Monday, May 19, 2008

*84. JAIME DE LA ROSA: Brother Act

HIS STAR ALSO RISES. Jaime de la Rosa, matinee idol of the '50s, younger brother of Rogelio de la Rosa, and a member of Lubao's most accomplished family of stage and movie performers who achieved national prominence.

Philippine moviedom was at its brightest in the ‘40s and ‘50s with the luminous presence of one talented family of from Lubao: the de la Rosas. While Golden boy Rogelio de la Rosa and character actress Africa de la Rosa had a headstart in establishing their film careers, it was not long that another brother joined the acting bandwagon and started making his own mark in movies that are now regarded as truly Pinoy classics.

Just like his siblings, Jaime de la Rosa was born in Lubao in 1920. Acting was in the family’s blood: aside from the aforementioned Rogelio and Africa, a sister, Purita, dabbled briefly in the movies too—until ill health and a rising politico named Diosdado Macapagal put a stop to a budding acting career. Then there was an uncle, Gregorio Fernandez, a noted director who had been instrumental in putting Rogelio’s road to stardom. With his debonair looks, Jaime too, was destined to take center stage and follow his own star.

Jaime was studying Law when the silver screen beckoned. Not yet out of his teens, he was first featured in the Eastern Pictures movie, Anak ng Lansangan (Children of the Streets) in 1939, using the screen name Tommy de la Rosa. Making his strong presence felt, he was cast successively in 3 movies as a supporting actor: Cadena de Amor, Bawal na Pag-ibig (Forbidden Love) and Kahapon Lamang (Only Yesterday). Before the war began, he was seen in a musical, Ibong Sawi (Ill-fated Bird).

This sudden halt to Jaime’s career did not dampen his spirit. He took time to marry his childhood sweetheart, Beatriz Ocampo Santos with whom he would have three daughters: Betty, Cherry and Rowena. He settled his family in Sampaloc, then invested in prime property in Horseshoe Village a favorite residential village of movie stars) and later, in San Mateo, Rizal.

After the war, Jaime resumed acting, starring with his own brother, Rogelio, in the war movie Garrison 13. Soon, he was starring in lead roles alongside the most famous actresses of his time. With Norma Blancaflor, he did the fantasy movie, Aladin. In the musical Ikaw ay Akin (You are Mine), he warbled with Rebecca Gonzales. He was with Mila del Sol in Romansa, Norma Blancaflor in Tanikalang Papel (Paper Chain), Delia Razon in Shalimar, Rosa Rosal in Biglang Yaman (Instant Riches), Nida Blanca in Korea and Charito Solis in Nina Bonita.

But two roles were set to etch Jaime’s image in the hearts and minds of movie fans forever. He was cast in the 1st ever Darna movie, starring Rosa del Rosario, as the lead’s love interest. And, in 1953, he was Fredo, the human lover of the fabled mermaid beauty, Dyesebel, played by the unforgettable Edna Luna.

The ‘50s decade can be considered as Jaime’s heyday, with a string of solo starrers and hit movies like Satur (sci-fi movie) , Galawgaw (a role identified with Nida Blanca) , Hamak na Dakila (A Scorned Great), Anak ng Pulubi (A Beggar’s Child) , Taong Paniki (Bat People) , Kabalyerong Itim (Black Cavalier), Medalyong Perlas (Pearl Medallion) and Faithful. In 1956, Jaime was nominated for the Best Actor FAMAS award his gritty performance in the movie Kumander 13. (Trivia: The term FAMAS, considered as the Philippines’ Oscars, was coined by Jaime himself, a Filipinized version of the word “Fame”).

When television was introduced in the Philippines, Jaime became one of the new medium’s pioneers, hosting ABS-CBN’s Caltex Star Caravan. He put his knowledge to good use by directing TV shows and acting as program consultant, even providing his services as a liaison officer for the Australian movie, The Year of Living Dangerously, in 1982.

All the while, Jaime never forgot his Kapampangan roots. As daughter Cherry recalled, her father had a sweet tooth and relished Pampanago dishes like buro (fermented rice) and kamaru (mole crickets). And, just like his brother, Jaime could not resist entering the world of politics. He served as a councilor of Manila and eventually became the city’s Vice Mayor. He died in service, on 18 September 1996, and, in every sense of the word, a true Kapampangan idol.

(*NOTE: Feature titles with asterisks represent other writings of the author that appeared in other publications and are not included in the original book, "Views from the Pampang & Other Scenes")

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