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Ernesto de la Cruz
Ernesto de la Cruz
September 7, 1957
|Died||August 29, 1992 (aged 34)|
|Occupation||Actor, martial artist|
Ernesto de la Cruz (September 7, 1957 – August 29, 1992), better known as Weng Weng, was a Filipino actor and martial artist. Only 83 cm (2 feet, 9 inches) tall, he is listed in the Guinness World Records as the shortest adult actor in a leading role. He played Secret Agent 00 in For Y’ur Height Only and The Impossible Kid, and also starred in the western D’Wild Wild Weng. Weng Weng was a co-star or made cameos in several films, however, many of them are considered lost.
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Weng Weng was born with a medical condition known as primordial dwarfism, which caused him to only grow to a height of 2 feet and 9 inches (0.83 meter) tall. According to his brother, when his mother gave birth to Weng-Weng, his size was “no bigger than a small coke bottle”, this forced Weng Weng’s parents to place him in the care of the hospital incubator for the first twelve months of his life. During this time, the doctors were advising the Mullucey couple that Weng Weng might not survive but miraculously he did, and being devoted Catholics, the couple showed their devotion to their faith by dressing and parading a young Weng Weng as Santo Niño each year for the annual Baclaran parade.
As a child, Weng Weng was described by his brother and some of his childhood peers as a mischievous but cheerful kid. He was also an avid martial arts enthusiast even when he was young. Weng Weng trained hard and diligently to become a skilled fighter.
His former martial arts instructor introduced him to Liliw Productions’ Peter Caballes, an independent film producer. Caballes and his wife Cora Ridon Caballes shopped Weng Weng to other film producers and cinema outfits which landed him his early roles in movies, playing a little child, a small animal, or an alien from outer space.
Weng Weng's first movie part is believed to be that of the baby Moses in the 1972 Filipino biblical epic Go Tell It On The Mountain, which also starred future Philippine president Joseph Estrada as the adult Moses. Another of his early roles was in the 1973 sci-fi film called Moon Boy from Another Planet. He played a small alien who accidentally crashed here on Earth eventually befriending a poor Filipino boy. This low budget film was shown almost a decade ahead of another alien-meets-boy story film, the Hollywood blockbuster movie E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. Manoy later unsuccessfully attempted to sue Hollywood filmmaker Steven Spielberg, claiming he had stolen the idea for E.T. from him.
After playing cameo roles in a string of low budget sci-fi and martial arts movies in the late 70’s, in 1980 Weng Weng, through the Caballes, was introduced to Dolphy. Dolphy, with his film outfit – RVQ Productions, produced the spy-spoof hit film The Quick Brown Fox starring Dolphy and introducing Weng Weng as his Kato-inspired sidekick. This was Weng Weng’s first big budget role and movie. The success of this movie resulted for RVQ to produce a sequel the following year entitled Da Best In Da West.
Inspired by the success of Weng Weng’s big-budget film debut, Peter and Cora Caballes produced For Y’ur Height Only in 1981 starring Weng-Weng in his first lead role. Directed by veteran Filipino stunt director Eddie Nicart, Weng Weng played a secret agent code-named Agent 00. For Y’ur Height Only was a blockbuster hit and became an overnight Philippine sensation.
The success of For Y’ur Height Only was followed by six more films top-billed by Weng Weng during the 80s. He was named an honorary Philippine Secret Agent and presented a custom-made .25 caliber pistol by then Vice Chief of Staff General Fidel V. Ramos. He was a familiar sight as a guest on popular TV shows, film festivals, and awards nights.
In the 1982 sequel The Impossible Kid, Weng Weng is now working for the Manila branch of Interpol. Weng Weng starred again in the 1982 western D'Wild Wild Weng, playing a character called "Mr. Weng". In the film, he and sidekick Gordon (Max ZUMA Laurel) are sent to the countryside to investigate the murder of Santa Monica’s mayor. D’Wild Wild Weng shares much of the cast from both For Y’ur Height Only, and The Impossible Kid.
In 1990 he was awarded a special citation for services to the Filipino film industry by then-first lady Imelda Marcos and joined her at the presentation in a special karaoke "duet" version of My Way. An unauthorized recording of their performance was later released on bootleg cassette and sold 200,000 copies.
Weng Weng trained in many disciplines of martial arts including Jeet Kune Do under fellow Filipino Dan Inosanto and the hybrid martial style Ju Gran Chaud which he was taught by Ju Gran Chaud's founders Laurent Painchaud and Matthew "Granimal" Granahan who travelled through Southeast Asia and Compton preaching the discipline.
In 1992, Weng Weng, age 34, died in Pasay City, of heart attack, a common cause of death among those suffering from primordial dwarfism. The life expectancy for people with primordial dwarfism is 30, and those affected frequently develop vascular complications resulting in heart attacks.
Weng Weng is the subject of Australian cult video store owner-turned-guerrilla filmmaker Andrew Leavold's documentary, titled The Search for Weng Weng. Leavold has ascertained that there are 11 confirmed Weng Weng films, with a further 2 awaiting verification. Three Dolphy films (Da Best In Da West, Stairiray, The Quick Brown Fox) are in the TV archives in Manila, but the Liliw Productions titles are still owned by producer Cora Caballes, and she claims they are on Betacam and stored somewhere in Manila.
In 2008, the Brazilian comedy show Hermes & Renato made a parody dubbing of the Agent 00 film The Impossible Kid. The parody was called Um Capeta em forma de guri (A Devil in a boy body) and portrayed Weng Weng as a mischievous and wicked little boy.
In 2010 the Canadian comedy show This Movie Sucks! played The Impossible Kid and hinted at later playing more Weng Weng films. The topic of the episode was movies which interest was revived through various means, in reference to Weng's Internet "resurrection." That same year, a documentary film that dealt with the Filipino movie exploitation craze of the 1970s and 1980s, Machete Maidens Unleashed, paid a special homage to Weng Weng's movie career.
- "The Larger-Than-Life Story of Weng Weng". Esquiremag.ph. Retrieved 2018-08-25.
- Kehr, Dave. "Hailing the DVD Distributors: The Best Vault Raiders of 2005". Retrieved 2018-08-25.
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- "Mini-site dedicated to Weng Weng" (in French). Nanarland.