Days of Blood & Rosa
- Ricky Lo () - August 23, 2009 - 12:00am

No, blood will not flow in the following Conversation. Rosa Rosal won’t draw blood from me — oh no!!! — although I must admit that my balikbayan journalist-friend Raoul Tidalgo and I are set to draw a little “blood” from Rosa as we make her go 50 or 60 years back recollecting beautiful memories of her heyday as the country’s most glamorous, most desirable, most versatile and, bar none, sexiest kontrabida then under contract with LVN Pictures, one of the so-called Big Four in that era (also including Sampaguita Pictures, Premiere Productions and Lebran Films).

This Monday afternoon, we are sitting with Rosa at her office at the Philippine National Red Cross (PNRC, of which she’s the governor) in Port Area, Manila, a stone’s throw away from The STAR office. We are not talking about Rosa Rosal, hmmm, the “vampire,” but Rosa Rosal the Actress (yes, with a capital A).

But first, we let Rosa take us around the building and show us how the blood-letting works and how blood is preserved in state-of-the-art storage, some of which were donated by the likes of Kris Aquino, Ruffa Gutierrez and Dr. Vicki Belo.

Before we start the Conversation, we remind Rosa that she has starred in several classics, produced mostly by LVN Pictures, including Anak Dalita (with Tony Santos and Vic Silayan, directed by Lamberto Avellana), Biyaya ng Lupa (with Leroy Salvador, Marita Zobel and Tony Santos, by Manuel Silos), Badjao (with Tony Santos, by Lamberto Avellana), Himala ng Birhen sa Antipolo (as “support” to Rogelio dela Rosa, Rosa del Rosario and Tony Arnaldo, by Susana C. de Guzman), Sarung Banggi (with Rogelio dela Rosa, Mila del Sol and Tony Arnaldo, by J. Tecson), Hampas ng Langit (with Rogelio dela Rosa, by Susana de Guzman), Huling Dalangin (with Norma Blancaflor and Tony Arnaldo, by Susana de Guzman), Biglang Yaman (with Jaime dela Rosa, Pugo and Togo, by Joe Climaco), Bayan O’ Pag-Ibig (with Rogelio dela Rosa, Tessie Quintana, Ben Rubio and Tony Santos, by Dr. Gregorio Fernandez), Aklat ng Buhay (with Oscar Keese, Rosa Aguirre and Ike Jarlego, by Lamberto Avellana), Dagohoy (with Tessie Quintana and Mario Montenegro, by Dr. Gregorio Fernandez); Dakilang Pagpapakasakit (with Rogelio dela Rosa and Delia Razon, by Rino Bermudez) and Sonny Boy (with Rogelio dela Rosa and Cecilia Lopez, by Susana de Guzman); and also those produced by Nolasco, including Ang Lumang Simbahan (with Leopoldo Salcedo, Leila Morena and Pilar Padilla, directed by Luis Nolasco) and Apat na Dalangin (with Vida Florante, Leila Morena, Pilar Padilla, Fernando Royo and Bimbo Danao, by Carlos Vander Tolosa)...and Sakada (with Tony Santos, Robert Arevalo, Pancho Magalona and Gloria Romero, directed by Behn Cervantes).

What do you remember from those golden days of Philippine Movies?

“During our time, kailangan marunong ka mag-eskrima. At that time, the studios were making fantasy movies about princes and princesses, which they called ‘costume pictures,’ so you have to know fencing. Maski mga bidang babae noon, nag-e-eskrima, hindi lang ang mga bidang lalaki. I remember when I did Prinsipe Amante sa Rubitanya (1951, with Rogelio dela Rosa and Delia Razon, directed by Lamberto Avellana), I had to study fencing. In one scene, I jumped from a running horse na walang double. Daring ako n’un. I also did Sohrab at Rustom (with Rogelio dela Rosa, Lilia Dizon , Evelyn Villar and Armando Goyena, by Nemesio Caravana), another ‘costume picture,’ and also Higit sa Korona (with Mario Montenegro and Delia Razon, by Richard Abelardo).

According to my research, you were discovered in 1947 by Luis Nolasco.

“I was then working as a secretary to Dr. Sixto Francisco. I was going home when Nolasco saw me. He said, ‘Neneng, puede ka ba umekstra sa pelikulang ginagawa ko?’ Sabi ko, ‘Okey.’  The movie was Kamagong, starring Leopoldo Salcedo. I started with Nolasco and then I did a movie called Isang Dakot na Bigas with Cirio Santiago as director for Premiere Productions. And then I moved to LVN.”

When did you officially stop making movies?

“I don’t remember exactly when but I rarely did movies when the bomba (‘bold’ movies, later called ‘ST’ as in Sex Trip) became the trend. They wanted me to do bomba na may double daw. Ay, ayoko! pareho na rin ang labas n’un. That was also the time when I started acting in TV dramas like Balintataw. If I remember right, I was the only actress then who won an award na walang sariling TV show. So when my name was called as winner, I was surprised. ‘Yon pala, Balintataw had a festival and two of the entries were episodes that I did. In the first, I played an aging movie actress and in the second, an illiterate labandera. One of them was directed by Lupita Concio.”

So even when you started to work at the PNRC, you kept on making movies.

“Yes, that’s right. I joined the Red Cross as volunteer in 1949. Halos sabay ng pagsimula ko sa movies. At that time, when we did movies, sometimes tatlong sabay-sabay ‘yon. But still, no matter how busy I was with movies, I never neglected my work at the Red Cross. In July next year, I am celebrating my 60th year with the Red Cross.”

You were the only actress I know who could do bida and kontrabida roles.

“I liked it that way. At that time, kapag bida ka, dapat sweet na sweet ka. There was no challenge. But even if you played a ‘bad’ girl, in the end mayroon kang repentance; the life of the character changed for the better. After playing kontrabida in several movies, I told Manny de Leon (son of LVN lady boss Doña Narcisa ‘Sisang’ de Leon). Sabi ko, ‘Boss Manny, magbibida na ako.’ So he gave me Sonny Boy. More bida roles followed — Anak Dalita, Biyaya ng Lupa, etc. One of my most memorable roles was in Apat Na Dalangin. I played a drunkard.”

You did several movies with Rogelio dela Rosa. What do you remember about him?

“What an actor! Ang husay-husay niya! Like all actors, he was vanidoso. He was well-respected. He became the country’s ambassador to Cambodia. Kung ano ang respeto kay Norodom Sihanouk (then head of Cambodia), ‘yon din ang respeto kay Roger. Kapag dumadaan si Roger, nagba-bow ang mga Cambodians sa kanya.”

Did any of your leading men court you?

“Sa totoo lang, none...not one of them. With me, kapag trabaho, trabaho. When we did Dagohoy in Bohol, I had my own dressing room but they considered me ‘one of the boys.’ Marunong ako makisama. I used to be escorted by hagads when I had to shoot in the province, like Nueva Ecija. Naka-motorsiklo din ako. When Doña Sisang learned about it, she called me and said, ‘’Yang motorsiklo na ‘yan, ibenta mo na. Delikado ‘yan.’ I protested, ‘Bakit po naman?’ She said, ‘Aba, kapag nadisgrasya ka sa gitna ng siyuting, anong mangyayari sa pelikula?’ Hayun, ibinenta ko.”

I know you to be not only punctual and professional but also very friendly. Walang nakaaway na direktor o aktor o aktres.

“Maybe that’s why I lasted this long. Even now when I tape for a TV show, if the call time is 7 o’clock I am on the set at 6 o’clock; naka-makeup na ako at kabisado ko na ang mga linya ko. Di bale ako maghintay basta huwag lang ako ang hinihintay. Whether at Red Cross or in the movies, I don’t take my job for granted. The last teleserye I did was Vietnam Rose (for ABS-CBN) and another one for GMA. I’m slowing down because next year, I’m turning 79. But in Chinese, di ba you skip one year kapag may ‘9’ sa edad mo? O, di sige, 80 na ako next year.”

What do you think is the difference between movie stars then and movie stars now?

“During the opening of our movies, we would have a grand premiere. Kuntodo naka-bihis kami. We would go to the theater together in one van. Ganoon din ang mga taga-Sampaguita at taga-Premiere. It was something to look forward to. We were always reminded to behave, to be good role models. Hindi puede ‘yung kabit-kabit ka; boyfriend-girlfriend okey lang. After our shooting, we would all gather at LVN at kuwentuhan kami. Ang saya-saya! I can’t help but cry when I remember those days.”

Were you a social butterfly like most actresses then and now?

“No, never. Hindi ako mahilig mag-party. I was more interested in social service. One day, I went to PGH (Philippine General Hospital) and I saw an unconscious boy. I went back the next day at ganoon pa rin siya. I asked what I could do. I looked for a neurologist and he told me that the boy needed blood. So, naghanap ako ng dugo. To make a long story short, that was what led me to become a Red Cross volunteer.”

Did you really want to be an actress?

“No. I wanted to be either a lawyer or a journalist. I was already in the movies but I was taking night classes at Cosmopolitan College; ka-eskuwela ko si Antonio Villegas (who would become Mayor of Manila). We graduated together. Ako, Commerce; siya, Law. He would call me ‘ang aking kamag-aral.’

What’s your favorite among your movies?

“Badjao, Anak Dalita, Biyaya ng Lupa.” (Note: When Raoul said that he hadn’t seen Anak Dalita and Biyaya ng Lupa, Rosa said, “Wait a minute,” went to the next room and came back with two copies each of the two movies for Raoul and for me. It turned out that she had stocked up copies for giveaway as souvenirs.)

Do you have a favorite leading man?

“All of them are my favorites — Rogelio dela Rosa, Jaime dela Rosa, Tony Santos, Mario Montenegro. Lahat sila friends ko.”

Talaga bang not one sa kanila ay nanligaw sa’yo?

“Wala talaga. Sabi ko sa’yo one of the boys ako, eh. Akala nga nila tomboy ako, eh. Hehehehe!”

So you were the model of the FAMAS statuette. Tell us again how it happened.

“Ganito ‘yon: I was the only actress who sat on the board of the FAMAS (Filipino Academy for Movie Arts and Sciences). Most of the members were journalists/editors. Somebody suggested that we call our group FAME. I said, ‘Why FAME, English?’ Then, somebody...I think it was Jaime dela Rosa...said, ‘Gawin nating Tagalog; gawin nating FAMAS.’ Then, I went to Kodak Philippines to have a trophy made. At that time, 38-22-38 ang figure ko. Sabi sa akin n’ung Amerikano, ‘Okay, we will design the trophy if you pose for us.’ I said, ‘O, sige!’ That’s how it happened. That was in 1952.”

How do you maintain your figure?

“I am a very disciplined person. I don’t eat meat. My blood pressure is normal and so is my blood sugar. Normal din ang cholesterol ko. For breakfast, I take a cup of coffee, half of a pandesal with peanut butter. For lunch, I eat mostly fish and a little rice. I take vitamins E and C. I hardly take dinner; if ever, very little lang. Then, I am in bed by 9 o’clock.”

Are you happily single? (She was married to Walter Gayda, an American. Rosa is Florence Danon in real life, half-American.)

“Oo naman. Ayoko ng kabit-kabit. I’ve never been anybody’s mistress. I never had a boyfriend or a lover after I broke up with my husband. I owe it to my mother who brought me up well. Five days ko lang nakasama ‘yon. He took me to Hawaii for our honeymoon and there, pinagkaguluhan ako ng media. Flash Elorde was there, too; he had just won a fight at inabot niya sa akin ang kanyang trophy. Our photo came out on the front page of a paper there. I think my husband couldn’t stand sharing me with the public, with the fans. The one good thing that came out of my marriage is my daughter Toni Rose Gayda.”

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