Mang Ador’s Legacy of Beauty

FUNFARE - Ricky Lo - The Philippine Star

Mang Ador was one of a kind, in a class by himself. There has been no one like him.

Mention the name Mang Ador and what comes to mind are the beautiful faces of the stars that he had photographed (some of them spread out on this page), capturing them for posterity at their very best. That’s Mang Ador’s legacy of beauty.

“I was 10 and in Grade IV at P. Burgos Elementary School in Sta. Mesa, Manila, when I started buying Tropicana’s sepia photos of stars displayed on bilao and sold for only 10 cents (circa 1969) outside Life Theater in Quiapo,” recalled Funfare correspondent Celso de Guzman Caparas who is happily sharing some of his collections with Funfare readers. “The money that was used to buy the picture came from the profit that I got from selling bibingka at ibang kakanin na nilalako ko in our neighborhood.”      

This I learned from Celso: In 1945, Dominador J. Cruz Jr. (1920-2008), popularly known as Mang Ador in the local entertainment world, together with his siblings Osualdo, Edmundo and Lydia put up the Tropicana studio at 252 Gen. Luna St., Concepcion, in the fishing town of Malabon. It was named after a Lamberto V. Avellana play of the same title staged at the Avenue Theater during the Japanese occupation. Celso said that he personally met Mang Ador on several occasions in the ’90s.

“In one of our conversations,” added Celso, “he fondly shared some interesting anecdotes about some celebrities. Several people lined up the street when Imelda Romualdez-Marcos went to his studio in the ‘50s. It was he who sent Helen Gamboa’s photo to the 1961 Miss Press Photography search where she won first runner-up to Cynthia Ugalde. Barbara Perez was his discovery. Pandemonium broke loose whenever Nora Aunor had a photo shoot in his studio; Nora had to be slipped in through the exit door unnoticed to avoid stampede. Arsenia Francisco, Tessie Quintana, Gloria Romero, Susan Roces, Amalia Fuentes, Rogelio de la Rosa, Eddie Garcia and Eddie Gutierrez were among the stars whom he found with captivating faces and easy to be photographed.”     

Before the advent of digital photography, Mang Ador was lording the scene. Celso said that a few weeks ago, he went to Tropicana and learned that it no longer prints sepia photos due to unavailability of chemicals and materials. The negatives have been damaged by weather changes or destroyed by floods. 

“Tropicana, now managed by Mang Ador’s son, has turned digital,” reported Celso.

In 2005, Funfare published a series of “star galleries” featuring stars from Sampaguita (Aug. 30 and Oct. 8), LVN (Aug. 11) and Premiere (Sept. 10), and stars and love teams (Feb. 12) accompanied by vintage photos by Mang Ador from Celso’s treasured memorabilia.

Mang Ador was very much a part of the history of Philippine Cinema which is marking its 95th anniversary this year. Today’s feature is our humble tribute to the man whose memory is immortalized in the beautiful faces of the stars that he had photographed.

(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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