Bold star Pepsi Paloma was only 14 when she was presented to talent manager Rey dela Cruz for possible movie roles. Coming from a poor family in Olongapo City, Pepsi, Delia Smith in real life, made her movie debut in 1981 in Celso Ad. Castillo’s Brown Emmanuelle. She was launched as one of the so-called “softdrink” beauties, together with Sarsi Emmanuelle and Coca Nicolas. Pepsi will be remembered in the celebrated rape case in 1982 involving actor/TV hosts Vic Sotto, Joey de Leon and comedian Richie D’Horsey.
On May 31, 1985, Pepsi ended her life. Monetary problems, longings for a mother’s love and anxieties over her relationship with her live-in boyfriend may have driven the bold star to end her life. Her diary found by police investigators in the room where she hanged herself showed such problems. From the pages of Times Journal, here’s the detailed account of that unfortunate incident that shocked the whole movie industry.
Pepsi Paloma, who crashed into the local movie scene by baring her whole body three years ago when she was just 14, killed herself by hanging yesterday afternoon in her apartment in Quezon City. Police surmised that Pepsi, Delia Smith in real life, hanged herself between 1 and 2 p.m. at the second floor of her apartment at 52-D Iriga st., Sta. Mesa Heights. But it was not until 6 pm that her limp body, clad only in a flimsy yellow night gown, was found hanging inside a closet from a three-inch thick and 36-inch long cotton sash. The people who found her were her live-in boyfriend, Jose S. Sanchez, 25, salesman; half-brother Zaldy White, 15; and her two so-called aides- George Ricaborla, 22, and Philipp Clemente, 20.
“She couldn’t have done it because of financial problems,” said Babette Corcuerra, her new manager. “She was earning well and was fully booked for dancing performances.” “She just finished the Pepsi Paloma Show at the Bughaw and 10 other beerhouses,” Corcuerra added. For the one-week stint in the beerhouses, she was supposed to get P10,000, the manager revealed. “She was even booked for a week’s show at the Jailhouse Rock club in Angeles City” Corcuerra said, “and she was to be paid P2,500 a night.” According to Corcuerra, Pepsi has three movie offers: Dormitory Girls for Ron Gallardo Pablo, Savage Girls and May Batas sa Daigdig.
Pfc. Willy Borgonia of the Quezon City police investigation division, however, said a diary he found at Pepsi’s room disproved her manager’s claim. The diary said she was so depressed for not having had any movie offers lately. “Wala akong masyadong pelikula. Maraming gastos,” she wrote in her diary. “Ako lahat ang gumagastos sa bahay, pati pang-tuition ng mga kapatid ko.” She also complained about her mother in Olongapo City: “Hindi ko alam kung itinuturing akong tunay na anak ng nanay ko.”
Pepsi’s last movie was Room 69, which was shown two weeks ago. It was bruited to be the last movie that Rey de la Cruz’ softdrink beauties would make together. It also starred Sarsi Emmanuelle, Myra Manibog, Irma Alegre, Emily Loren and Glenda Araneta. That was a follow-up film to Naked Island which Rey’s softdrink beauties made with Regal last year.
Her brother, Zaldy, in an interview with the Times Journal, said Pepsi took her lunch at about 12 and immediately proceeded to her room and told her two aides not to wake her up. She told them she will only rest and then locked her room. Her live-in boyfriend, Jose, called her up at about 3 pm, but failed to talk to Pepsi. Zaldy knocked on the door to wake her up but got no response. At about 6 pm, the boyfriend arrived. Told that Pepsi was in her room, Jose went upstairs and knocked several times but Pepsi never answered. Jose then banged and destroyed the door and found Pepsi hanging.
News of her death sent fans and other movie personalities trooping to the hospital to take a last look. Among the first to arrive was Sarsi Emmanuelle, her best friend. Sarsi broke into hysterics and collapsed on seeing Pepsi dead. In an interview later, Sarsi said it was Pepsi’s second attempt to commit suicide. Only last week she said, she foiled an attempt of Pepsi to kill herself in her apartment in Quezon City. Sarsi said Pepsi confided to her all her family problems.
Pepsi’s manager Rey dela Cruz, arrived at the morgue at 7:25 pm. Rey also broke into hysterics.
Pepsi Paloma made ripples when she made her first big movie, Brown Emmanuelle, for Celso Ad. Castillo in 1981. She was just 14 then, yet she bared everything in that movie. As Pepsi Paloma, she was just less than a year old in show business. Earlier, she carried the name Scarlet but that screen name didn’t bring any luck so manager Rey dela Cruz thought of this new name and started his own stable of softdrink beauties. But in the movie circles, Pepsi will be remembered as the complainant of a rape case filed in July 1982 against television hosts Vic Sotto, Joey de Leon and Ritchie D’Horsey. The case rocked show business for four months until it was dismissed on October 16 after the parties sought forgiveness from the actress.
From then on, she was in the vortex of controversy. She chose to leave manager Rey dela Cruz to live with boyfriend Roy Rustan in the boy’s Makati residence. Less than a year after the celebrated rape case, she found herself the defendant in an obscenity case filed against her in Bulacan. That time, the PC Criminal Investigation Service (CIS) people raided the Paulette theater in Baliuag and arrested Pepsi along with two other dancers for alleged indecent show.
Her liason with Rustan and Laila Dee, who acted as her manager, was short-lived. People in the know professed that she had an abortion at this time. She returned to Rey dela Cruz’s fold in 1983. She was underweight, less than 80 lbs., so Rey had her confined in a private clinic. A simple case of drug abuse, insiders claimed.
There were several suicide attempts. Sometime in 1982 when the rape case was in progress, she attempted suicide with a blade but Rey and Gil Guerrero came in time to prevent that.
Pepsi Paloma could have celebrated her 18th birthday next year. “She was looking forward to that event,” Babette Corcuerra, her acting manager at present told the Times Journal. “Pinapangako niya na nga ako to throw a big party for her sa isang hotel dahil debut niya raw ito.”
Pepsi was the eldest of four children of Lydia Duenas Smith, a native of Borac, Northern Samar, and an American letter carrier, Kenneth Smith, who deserted the family when the children were still young. A talent scout, Tita Ester, brought her to Rey dela Cruz in 1980 for possible movie roles. “Ikaw ang kapalit in Rio Locsin sa Akin,” Rey told the young girl. But it was Myrna Castillo who came later than Pepsi who made it big first in the movie scene. Pepsi waited for sometime until Celso Ad. Castillo took her for Brown Emmanuelle and Virgin People.
After the celebrated rape case, a producer tried exploiting the case by making a movie, The Victim, with Pepsi in the title role. Together with Celso’s Virgin People, the movie also made a killing in the box office during the 1983 Manila International Film Festival.
Pepsi had an adopted son, Chuck, who is four months old.