Rolando B. Tolentino described Sharon Cuneta as the “perpetual virgin” of Philippine movies. In his essay titled “Si Sharon Cuneta at ang Perpetwal na Birhen” [Sharon Cuneta and the Perpetual Virgin], Tolentino described the perpetual virgin as eternally “meek, subservient, patient, the proverbial model of kindness and/or goodness.” Such characteristic is exemplified via the typical role Cuneta plays onscreen: the good-hearted woman who chooses to forgive her oppressor(s) despite the hardships she endured in their hands. Offscreen, she seems to epitomize such an image: loving and dutiful daughter to her parents, martyr wife to her philandering first husband, devoted wife who opted to forsake a thriving career for the sake of her second husband, and doting mother to her children. Though there seems to be some truth to this imaging, such characterization feels limited, constricted, and outdated. It is one-dimensional and dismisses distinct individual characteristics. Upon closer examination, Sharon is not a perpetual virgin for she deviates from such behavior from time to time. She is not always as meek as the proverbial lamb inasmuch as the tigress in her emerges when push comes to shove. She is not totally subservient for there are moments when she rebels against accustomed expectations. She is not ever-patient for there are limitations to what she can willingly take. Moreover, she is not immaculately well-behaved for she can be rough and feisty in certain situations. Like any other human being, there are contradictions present in Sharon’s character. These details were initially suppressed in the media in order to conform to the virgin image, or had gone unnoticed because of the presence of the dominant (virginal) behavior. These contradictions, when duly acknowledged, give Sharon the breadth of her being. In her movies, Sharon is generally kind and long-suffering but she can be brutal when needed. The writer of this article coined for such a paradoxical characteristic the term dulsita, a coflation of two Spanish words namely dulce (which means sweet) and maldita (which means feisty). Sharon’s modesty, thoughtfulness, warmth, and charm encompass her sweet nature while her boldness, aggression, and rebellion comprise her pugnacious side, both of which may now be found in the roles she portrays in movies. She may appear weak and docile at first but she will eventually stand on her own and find the strength to fight back. She may suffer and wallow in silence for the meantime but her voice will soon be heard. When faced with her enemies, she remains graceful and poised. Using her wit and quick tongue, she lashes out at them unknowingly. Offscreen, Sharon is no different. She has an overall charming persona that can become unwelcoming to undeserving people. She may be forgiving but she won’t allow insults and baseless accusations hurled at her and her family. She may be a normally happy person but there are moments when grief gets the best of her. These contradictions shape Sharon’s personality and entire being. In her so-far 37 years in the industry, she has characteristically changed and evolved as an artist. Once dubbed as the “poor little rich girl,” where contradictions are present as well, she has portrayed varied roles of women in different times and various conditions: from daughter to mother, from wife to mistress, from sophisticated to uncouth, from martyr to strong-willed woman, from virtuous to wicked. The presence of oppositions is not meant to confuse or mislead her audience but rather suggests that they embrace the differences of a more honest and direct self-portrait of Sharon Cuneta in and out of movies. 


komiks, melodrama, perpetual virgin, star persona, unruly women

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Kritika Kultura
Department of English
School of Humanities
Ateneo de Manila University

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International Board of Editors

Jan Baetens
Faculty of Arts
Katholieke Universiteit te Leuven (Belgium)

Joel David
Professor of Cultural Studies
Inha University (South Korea)

Michael Denning
Professor of American Studies and English
Department of English
Yale University (US)

Faculty of Cultural Sciences
Universitas Gadjah Mada (Indonesia)

Regenia Gagnier
Professor of English
University of Exeter (UK)

Leela Gandhi
John Hawkes Professor of the Humanities and English
Brown University (US)

Inderpal Grewal
Professor of Women's Gender and Sexuality Studies
Professor of South Asian Studies, Ethnicity, Race and Migration Studies
Yale University (US)

Peter Horn
Professor Emeritus and Honorary Lifetime Fellow
University of Cape Town (South Africa)
Honorary Professor and Research Associate in German Studies
University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa)

Anette Horn
Professor of German Studies
University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa)

David Lloyd
Distinguished Professor of English
University of California, Riverside (US)

Bienvenido Lumbera
National Artist for Literature
Professor Emeritus
University of the Philippines

Rajeev S. Patke
Director of the Division of Humanities
Professor of Humanities
Yale NUS College (Singapore)

Vicente L. Rafael
Giovanni and Amne Costigan Endowed Professor of History
University of Washington (US)

Vaidehi Ramanathan
Department of Linguistics
University of California, Davis (US)

Temario Rivera
Professorial Lecturer
Department of Political Science
University of the Philippines

E. San Juan, Jr.
Philippines Studies Center (US)

Neferti X.M. Tadiar
Professor of Women’s, Gender, & Sexuality Studies
Barnard College (US)
Director of the Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race
Columbia University (US)

Antony Tatlow
Honorary Professor of Drama
Trinity College Dublin (Ireland)