Early Life and Career
Weng Weng was born in Baclaran. He was christened as Ernesto de la Cruz and was the youngest of the five de la Cruz children (all boys). 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 tall. According to his brother Celing de la Cruz, 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 de la Cruz 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.
Growing up 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 he became a skilled fighter. This paved the way for his first opportunity in show business when his former martial arts instructor introduced him to Liliw Productions’ Peter Caballes, an independent film producer. Peter 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". 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 the King of Philippine Comedy, Dolphy. Dolphy, with his film outfit – RVN 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 RVN 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 and most famous lead role. Directed by veteran Filipino stunt director Eddie Nicart, in the film Weng Weng played a secret service agent code named Agent 00. Obviously inspired by the James Bond flicks of the past, For Y’ur Height Only was a blockbuster hit and the little man from Baclaran 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 80’s. At the height of his popularity, Weng Weng was invited by then First Lady, Imelda Marcos to the Malacañang Palace in honor for his contributions to Philippine cinema. He was also named an honorary Philippine Secret Agent and was presented a custom-made .25 caliber pistol by then Vice Chief of Staff General Fidel Ramos. He was also frequently seen during this time as a guest on popular TV shows, film festivals, and awards nights.
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