Why Susan still 'refreshes'

FUNFARE - Ricky Lo - The Philippine Star

Two huge stars are marking a milestone today.

The Philippine STAR is turning 26 and Susan Roces, forever Queen of Philippine Movies, is blowing 71 candles on her birthday cake. That this paper and Susan are sharing a birthday is not perhaps a coincidence. It’s destiny.

The Belmontes, led by Betty Go-Belmonte, were among the pioneers in publishing movie magazines (in the early ‘60s), one of them a monthly devoted exclusively to Susan who, if my memory serves me right, was named after then Education Secretary Alejandro Roces.

It was Dr. Jose “Doc” R. Perez, the starmaker of Sampaguita Pictures, who launched Susan as “The Face That Refreshes,” a title that has stuck to Susan like a flawless second skin. I suspect that Doc Perez must have been inspired by the blurb of the Coke ads then — you know, “The Pause That Refreshes.” Like Coke, Susan is “the real thing.”

But did you know that Susan almost missed her chance to be the big star that she still is up to this day, 56 years after she dropped her ambition to take up Foreign Service and succumbed to the lure of the klieg lights?

Doc Perez’s daughter Marichu “Manay Ichu” Maceda (who designed the gowns of Susan in her 18th-birthday starrer Debutante) has the story about it.

“On the day that she was going to have her screen test,” related Manay Ichu, “Susan came on time with her Uncle Nestor (Levy). They were met by Aring Bautista (a Sampaguita bit player). Upon learning that Susan was going to have a screen test, Aring told Susan and her uncle, ‘We already have so many stars here, so you better go home.’ Just then, Papa came out, asking, ‘Nasaan na ‘yung Jesusa Sonora na pinapunta ko rito?’ Susan and her uncle were just out of the studio gate, ready to board a taxi home, and they were promptly asked to return to Papa’s office. That’s the story of how Jesusa Sonora almost did not become Susan Roces.”

Susan’s first Sampaguita movie, Boksingera Daw! (with Luis Gonzales and Dolphy), was shown in October 1956, three months ahead of her actual “first starring role” (as she was billed), Kulang sa Pito (also with Dolphy, and Eddie Arenas and Norma Vales), shown in December that same year.

Since then, Susan has starred in more than (an estimated) 200 movies, the last having been Regal Films’ Mano Po 2: My Home (2003) and she continues to charm her fans then and now in the top-rating, extended (by popular demand) ABS-CBN soap Walang Hanggan.

It has been Funfare’s “tradition” this past quarter century to pay tribute to Susan on this day, a loving nod to an Eternal Movie Queen with an unblemished image, a role model whose life is untouched by scandal and, if you may, the beautiful first lady (after her Ninang Imelda Marcos) that the country never had.

I will end this tribute with the list of Susan’s 30 memorable films (with names of Susan’s characters) prepared by Funfare’s “other beauty expert” Celso de Guzman Caparas: Boksingera Daw! (1956) as Bregida; Torkwata (1957, titular role); Tawag ng Tanghalan (1958) as Inday Laforteza; Mga Reyna ng Vicks (1958) as Susan Montemayor; Wedding Bells (Pamamanhikan episode, 1959) as Rosanna; Eca Babagot (1961) as Teresa; Susanang Daldal (1962, titular role); The Big Broadcast (1962) as Susay; Lab na Lab Kita (1962) as Susan Montes; Sabina (1963) as Sabina/Vina; Swanie (1965, titular role); Mariang Kondesa (1966, titular role) ; Si Siyanang at 7 Tsikiting (titular role); Maruja (1967) as Maruja/Cristy; Perlas ng Silangan (1969) as Dayang Mahalina; Divina Gracia (1970) as Lorna/Lorena; Florinda (1973, titular role); Patayin Mo sa Sindak si Barbara (1974, titular role); Maligno (1977) as Angela Cortez; Gumising Ka, Maruja (1978) as Nina Concepcion/Maruja Isabel Sevilla; Angelita, Ako Ang Iyong Ina (1979) as Jeanette; Mahal, Saan Ka Nanggaling Kagabi (1979) as Luding; Mahal, Ginagabi Ka Na Naman (1979) as Luding; Nasaan Ka Nang Kailangan Kita (1986) as Rosa; Inday, Inday sa Balitaw (1986) as Monina; Paano Kung Wala Ka Na (1987) as Ruby; Love Boat: Mahal Trip Kita (1988) as Grace Santos; Here Comes The Bride (1989) as Azon; Mundo Man Ay Magunaw (1990) as Dolores; Isinakdal Ko Ang Aking Ina (1997) as Esperanza; and Mano Po 2:  My Home (2003) as Sol.

(E-mail reactions at [email protected]. You may also send your questions to [email protected]. For more updates, photos and videos visit www.philstar.com/funfare or follow me on www.twitter/therealrickylo.)

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