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Remnants of a storied past

STAR BYTES - Butch Francisco () - July 26, 2003 - 12:00am
I don’t like having my picture taken because I don’t think I register well in photographs. In fact, whenever I travel, I am usually the only tourist without a camera.

But looking at pictures of other people is another story. In fact, I get hopelessly delirious every time I look at old photographs.

Last Thursday, I was in seventh heaven when Marichu Maceda of the Vera-Perezes asked me to go over bundles and bundles of old still photos of Sampaguita movies.

The Vera-Perez children, you see, are publishing (finally!) a book about Sampaguita Pictures. Writing it is respected critic and film scholar Nestor Torre, who has a deep and long friendship with Manay Ichu. (He was able to interview Oscar Moreno before the late matinee idol passed away last week, and even Luciano "Chaning" Carlos, who died late last year.)

Accompanying Nestor’s articles are old Sampaguita photographs – still pictures from way, way back. To select the photos, Manay Ichu and sister Lilibeth Nakpil (in her capacity as Sampaguita archivist) has formed a committee composed of Lyn Pareja, an old and trusted studio employee (she’s really family to the Vera-Perezes); Jo-Ann Banaga, executive producer of Nagmamahal, Manay Gina (produced by Sampaguita Television) and this writer.

There must be more than a thousand photographs to choose from – old and brittle black and white pictures once displayed at the lobby of Life Theater, which used to exhibit Sampaguita movies. (In those days, a movie was only shown in one cinema.)

Thank goodness, no one was suffering from asthma because, well, surely, those photographs must have gathered millions of dust while in storage. In fact, I regretted having taken a long bath before coming over to the Sampaguita studio (where we worked the whole afternoon going over piles and piles of pictures) because I ended up dusty anyway. But hey, I wouldn’t have cared at all, even if I were working neck-deep in mud because that was an important task, and I’m just so flattered Manay Ichu asked me to join the committee.

But it’s really a tough job because, modesty aside, you need to have a sense of film history to select the right photographs that will go into the Sampaguita book. And it is quite frustrating too, because a lot of the pictures had been damaged–vandalized even (the eyes of some movie stars in the photos were poked) by people who obviously do not have a sense of history.

There’s hardly anything salvageable, for instance, from the still shots of the Sampaguita blockbuster hit Ang Maganda Kong Kapitbahay, starring Susan Roces and Eddie Gutierrez. But Susan Roces fans need not worry because there must be hundreds of other Susan Roces pictures from other movies that have permanently captured that "face that refreshes."

Overall, however, it was fun because you get to see our veteran stars today at the prime of their youth.

In a still photo of the movie Show of Shows, for example, you get to see a young Gloria Romero in a bathing suit. But ever so modest, Tita Glo insisted on having a tapis of beads strung together, wrapped around her waist. You still get to see her legs, however. And what nice legs – I’m telling you.

Then, there was this picture of a very fresh-looking Nora Aunor (she must have been only 18 then) wearing a Japanese kimono in Winter Holiday, directed by Jose de Villa.

Going over those still photos also enabled me to recall those nice black and white Sampaguita movies (some released under its sister company, VP Pictures) that I saw mostly on afternoon television. There was Paano Kita Lilimutin (starring Gloria Romero, Lolita Rodriguez, Luis Gonzales, Gina Pareño and Blanca Gomez), which was inspired by the tearjerker of tearjerkers, Imitation of Life.

There were also still pictures of a not-so-well-known Sampaguita movie, but which I still recall to this day: Paula, which was serialized in Liwayway. Paula starred Gina Pareño in the title role. She was supported by Gloria Romero and Laura Delgado (as her parents) – plus Alicia Alonzo, Ramil Rodriguez, Bella Flores and Rico Roman.

Looking over those piles of photographs also allowed me to discover other Sampaguita/VP movies unknown to me: Walastik sa Downtown with Eddie Gutierrez, Gina Pareño and Shirley Moreno, Alis Diyan: Huwag Mo Akong Ligawan (Eddie Gutierrez and Rosemarie Sonora) and Sandwich Shindig (all-star cast), which must have been a fun movie based on still photographs.

The most thrilling moment for us, however, was finding old pictures of Angge in still photos (from the movie Jinkee with Rosemarie). Yes, Angge (a.k.a. Cornelia Lee), the movie fan-turned-comedian-turned-casting director. Tita A (which is how Angge is called by everyone in the business) had long hair and was in mini-skirt. Oh, how cute she looked in the pictures!

How I wish I could show you some of those pictures soon. Well, the problem is that Lilibeth Vera-Perez Nakpil is such a strict custodian of the Sampaguita archives that she wouldn’t allow any of the pictures to be taken out of the studio. Believe me, she guards those photographs with her life and takes that responsibility seriously. (Al-Ghozi could not have escaped had they posted her in Camp Crame.)

Lilibeth’s son, JM, however, promised to scan the photos for me in the computer so that I may have my own copies to share with The Philippine STAR readers one of these days.

I’m sure you’ll also have fun looking at those old photographs from those days when life was so much simpler and when the world was a safer and better place.

ACCOMPANYING NESTOR ALICIA ALONZO ALIS DIYAN ANGGE GINA PARE GLORIA ROMERO MANAY PHOTOGRAPHS PICTURES SAMPAGUITA STILL
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