Thursday, November 5, 2015
*391. LOTIS BALUYUT KEY: Her Passionate Artistry, Unlocked.
The career of Maria Rica Baluyut Key (aka Lotis Melisande Key) speaks volumes about her multi-facetted gifts that has served her well in diverse endeavors—including coping with the complexities of showbiz life.
Her mother was Luz Nolasco Baluyut, a popular radio personality in the 1930s who went by the nickname “Mitzi”. The Baluyots traced their ancestry to Guagua and the Kapampangan-speaking towns of Bataan. Mitzi’s father was Jose Baluyut, a former governor from Orion, Bataan. Jose’s brother was Sotero Baluyut, Pampanga’s eminent engineer-governor from the 30s.
Mitzi was first married to Arturo Ortiz, son of the Philippine Secretary of State who tragically died at Fort Santiago during the War. She married a second time, to Warren Bryan Key, a descendant of Francis Scott Key, lyricist of the U.S. anthem "Star Spangled Banner".
Their daughter, born in 1949, would become one of the most talented personalities of Philippine entertainment—Lotis Key. Lotis was raised in Pasay City, and her beautiful Filipina-American features were evident at an early age, which opened doors to modeling and beauty pageantry.
Her first foray was in 1967, when she was selected as Princess Royale de Quezon City. Later in the year, she competed in the 3rd edition of the Bb. Pilipinas Contest to determine the country’s delegate to the Miss Universe Beauty pageant. Just 18 and a student of St. Paul’s, she placed third in the national tilt won by Cebuana Pilar Delilah Pilapil.
Two years after, Lotis joined the search for “Romeo and Juliet of the Philippines”, a promotion to drum up interest in the 1969 Franco Zefirelli movie. She was named “Juliet” to Victor Laurel’s Romeo. In 1971, she joined “Miss Aviation” and topped the contest too.
While joining contests and walking fashion show ramps, Lotis was also busy making TV appearances and performing on stage as an actress. With Hilda Coronel, she was cast in “Manigong Bagong Taon” a Channel 5 New Year special, directed by Lino Brocka. On the theater circuit, she was in the play “The Crucible” where she had a daring kissing scene with veteran Vic Silayan. She was a mod nun in “Cisco”, a singing country girl in “Carousel”, and a body-baring lead in “The Prime of Miss Jean Brody” in “Carousel”.
Pretty soon, movie producers were knocking on her doors, convincing her to try the movies. After doing a bit part in the 1971 movie,”Stardoom”, she was noticed in “Ang Mahiwagang Daigdig ni Pedro Penduko” (1973).
But it was in “Dalawang Mukha ng Tagumpay” that she made her mark, earning her a FAMAS Best Supporting Actress nomination in 1974, a feat she also repeated in “ Ibigay Mo Sa Akin Ang Langit” (1975). Lotis had a starring role as a circus performer in the movie, “Lady Luck” (1975).
Lotis became Dolphy’s favored leading lady, appearing together with the Comedy King in box-office films like Captain Barbell (1973), Fung Ku (1973), Facundo Alitaftaf (1978), Darna, Kuno? (1979), Max En Jess (1979) and Bugoy (1979). Soon, the showbiz world was a-buzz with the Lotis-Dolphy romance.
In 1986, Lotis made a drastic decision to get away from the tiring drama of Philippine showbiz. She moved to the United States to start life anew. With her well-rounded experience, Lotis found work in theater, radio, corporate shows, TV commercial and industrial video productions as a voice talent.
She not only rediscovered her faith by becoming a Christian evangelist but she also rekindled her passion for the theater. She became a playwright, director and producer, a job that took her across the U.S. and Canada. Lotis next shifted to literary writing, resulting in two published novels, “The Song of the Tree” and “A Thing Devoted”.
Finally coming to terms with her past, Lotis married Bambi Kabigting, a former Ateneo Blue Eagles and Crispa Redmanizer basketball ace. She and her family are settled in Minnesotta, happily living a simpler, contented life-- away from the public’s prying eyes, and far removed from the glamorous, but often-complicated world of showbiz that once hailed her as a star.