lirio through the internet (Facebook, specifically). It was on her Facebook wall that I stumbled on the name of Arnold Gamboa, and that day will be a day etched on my memory. In fact I suddenly muttered, “OMG!” (Oh my gosh!) when I saw his name. It was as if I discovered a hidden treasure, and I knew that I have to connect with Arnold and write his story, as well.
I can no longer hold my excitement, so I immediately sent Arnold an FB message that says, “You don’t know me but I know you. Please add me as a friend. I know you very well as a movie star.” Arnold immediately accepted me as a friend. That was the beginning of a beautiful friendship that led me writing about Arnold’s life and career.
Arnold Gamboa was once a charming youngster who was one of the “Apat Na Sikat”, a group who reigned supreme during the 70’s with their TV primetime show. Together with Winnie Santos, Lala Aunor and Dondon Nakar, the foursome made quite a mark in the entertainment world. Although the success of “Apat na Sikat” was short lived, Arnold’s name still rings a bell to many.
Arnold Gamboa is Arnold Ariel Tiangco Gamboa in real life. His father, Antonio Gamboa, is from Jaro, Iloilo City while his mother, Leonisa Tiangco, is a native of Cabiao, Nueva Ecija. He was born and raised in Manila. He is the second son, Gilbert being the eldest and he has 3 sisters - Diana, Maria Antoinette, and Mylene.
He completed his elementary studies at the Ateneo University. He is an alumnus of the Far Eastern University, where he acquired his high school diploma, as well as his college degree leading to the Bachelor of Arts, major in Economics.
His Showbiz Career
It was not really a surprise that Arnold entered showbiz, because his father was once a movie actor who appeared in the movie “Sutlang Bakal”. His father’s dream to be a movie actor was cut short when he got married and his wife asked that he end his movie career. Arnold’s dad was as good looking as he is, so a continued showbiz career was probably posing a threat to their marriage. His father should have been in the cast of “Lo Waist Gang” but as fate had it, he decided to bow out of showbiz and pursue other career options.
While studying in Ateneo, Arnold was an active member of the Ateneo Children’s Theater (ACT). Even as a grade schooler, he was given the Silver medal for elocution by the school when he delivered the piece, “Liberty”, written by Lamberto Avellana. These were clear signs of his interest and talent in acting.
Eddie Rodriguez, a famed actor and director once visited the school and told the Head Master that he is looking for a boy who can join the cast of his movie, “Gumuho Man Ang Langit.” At his early age of seven years old, Arnold caught the eye of Eddie, and in a few days, Arnold’s parents received a letter from Virgo Production (the movie outfit owned by Eddie Rodriguez) asking them to send Arnold to the studio for an audition. Accompanied by his mother, Arnold got his first audition where he was made to sing, cry, dance and act. It was quite an experience for a little boy, which was well worth it, as he landed a role in the movie, “Gumuho Man ang Langit”. Arnold played the son of Barbara Perez and Eddie Rodriguez and that was the start of his movie career.
Shortly after, he was informed that Lea Production, owned by Emilia Blas, was looking for a child star to appear in the movie, “Wanted: Perfect Mother,” together with famous actors Boots Anson-Roa, Dante Rivero and Liza Lorena. Arnold was well recommended by Eddie Rodriguez who was a good friend of Emilia Blas and he got the role. It was Arnold’s quick ticket to fame as it garnered the Best Picture Award in the Manila Film Festival. He had the chance to work with the iconic movie director, Lino Brocka as well as fellow other actors like Gina Alajar and Snooky, who would also make their names in the industry.
“Wanted: Perfect Mother” was also a landmark movie production for Lino Brocka. He was awarded the Best Director Award in this movie, which catapulted him to popularity and this was the first movie where the public took notice of his unique artistry in film making.
What followed next was a series of movies that Arnold did for Lea Productions. He did “Cadena de Amor” directed by Lino Brocka where he was nominated for Best Child Actor in the CCMM Awards (yesteryear’s counterpart of the Catholic Mass Media Awards) and “Lumuha Pati Mga Angel” starring Gloria Romero, Marissa Delgado, and Eddie Garcia. He appeared in the title role with Lorna Tolentino in the movie, “Lumuha Pati Mga Angel”. This movie was the highlight of Arnold’s career, as it gained him the Famas Best Child Actor Award in 1972. Lorna Tolentino was also recognized for her acting ability in this movie, where she won the Famas Best Child Actress Award.
Having established his name in the industry, Arnold’s movie offers came one after another. At one point, Tagalog Ilang-Ilang Productions, owned by Atty. Esperidion Laxa had plans to build up an Arnold-Snooky love team, which would have required Arnold to do movies exclusively with the film producers. However, Arnold was still studying during this time, and his parents were reluctant to allow him to pursue his movie career full time and give up on his studies. The offer from Ilang-Ilang Productions was declined, but Arnold still made several movies under the movie outfit, although not under an exclusive contract.
About this time, the big three movie outfits that glorified the screens during the 50s and the 60s (Sampaguita, LVN and Premier) were starting to fade out of the industry. They were being replaced by new outfits – Regal Films, Lea Productions and Tagalog Ilang-Ilang. Arnold made movies with these three burgeoning film productions, although he can not really remember all the titles of the movies he made.
In the early 70s, the local entertainment industry was dominated by the love teams of Nora Aunor-Tirso Cruz and Vilma Santos-Edgar Mortiz. Arnold was a young teenager by the mid 70’s. Ike Lozada, a famous radio and TV host (known for his radio program, “Dambuhalang DJ”) and part-time talent manager conceptualized a junior love team that would target the younger audience and would follow the footsteps of the Nora-Tirso and Vi-Bubot love teams. The young love teams will be introduced in a new TV show which was planned to compete with the Channel 7 show, “Eto Na Kami”, another TV show quite popular with the young generation back then. Ike gathered the team of Arnold and Maribel “Lala” Aunor, Winnie Santos and Dondon Nakar that gave birth to the “Apat na Sikat” in Channel 9. The show was an instant hit not just with teen-agers, but also for older audiences and it quickly acquired a high rating among viewers. It was aired during prime time, and lasted for five years. People who grew up watching “Apat na Sikat” often associate Arnold’s name to the TV show, as it made television history during its prime.
The “Apat na Sikat”
“Apat na Sikat” in the 70s was borne out of the imagination of the late Ike Lozada. Ike made quite a name for himself on his TV show “Big Ike’s Happening” and his AM radio program, “Dambuhalang DJ”. Like his colleague, Kuya Germs, Ike was also instrumental in launching the careers of young stars.
The four young stars were easily brought to fame, because the two ladies were related to the star of the season. Winnie Santos is the younger sister of Vilma Santos, while Lala Aunor is the first cousin of Nora Aunor.
While doing my research on the internet, I chanced upon the Ukay-Ukay blog written by Guillermo “Ige” Ramos. He provided a vivid, though quite amusing takes on the “Apat na Sikat.” Nilampaso nya ang Apat na Sikat. Gigil na gigil si Ige sa kanyang characterization of Winnie Santos, and Lala Aunor. Ige, however, had kinder words for Dondon and Arnold.
“Winnie tried to be her sister’s clone: she did a TV version of Vilma’s hit Trudis Liit, and she sang the Ate VI anthems, “Paper Roses” and “My Boy Lollipop”. Unlike her sister, who is still a terpsichorean wonder, Winnie could only dance the Lady Bump. The more she copied her sister, the more she receded into oblivion.
Lala Aunor achieved stardom through cloning. Her famous relative was her “sister,” none another than Vilma’s arch-nemesis, Nora Aunor. Later, it was revealed that Lala was not Nora’s sister, but her cousin! It didn’t matter because she was a carbon copy of the Superstar—if the carbon had been used 1,000 times previously. Lala sounded so much like Nora, it was as if she had been lip-synching to Nora’s records. The memory of Lala Aunor in a Minnehaha Indian costume by way of Disneyland, singing Karen Carpenter’s Top of the World, can only be erased by years of psychiatric therapy.
Dondon Nakar had the most musical talent, which is to say that he could play the guitar and carry a tune. He was also the sexiest, and there was an edge to him. With his smiling almond eyes and his moreno looks, Dondon was an early Richard Gomez prototype. Too bad he never achieved Richard Gomez’ status.
I could compare Arnold Gamboa’s career to that of Mark Lester and Pepito Rodriguez. Arnold started out as a child star, and certainly was cute and innocent looking. On Apat Na Sikat, he was the resident mestizo.”
It was quite unfortunate that Apat Na Sikat’s demise became a product of its own popularity. Due to the star status of the show, a feud between Ike Lozada who conceptualized the show and Channel 9 erupted. This happened when the Channel 9 management decided to turn the show into a network production in order to control the format of the show. However, Ike did not allow this to happen. After five years of being in the air, the show finally folded up. Despite its popularity, the show died a natural death and its main stars went their separate ways.
Eventually, Winnie Santos got married and migrated to the States while Lala Aunor also accepted offers abroad and tried to establish a new career overseas. Arnold, on the other hand, continued to make movies . After spending 15 years in the industry, he decided to leave showbiz and concentrate on another field.
A New Career Unfolds
When Arnold started his college education, his parents encouraged him to give up his showbiz career and concentrate his studies. Arnold felt it was the right thing to do because he was having a hard time balancing his showbiz activities with his studies. “Hindi ko na kayang pagsabayin ang aral at movie making, unlike when I was in high school,” Arnold said. He remembers doing “High School Circa” directed by Mario de los Reyes in 1979 when Arnold was almost graduating from high school. At 17, Arnold did the movie “Dormitoryo,” starring Lorna Tolentino, Mark Gil, and Alfie Anido. “Dormitoryo” was the last movie of Alfie Anido before he passed away. It was also Arnold’s last movie after which he concentrated on his studies.
His parent’s dream for Arnold was fulfilled when he obtained his college degree. True to his word, even after his college graduation, Arnold did not pursue his acting career, because he felt that the move industry was depriving him of his privacy. During that time, it also became very competitive as the names of the new stars, Gabby Concepcion, Albert Martinez, Snooky, Maricel Soriano, and Dina Bonnevie started making raves in the industry. Arnold never looked back after he retired and was happy to enter another career in the business world.
His first job after graduating (A.B. Economics) was with a financing company. Two years after, he heard about a job opening at the Manila Hotel from a co-worker and decided to give it a try. He started working as a Front Desk clerk and worked his way up to become Manila Hotel’s Assistant Public Relations Manager. His work at Manila Hotel provided him the exposure and experience that enabled him to establish a name as a hotel public relations practitioner. From Manila Hotel, Arnold started hotel hopping. It was during that time that the hotel industry in the Philippines was booming.
He was later on hired by Diamond Hotel as PR Manager from 1992 to 1994, and he orchestrated the soft opening and grand opening of the hotel. In 1994, Days Inn, a famous hotel chain in the US opened its branch in the Philippines. Arnold was then hired by Days Inn as their Marketing Communications Director.
Through the years, Arnold established his name in the hotel industry and his career moves enabled him to work in different locations. After Days Inn, he was offered to be a PR Manager of the Banyan Tree Evercrest Golf Club and Resort in Nasugbu, Batangas. He worked for Banyan Tree for three years and then later on did several private consultancy stints in various hotels and resorts.
In 2007, Arnold began a career with Astoria Plaza. He was hired as the hotel’s Customer Service Manager but is now the PR & Marketing Communications Manager due to his PR background. To this day, Arnold has become one of Astoria Plaza’s assets, as he has been helping the hotel achieve higher ratings in the industry.
His Love Life
Arnold remains a bachelor to this date, although he lives the life of a single dad to his nephew. Like some of the movie personalities I had interviewed in the past, Arnold preferred not to discuss details of his love life, which I respected. I’m sure that at one point in his life, he had a serious relationship, but for one reason or another, preferred to keep it in private (the lady comes from a very conservative family). He said that he now spends his time, focused on his career and on building a future for his son. He still lives with his parents who have been blessed to live long enough to celebrate their Golden Wedding anniversary. He counts this as one of his blessings, among other things he is thankful for. He has also kept himself active in his church as a choir member and lector at the St. Therese of the Child Jesus church in Quezon City.
Arnold today is a picture of contentment. He has played different roles in his life – a movie celebrity, a successful career person in the hotel industry, a loving son and now a doting father, through the years, he has learned the art of living with a thankful heart.
Although he left the exciting world of showbiz several years back, his name is still well remembered by those who lived through the tumultuous period of the 70’s and who witnessed the emerging of young stars. Arnold Gamboa still rings a bell, although not a lot of people know that he now lives a private life, away from the scrutiny of the public.
He is a very private person, but would always welcome a friend. This, he proved when I asked him to include me among his friends in Facebook, and he readily agreed! Thanks, Arnold for the friendship and for the chance to visit memory lane again!