Wednesday, February 24, 2016

*397. LYDIA MONTAÑEZ: A Russian-Kapampangan Actress from Arayat

CALL HER TATIANA. Tatiana Simbulan Korionoff (aka Lydia Montañez) of Arayat was one of the most exotic faces of Philippine cinema in the 1950s, owing to her Russian-Kapampangan lineage.

 The bloody Bolshevik Revolution in 1917 led many thousands of Russians to flee their beleaguered country and seek refuge in other lands. One who escaped just in time was Victor Pavlov Korionoff (b. 28 April 1902) of the city of Perm, Russia. To escape the cruelty of the Red Russians, the 17 year-old decided to flee to Shanghai, via Manchuria, along with 2,000 czarists.

Victor was supposed to proceed to Australia by sea, but some ships sunk, leaving him stranded in Palawan. He had no recourse but to go back to Shanghai, where he established a cigar business whose success was short-lived.

 Back to square one,Victor decided to apply as a policeman but failed meet the height requirement. His next stop was a factory where he saved enough travel funds to seek his fortune in the Philippines.

He finally found work in Negros, at the Kabangkalan Sugar Central, where he got along very well with Tabacalera officials because of his ability to speak Spanish. With him was fellow Russian, Simeon Kibanoff, whom he met on a ship in Hong Kong and who would become his lifelong friend.

 Victor was assigned as a plant engineer at the Arayat Sugar Central in Pampanga in 1926. Simeon, who had by this time gotten married to Negrense Angela Parcon, tagged along with him and relocated his family to this mountain town.

 The next year, Victor  married a local 18 year-old lass named Marcelina Lising Simbulan, who gave him a firstborn son, Victor Jr. The rest of the brood would come in quick succession—Tatiana, Dimitri (Jim), Lydia, Jacob, Mary and Joseph (twins). Victor, a licensed electrical and mechanical engineer, built a large 2-storey house on the Lising ancestral land for his growing family, complete with a porch, a swimming pool and a bathroom with a flush toilet—a first in Arayat . At home, the family spoke in Kapampangan, a language also quickly learned by the patriarch.

 Of the Korionoff children, the natural artistic bent of eldest daughter Tatiana (“Tanya or Tani”), born in 28 April 1933, was apparent at an early age. Like her homegrown siblings, she attended Arayat Elementary School and Anderson Intermediate School. There, she learned how to sing and play the guitar. It was off to Arayat Institute for her college years, and although she admitted that she was not exactly a diligent student, she finished her studies and bagged a teaching stint at her elementary alma mater.

 The exotic mixed-race Tatiana never considered herself beautiful; in fact, when she joined a local beauty search—the Cinderella Contest—she placed a dismal 26th. But this paved the way for her entry into showbiz, with Royal Pictures (owned by Fernando Poe Sr.) signing her up, renaming her Lydia Montemayor and giving her small roles in “Tatlong Limbas” (1950), “Lihim ni Bathala “,“Mag-Inang Ulila” and “Maria Bonita” (1951).

 Thereafter, Benito Brothers Productions offered her a contract and turn her into a full-fledged star. She was rechristened Lydia Montañez—Lydia, in honor of her foster aunt, and Montañez, from the mountain town of her birth. Her launch film--“Irog, Paalam” (1951) directed by Jose Villafranca and with no less than the established matinee idol Leopoldo Salcedo as her leading man—proved to be a success at the box office tills. Their team-up would be repeated in “La Roca Trinidad”, produced by Salcedo himself.

 Her follow-up movie,”Isinanlang Pag-ibig”, in which she portrayed a woman wrongly accused of killing her loved one, was an even bigger hit and it was not long before Lydia Montañez became a byword among Filipino movie fans.

 With her father growing old and needing hospital attention, the dutiful Lydia helped in financing the education of her siblings though her showbiz earnings, enabling them to earn college degrees. She also took under her wing, Dolores Kibanoff, a niece of her father’s bosom friend, Simeon Kibanoff, who had been like family to them.

 On 2 April 1952, Lydia married Medardo Aquino, and gave birth to her first child, Nanette Ma. Socorro. She was followed by Medardo Jr., Agapito, Anatole, Maria Yasmine, Remegio, Katrina Grace and Gerardo. Even as a young mother, she would continue to make more movies in the first half of the 1950s, until she decided to leave showbiz behind in favor of family. Her family now lives in different parts of the U.S., and Lydia, who has reverted back to her original name Tanya, is settled with her husband in California.


Anonymous said...

Wow! Nice blog post. Ngeni kula mu dimdam reng Korionoff keng Arayat. Balu kumu Kibanoff, makatuknang la reta keng lele pisamban. Itang asawa ng Ato Agustin ngeni, Kibanoff ya ita from Arayat.

Anonymous said...

This story is amazing bec. Dolores Kibanoff is my mother. She married and became Dolores Kibanoff Canlas. She passed away in 2013. Thanks for writing this blog.

alex r. castro said...

I met also one daughter of Lydia Montanez in Manila. Such a sweet lady.

Unknown said...

Oh wow this is so amazing. Tania Korionoff is my mom's 2nd cousin. I'm from the Simbulan family. I kept browsing d web until I find auntie Tania. I met her in d 80's and was a very pleasant woman n very close to my mom. I heard about your family too that ur dad ended up in Pampanga during those days. Sorry for ur loss but I'm happy to hear about u. Today I found a friend request from my 3rd cousin from d Koroonoff family. I'm so thrilled n happy. Thanks to Fb. Take care u guys!!