Elizabeth Ramsey: Proud Mary, Proud Mama
- Maria Eleanor E. Valeros () - August 30, 2008 - 12:00am

Elizabeth Ramsey is a dream interview. Yep! It still is a dream. She may be a clown on stage, but mind you, she is a nut to crack backstage. Once in a concert at the Waterfront Hotel in Lahug, she just gave me the raised brows when I gave her a peck on the cheek after her performance. Then, she was lost in a river of concertgoers. Even a polite request through the organizer to have a five-minute chat with her turned out unfruitful. “Miss Beth would want to take a rest na,” I was told.

Nevertheless, the reception served as indicator that she is indeed not accustomed – and never will – to “kashowbisan”. All that she wants to do is perform – for the love of it, no pretensions. She makes herself “kengkoy” with her antics, and ensures that her audience would have a great time. After that, she’s back to her toes – the strict mama who has not allowed her self to be eaten up by fame and fortune, the reserved Negrense who chooses not to put on a sweet tongue never mind if no story of hers would make it to the entertainment section of today’s papers.

All sweat and fire, she simply would want to treat her fans to a rolling-like-a-river rock and soul burner of Tina Turner’s “Proud Mary”. In a tour from Vancouver to Toronto, she said she was so overwhelmed by the deafening applauses accorded her. This she revealed in the opening episode of QTV’s “One Proud Mama” for its third season hosted by her daughter Maria Luisa “Jaya” Ramsey.

The Philippines’ Rock and Roll Queen narrated how she had survived through the times and tempests in pursuit for her one love of jazz and rhythm and blues.

In Tagalog but interspersed with Sinugbuano, and with her deeply Bisdak intonation, Beth said, “Sus, gusto talaga nang tatay kong Jamaican na mag-aral ako, eh nakikita ko hirap na hirap ang nanay ko. Ayaw ko maghirap si mama kaya sabi ko magtrabaho na lang gyod ko kaysa makita ko si mama na nakahiga may sakit (she meant “nakaratay”).”

“Kaya lang siyempre may nagsabi din sa akin na bakit sa singing ka eh negra ka, ang daming mestisa. Di daw ako makita sa kulay ko, pero sanay na akong tinatawag na pangit at negra. Ang di ko pa nakasanayan yong tinatawag akong magaling at maganda ang boses,” she added.

Little did I also know that it was the late Fernando Poe, Jr. who signed her up to act out a part in the movie “Reyna ng Pitong Gatang” in the seventies. “Siguro kung naging mestisa ako di niya siguro ako mapapansin. But because of my Afro look, kaya I’m fit for the role of a black queen. May kissing scene pa kami ha? At paulit-ulit, gibalik-balik gyod ‘day! At gi-enjoy ko naman,” Beth narrated with a naughty smile to emphasize “kilig factor”.

Though she never had a statuette of that most-coveted FAMAS Award, she had shared nominations with two other equally laudable Visayan thespians – Caridad Sanchez (Magtiis ka, Darling) and Gloria Sevilla (Tatlong Mukha ni Pandora) for best supporting actress in the 12th FAMAS Awards, circa 1963 for the movie “Ang Bukas ay Akin”.

After experiencing what it’s like to work on the silver screen, she saw that the grass was greener at the other side of the fence. In 1985, she flew for California tugging along a young Jaya and performed there with Tillie Moreno, Eddie Mercado and The Reycards. “Pero sus Ginoo hindi ko talaga alam kung paano tayo nabuhay do’n, 400 dollars ang rent sa apartment eh $350 lang ang kinikita ko abunado pa ako,” Beth recalled with a headshake.

“Sus, Narik ang kinakain ko; yong mabahong bigas. Hindi ko talaga alam kung paano ko nalampasan yon. Basta sinasabay ko yung Narik na kanin sa boiled egg, tapos inom kaagad ng tubig,” that’s how hard life was for her back in the land she expected to be overflowing with milk and honey.

“Nagpapasalamat ako sa Mahal na Niño (the Sto. Niño) na kahit papano eh hindi niya ako pinabayaan. Tuloy pa rin ang buhay day hangga’t may naaliw pa sa pagkanta ko. Eh nang magkwento ako doon sa Canada in one of my shows na sumali ako sa Miss Universe, kahit joke lang ‘yon umabot ang story sa Toronto, sa Vancouver, dumami ang nag-invite sa akin hanggang ma-tour ko na yang Canada na yan,” she said.

When Jaya asked her mom on what part of her life would she want to edit, she said that it would have been very good of her to have heeded her father’s advice to pursue a college degree. “But then, ano magagawa ko eh mas gusto kong nasa entablado. Sus Ginoo di rin ako magseseryoso sa pag-aaral masayang lang ang pera noh? Mas gusto ko talaga ang pagkanta – my first love. Napuno na sa ugat tong paa ko sa kakaakyat sa entablado at ito ang ipinambuhay ko sa inyo,” she said to Jaya.

Now that showbiz is congested with too many actors and singers, but with little space for real talents to shine with the rise of induced consumerism in the guise of reality TV searches, Beth is happy to still be one proud Mary even at 72. “Natuwa nga ako kay Pilita (Corrales) kasi sabi niya bawal daw mag-retire sa trabahong ito. Sabi ko wala akong plano. Hinahanap ko yung kislap ng entablado. Tsaka, mahirap din kasi kailangang kumita. Eh sa ngayon si Jaya nagbabayad ng apartment ko.” She then gave out that wild grin again, unmindful of the gap teeth; confident of her staying power on a vast playing field and her beauty that exudes fulfillment after over four decades in a business of buffoons and rockers.


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