Rogelio was born as Regidor de la Rosa on 12 November 1916 to Feliciano de la Rosa and Rosario Lim. His siblings took quite an interest in the performing arts as younger brother Jaime (real name: Tomas) and sisters Africa and Purita were all involved in the movies in different capacities. Purita eventually became the 1st wife of Pres. Diosdado P. Macapagal, while Jaime made a name for himself as another matinee idol of note.
But it was Rogelio who undoubtedly reaped the most success in a career that spanned the years of silent films and the talkies. It was a kabalen, Gregorio Fernandez, the noted director, who introduced the strapping 6-footer to film mogul Don Jose Nepomuceno in 1929. His launch movie in 1932 was with a Filipina-European mestiza, Rosa del Rosario (the 1st high-flying Darna) , entitled Ligaw na Bulaklak. Other early works included Diwata ng Karagatan for Parlatone Hispano Family (1936) and Bituing Marikit, Sampaguita Pictures (1937).
Over the years, Rogelio worked with the most renown directors of Philippine movies—from Vicente Salumbides, Lamberto Avellana, Gregorio Fernandez, to Carlos Vander Tolosa and Susana de Guzman. The handsome actor was paired with the most beautiful leading ladies of the silver screen: Elsa Oria, Mila del Sol, (mother of Jeanne Young), Lilia Dizon (mother of Christopher de Leon), Tessie Quintana, Corazon Noble, Emma Alegre, Cecilia Lopez, Norma Blancaflor (“the girl with a perfect face”) and his most famous on-screen love interest—the reclusive Carmen Rosales. He would star with her in blockbuster films like Señorita, Colegiala and Lambingan. In real life however, Rogelio chose a fellow Kapampangan to be his wife—Lota Delgado of Angeles.
In 1939, he put up his own RDR Productions, a co-venture with Placido Mapa and J. Amado Araneta. Its initial offering was Ang Maestra, with Rosa del Rosario. The next year, he did Anong Ganda Mo with Norma Blancaflor and Caballero, with Miss Luzon of 1936, Amparo Karagdag. The war years did not stop his rising star, and, in 1949, he starred in Kampanang Ginto, a reunion movie with Carmen Rosales. Post-war, he assumed sole ownership of the production outfit and came up with Irisan, where he teamed up with his wife, Lota Delgado.
Just like today’s movies, Rogelio’s films spawned memorable theme songs that millions of star-struck fans hummed and sang along with: Sarung Banggi, Ang Tangi Kong Pag-Ibig, Katakataka, Bituing Marikit, Tayo Na Sa Antipolo and of course, Maalaala Mo Kaya?.
His most acclaimed role yet was in the 1955 movie Higit sa Lahat, directed by Gregorio Fernandez. He not only earned a Famas Best Actor Award for his role, but also won the 1956 Asian Film Fest Best Actor Award in Hong Kong. True to his roots, he starred in a Pampanga-themed movie, “Pampanggenya”, with Linda Estrella in 1956.
It was also in 1955 that he entered politics and won a seat as a Senator. He could have been our first movie star president had he continued his run for Presidency in 1961. Rogelio withdrew his candidacy to give way to his brother-in-law, Diosdado, who subsequently was elected to the highest office of the land. Nevertheless, he was rewarded with an ambassadorial position in Sri Lanka and Cambodia. His last assignment was in The Hague, Netherlands, a post he held until his death on 10 November 1986. The loss of the Philippines’ most admired and most important male star was clearly Heaven’s gain.
FILMS: Dalawang Daigdig, Garrison 13, Tagumpay (1946), Sarung Banggi (1947), Hampas ng Langit, Sword of the Avenger (filmed in Hollywood with Duncan Renaldo, released locally as Ang Vengador), 1,000 Kagandahan (1948), Kidlat sa Silangan, Kampanang Ginto (1949), 48 Oras, Tigang na Lupa, Sohrab at Rustum, Doble Cara, Prinsipe Amante (1950), Prinsipe Amante sa Rubitanya (1951), Sa Paanana ng Bundok (1953), Ikaw ang Buhay Ko , May Bukas Pang Lumipas (1954), Tangi Kong Pag-ibig, Iyong-iyo, Sonny Boy, Pandanggo ni Neneng (1955), Lydia, Pampanggenya, Apat na Kasaysayang Ginto (1956).
(23 August 2003)