Sunday, August 31, 2008



By Oscar Miranda

Source: Jingle Extra Hot Movie Entertainment Magazine
No. 73, June 24, 1982

The name Rogelio de la Rosa conjures up images and memories of flamboyant and high adventure, of celluloid principes and provincianos, of bravura performances on the silver screen in the golden age of Tagalog movies when the heroes were all handsome, brave and noble, and the heroines virtuous and pure as vestal virgins.

The days of Rogelio de la Rosa as a matinee ideol were the days of idealism when life was relatively simple – when Good was good and Bad was bad and that was that, no in-betweens. And Rogelio de la Rosa embodied all that was ideal and good. He was the Hero. And what a hero! He was tall – over six feet, he possessed a resounding baritone, he was fair as a storybook prince and as charming as a barrio swain, he had a physique of a Greek god and the face just a shade of the mestizo to be uncommonly handsome, and the most expressive pair of eyebrows that side of the kleiglights so that when he cocked one in quizzical arch or knitted both in anger or dismay, millions of female fans everywhere felt the surge of his passion and reacted accordingly – in full faint or autistic adoration.

For Rogelio is Romance personified. The faithful lover, dependable, reliable, he never failed his women. There were other leading men then to be sure – Leopoldo Salcedo, the self-styled King of the Philippine movies with his great profile a la Valentino and his reputation a la Casanova. There was also Pempe Padilla, perhaps the more down-to-earth actor, acting with more natural flair – he was also the ladies’ man, the love-‘em-and-leave-‘em type, the kind that masochistic women will brave martyrdom for, but Rogelio was the steadfast one. He was dignified, respectable, the gentleman – ang idolo ng madla – admittedly the greatest matinee idol of all times.

On that score, Rogelio was not play acting. He was and is the Gentleman. No scandal marred his career. His private life was as private as one in the business could wish. Not many even in the industry knew that he was married during the height of his stardom and that his marriage was collapsing due to the pressures of filmmaking and even when he took a second wife, actress Lota Delgado, in marriage, there was not much fuss or bother.

Rogelio was big box-office and all the leading ladies of that era were only considered real stars after they became Rogelio’s leading ladies – Carmen Rosales, Mila del Sol, Corazon Noble, Norma Blancaflor, Fely Vallejo, Fleur de Lis, Amparo Karagdag, Lilia Dizon, Tessie Quintana, Delia Razon, Rosa Rosal, Emma Alegre, Alicia Vergel, Paraluman, Cecilia Lopez, Gloria Romero, Nena Cardenas, Virginia Montes, Leila Morena, Nida Blanca. A role with Rogelio as the leading man confirmed the ladies’ star status.

Rogelio de la Rosa hails from Lubao, Pampanga, the second son, from an artistically-inclined family. His father was a painter and his mother, a great singer. It was natural for the young Rogelio to gravitate towards the performing arts. One of his friends,

Diosdado Macapagal, was steeped in the zarzuela tradition. Dadong’s father was a zarzuela writer/director and Dadong played the male leads in most of his father’s works. Roger was the contravida because he was mestisuhin and was always cast as the wicked landlord’s Manila-born son who will return to the barrio to oppress the farmers represented by the dark and dusky and impassioned Dadong Macapagal.

But for these two friends, zarzuela was one way to spend time. It gave them outlet for their emotions, and of course young men in the zarzuelas were targets of female adulation just as much as Gabby Concepcion and William Martinez are at present. Roger had his share of misadventures which his father tolerated because the father wanted the son to be able to bear all the hard knocks that life might deal him with in his later life. Although his mother was quite protective of her children, Roger and his brothers grew up to be independent-minded and strong-willed.

At 15, the young Roger was already carrying the load of partly supporting the family whose dwindling fortunes were brought about by the unwise investments of indulgent and overly generous relations. His zarzuela training proved to be heaven-sent. While playing in Bacolor during a Christmas season of plays, he was seen by a young film director, Gregorio Fernandez (Rudy’s father), who proved to be a distant relative.

He was brought to Malayan Pictures to star with Rosa del Rosario in Ligaw Na Bulaklak. Rosa – Rose Stagner – in real life, was a 14-year old screen star who was already becoming popular. The film was “silent” and thank heavens, because Rosa spoke very little Tagalog with an American twang and Roger spoke no Tagalog at all. He only spoke Pampango. When “talkies” came, all the leading performers had to master the Tagalog idioms in order to survive and Roger did master the language, although with the lilting Pampango accent which has never left him to this day.

Rogelio de la Rosa’s career flourished from the late 30’s into the late 60’s – spanning 30 years at the height of his profession – uninterrupted by the fluctuations of popularity except, of course, during the war years. Right before the outbreak of the Pacific war, Rogelio de la Rosa was already a producer turning out such hits as Ang Maestra, Anong Ganda Mo, Serenata Sa Nayon. He went to Hollywood to star with Sigrid Gurie and Pacita Francisco as his leading ladies in the two versions of The Avenger – one in English for American distribution and one in Tagalog. Sigrid at the time was a leading Hollywood star who just completed a film, Marco Polo, with Gary Cooper. Roger could have enjoyed a fairly successful Hollywood career because his agents were sure they could get him a studio contract. He could have made a go of it but he declined the opportunity. “What will I do in Hollywood? After the initial interest of being a Filipino, I would be relegated to second leads playing various ethnic types. I was a leading man in Manila and I was receiving top salary. But it was quite an opportunity to work in Hollywood,” says Roger.

Roger returned to Manila and starred in innumerable films – the most successful of which where his pairing offs with Carmen Rosales. “But Rosa del Rosario remains my favorite leading lady, maybe because she was the first. Rosa was so considerate on the set, she was the compleat professional – and all of us approached our craft with respect and professionalism. No one came late, no one brought his problems on the set. We came to the studio to work.” He also thinks, however, when it came to musicals no one could beat Carmen. She was the flirt.

There were many leading men who came and went, burned bright then flickered but Roger remained a star. Leopoldo led such fabulous life, building mansions that were showcase of wealth and splendor; but Roger maintained a low profile, investing in real estate in Baguio and in the suburbs. If Pol was King, Roger was the Statesman and eventually, he really became one. He renewed his friendship with the late President Magsaysay and worked on several projects on the quiet. He would talk to the farmers of Cetral Luzon and his popularity as an actor helped him gain confidence and break the chains of distrust among the landless mass the government was trying to reach. When he ran for Senator, all the Rogelio de la Rosa fans voted in droves and he alone of his teammates survived the landslide of the opposition political dreadnought. He was one of the topnotchers in that election.

In the Senate, he was surprisingly effective. He earned his spurs as a lawmaker; he was prepared, he was correct, he was well-liked and soon, his being an ex-movie star was not a liability anymore. He gave the acting profession class and respectability. His supporters mentioned him for the Presidency but not a few recoiled: “What? A movie star for President? Unthinkable!” These were the days before Ronald Reagan, of course. Today, a still active actor like Joseph Estrada is an elective town mayor; Philip Salvador and Alicia Vergel, both movie stars, are elected barangay officials; Ramon Revilla, a top action star, is thinking of throwing his hat in the political ring in Cavite.

Roger realized that the Presidency could not be had with good works and good intentions. One needs a good machine and the machine is fueled with cash. When he tried campaigning in the Visayas and Mindanao, he encountered the dirty tactics. Campaigning for the Senate and campaigning for Malacañang were light years apart in difference. And so in the middle of his presidential bid, the sad realities hardened and he gave up. The field was left to Diosdado Macapagal and Carlos Garcia, the incumbent. And because Macapagal was a friend and an ex-in-law, there were talks of sell-out. The rumors, however, did not fester.

He embarked on a diplomatic career and he has represented our country in some of the toughest and most sensitive posts in the world. Foreign Affairs Ministry insiders rate his performance as “brilliant” although low profile and his “penetrating reports and analyses” of the conditions where he is assigned have contributed immensely to the official policy of the Ministry. He is a diligent representative, he gets what he has to, he delivers what he must, he is a no-nonsense professional. He does not impress you with anecdotes of kings and dictators and presidents he had to deal with, the innate gentlemanliness in him probably forbids him to betray even the most trivial confidences to make up for interesting conversation.

He is old school, he measures his words, he speaks with studied casualness, it seems that nothing is accidental with him. Now he can be accused of being stiff and formal – pero artista pa rin. He still possesses that commanding presence and he looks more attractive because he looks more distinguished with all that silver thatch. Puede pang mag-artista, given the right part and the right story. He does not preclude doing another film. “As a matter of fact, I look forward to it – when the right time comes.” Again, the diplomatic reserve even in jest. But a lot of people are seriously thinking of casting the Ambassador in their projects. Not only because of the profit motive but because of the fact that Rogelio de la Rosa coming back to films is an event that will serve the entire film industry well.

He is quite deprecatory about his own contributions to the local film industry although he is quick to acknowledge his debt to the movies. “The movies was my life – because it was my livelihood. The movies was good to me and the advantages I have I owe directly to the movies. But to me, first and foremost, the movies was a job, a demanding job and I played every part to the best of my ability. I worked with some of the best in my time – the directors, Bert Avellana, Gerry de Leon, Manuel Silos, Manuel Conde, Gregorio Fernandez. And the ladies, bless them – Rosa, Carmen, down to Gloria Romero and Nida Blanca.a With all the fine producers, Judge and Mrs. Vera, Doña Sisang de Leon, Dr. and Mrs. Santiago, they were all my bosses and friends.”

There are those who will assess Roger’s acting abilities as just fair-to-the-middling. Rogelio is always Rogelio in all his roles, they say. But Rogelio does not have to prove anything. He has done all kinds of roles in all genres of the game. He sang, he danced, he romanced his leading ladies under the mango trees. He tackled all roles, a prince (Prinsipe Amante), a Biblical character (Dimas), legendary hero (Sohrab At Rustum), escape convict (45 Oras), poor farmer (Higit Sa Lahat), an Igorot native (Doble Cara); he played Armand to Carmen’s Camille, he played doctor, lawyer, Igorot chief, the works. He was not typed. He’s got the FAMAS, the Asian Golden harvest awards for best actor. Of course, Rogelio will always be Rogelio. And why not? Some people should be so lucky.

Ambassador Rogelio de la Rosa was on home leave for for the next few weeks but he is expected to return to his diplomatic post in Sri Lanka. He has been assigned to such exotic places as Cambodia, the Netherlands, Rumania, Poland. He expects to retire since he has reached that mandatory retirement age. He does expect to life a life of usefulness. There is that farm in Baguio, that land developments in San Mateo. And the children – all grown up and all ready to live lives of their own. There are no second generation de la Rosa to pick up where he left off in the movies but Roger suspects that one grandson might still follow in his steps. The only language the grandson speaks right now is English, having born and brought up in the United States. “But he can learn Tagalog, after all I did and I did well,” the Ambassador concluded.

Rogelio de la Rosa – zarzuelista, matinee idol, husband, father, senator, ambassador – has done well, indeed.

* * * * * *

Sarung Banggi (1947)

Ang Vengador (The Avenger) (1948)

Bulaklak At Paruparo (1948)

Kidlat Sa Silangan (1949)

Prinsipe Amante (1950)

Maalaala Mo Kaya? (1954)

Iyung-Iyo (1955)

4 Na Kasaysayang Ginto (1956)

Lydia (1956)

Sonny Boy (1956)

Sino Ang Maysala? (1957)

*Thanks to Simon Santos of for some of the movie ads.

1 comment:

Bonnie Blue *Sam* said...
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