Thursday, June 18, 2015


LA DOLCE MINDA. Minda Feliciano had a reputation for living the life fantastic--traipsing the world and hobnobbing with the rich, the famous and the powerful--befitting her celebrity status. Photo from 1968.

Certainly, for many society girls in the heady 60s, Minda Feliciano’s life was an enviable one. At a young age, she travelled the world in search of adventure, and in so doing, found many of her dreams fulfilled---to get an acting break on a hit U.S. TV series, to rub elbows with the rich, the royalty and the famous, and best of all, to find the greatest loves of her life in two continents!

But in a special way, Minda was destined for this kind of life, early on. She was the daughter of Manuel Valdez Feliciano, a district engineer, and Amparo Santana of Batanes. Born as Arminda Feliciano on June 1, 1931, her town of origin is sometimes listed as either Angeles or Guagua. That may be due to the peripatetic career of her father, who was assigned in different provinces like Bataan, Nueva Ecija and Surigao.

But what was sure was that Minda went to high school at the Holy Angel Academy (now University) in Angeles. In her 20s, the charming Minda went on to try her luck at modeling and acting. This paved the way for her to travel the world to search for better career opportunities.

In the U.S., she started auditioning for acting roles and, in 1959, won a regular slot (she played the hula-dancing receptionist, Evelyn) in the popular TV series,”Hawaiian Eye”, produced by Warner Brothers. In 1962, her partnership with Russ Hemenway resulted in the birth of her only child, Brent, but they would split shortly.

Minda never ran out of admirers though, and one who squired her ardently was the prominent publisher and author, Leo Guild, 20 years her senior. It was with Guild that she eventually chose to settle down in 1967. The glamorous Minda held court at her posh Beverly Hills residence, which was even outfitted with a heated swimming pool. However, the marriage ended in a divorce in 1970.

Minda went back to her socializing and hobnobbing with fellow celebrities that led to her meeting with British actor Michael Caine. Caine would become her one great love. He had already starred in a few well-received movies ("Alfie", "Gambit") when Minda swept him off his feet. She became her travelling companion when he filmed on locations worldwide. The two were soon engaged, but somehow, things didn’t fall into place and the couple parted ways. Michael would marry the exotic beauty, Shakira Baksh in 1973 , win 2 Oscars and be knighted in 2002.

 Briefly in the early 1990s, Minda was linked to debonair crooner, Tony Bennett, who made a hit out of the song, “I Left My Heart in San Francisco”. She would fly and join him in his intermational concerts that took him from Las Vegas to Tokyo and London. But at that time, Bennett was more focused on resurrecting his career so Minda quietly slipped out of his life.

A few years later, Minda would form a more lasting relationship with Norman John McClintock Lonsdale, a true English blue blood descended from the Duke of Wellington, the nemesis of Bonaparte at the famous Battle of Waterloo. He had been a favorite escort of Princess Margaret. Lonsdale eschewed the life of a royal and pursued a successful TV career. He was already a widower with 3 children when Minda came into his life. Romance bloomed and they were wed in 1997.

In the Lonsdales’ sprawling Oxfordshire estate,the couple entertained film star friends like Joan Collins, Peter Sellers, Britt Ekland and Roger Moore. Minda and Norman would be together for 12 happy years; he would die in 2009, of cancer. All throughout his illness, Minda stood by to nurse and care for his man, until the end.

Today, Minda has made United Kingdom her home, spending her time tending to the lush rose gardens of her ivy-covered house along the scenic Thames River. Her high-flying days have given way to a quieter, more sedate life, but Minda Feliciano’s joie de vivre has not waned a bit. And that’s so…Kapampangan!

1 comment:

Cindy said...

I had the wonderful opportunity of first meeting Minda while I was working in Public Relations at The Manila Hotel in the 1980s, when she came for a visit and stayed at the Presidential Suite on the eighteenth floor of the-then most prestigious hotel of our capital.
Tony Bennett, who flew in from the US on the same flight as Minda, was to perform at a dinner-show at the hotel so he was hosted by our hotel at our Penthouse Suite. The top-priced three-bedroom suite with live-in butler shared the top-floor swimming pool as the President suite. This is how the two met and began a romantic episode which became a lifelong friendship.

A few years later, when I moved to London with my new husband who had been based there for NBC News as a foreign correspondent, I got in touch with Minda on her invitation and she had us come for an impromptu dinner at her home to have some Filipino food which we were missing so much. Minda cooked a fabulous dinner just for us and her then new love, Norman Lonsdale, whom she eventually married later (1997) at Norman's family ancestral seat in Oxfordshire. What a charming and dashing gentleman he was. They were clearly madly in love with each other. Minda pampered Norman like a "stereo-typical Filipina wife". I was just learning how to be a wife myself so I learned this from her...that even if one is married to a very modern and progressive Western man, it is the femininity of the Asian woman that ultimately appeals to him. To be feminine is not to say one must give up one's independence and outspokenness. The modern Western Man enjoys intellectual conversations on global affairs and current topics even as we cook food to keep their tummies happy and make a cozy home they love to come back to. Both can be done simultaneously. Western feminists can learn a lot from our Filipina women!

What a wonderful and fulfilling life Minda has had. As a new bride then, watching her charm and demeanour, I knew we could have it all and maintain a life-long marriage. I have been happily married for almost 30 years.

Cindy Lilles-Maceda
London and Algarve, Portugal