Monday, October 21, 2013

*348. HILDA KORONEL: Kapampangan Actress, Cannes Sensation

HILDA SA IYO. Susan Reid, aka Hilda Koronel, at age 14. From a teen sensation to an actress of international repute.She took Cannes by storm with her intense portrayal of a daughter scorned in the 1975 movie, "Insiang".

The first time I beheld Hilda Koronel on the silver screen was in her launch movie, “Haydee”. I had lined up with my sister to watch this much ballyhooed Mars Ravelo-penned movie at the Rizal Theater in downtown Angeles one hot summer’s day in 1971, and it had been a box office hit of the season.

It was a love story between a Filipina fan, Haydee (played by Hilda Koronel) and an international combo star, Darwin Clark (Ed Finlan), who had come to Manila for a musical concert. I had read from my "Tin-Edyer Song & Show" comics that it was loosely based on the life story of Filipina Jinky Suzara and Gary Lewis, lead singer of the U.S. band, Gary Lewis and the Playboys.

I became an instant fan of Hilda Koronel, proud of the fact that she was Angeles-born, hence, a kabalen. I even took note of the fact that she was my age, just 4 days older ( she was born on 17 January 1957), and I vowed to follow her career and be her loyal fan forever. At her birth, she was named Susan Reid by her mother who hailed from the Visayas. Her father whom she never knew, was a Clark Air Base serviceman. As a waif, she lived in poverty, in the outskirts of the city.

All that would change when she was presented to producer/ starmaker Mrs. Emilia Blas of Lea Productions. At just 12 years going on 13, Susan already possessed a soulful kind of teenaged beauty that had attracted the attention of talent scouts and casters. It was said that Mrs. Blas did not have to give her a second look at the tall, 5’5” PampangueƱa’s features: a bedimpled smile, an enchanting face, long black tresses. Mrs. Blas immediately took her under her wings and gave her the name, Hilda Koronel.

She invested in her promising discovery, enrolling her at Manuel L. Quezon University High School, and encouraged her to take drama, ballet, voice lessons and personality development. Hilda was cast in a bit role in the movie, “Leslie”, registering so well that the next inevitable step was a starring role in her launch movie, “Haydee”, a huge commercial success.

That same year, her dramatic skills were tested in the 1970 opus,”Santiago”. Her luminous performance was not lost in that year’s FAMAS—she was awarded a Best Supporting Actress trophy, the youngest winner ever, in the history of the prestigious award body.

However, the trend of the times were youth-oriented flicks and Hilda was soon appearing in formulaic lightweight hits like “Happy Hippie Holiday”, and recording silly ditties like “”Abracadabra Come Home”.

The turning point was when Director Lino Brocka took an interest in this talented girl and cast her in the 1975 classic, “Maynila: Sa Mga Kuko ng Liwanag”, opposite another discovery, Rafael Roco Jr. As Ligaya Paraiso, Hilda essayed the role of a girl forced to prostitute herself and give up everything, including her one true love, all because of a life of dehumanizing squalor. The movie won 6 major awards in that year’s FAMAS derby.

But it was in next year’s “Insiang” that Hilda’s star shone brightest and had everyone in showbiz talking. The story of a girl raped by her mother’s lover and exacting her revenge showed Hilda’s acting at her finest, earning her both a FAMAS and a Gawad Urian Award. Brocka’s acclaimed film went on to become the first Filipino film to play at the 1980 Cannes International Film Festival.

The response to this movie melodrama was thunderous, and all eyes in Cannes were, all of a sudden, on Hilda. She became the toast of Cannes, and her performance was raved about in magazines and newspapers, and her beauty even made the front pages of film periodicals. Hilda would become one of Lino Brocka’s favorite actresses, appearing in over ten of his films, including the trilogy, “Tatlo, Dalawa, Isa”, "Angela Markado" and "PX". 

Hilda’s career spanned over 4 decades, which would translate to over 45 films, three acting awards and 11 acting nominations. She was also a much-sought after model, and was once member of Rustan’s VIP Council and appeared as a Lux Girl. In between, shefound time to wear a bachelor’s and a Master’s degree in International Stduies from Maryknoll (now Miriam) College.

For a long while, Hilda was romantically linked with the late actor, Jay Ilagan, with whom she had a daughter, Leona. With the late Bambi del Castillo, she had another daughter, Isabel, while her marriage to Spanky Monserrat resulted in a son, Gabby.She has a second boy, Diego, with Dr. Victor Reyes. She also has two adopted daughters, Patricia and Ivy.

In May 2000. Hilda put her failed romances behind her and married a Fil-Am businessman, Ralph Dulay Moore, in Nevada., whom she had met in Greenhills earlier in 1998. In 2006, the Moores left the Philippines to settle permanently in Calfornia. In 2012, however, Hilda accepted a movie role and, in 2012, filmed Star Cinema’s, “The Mistress”, starring Bea Alonzo and John Lloyd Cruz, and directed by Olivia Lamasan.. Her comeback role would win her a Best Supporting Actress trophy at the 2013 Luna Award, proof that she has not lost her brilliant thespic touch.

My 14 year old “Haydee”has now graciously grown into a 56 year old grandmother of two, but Hilda continues to mesmerize, her name, still commanding awe and respect as the first Filipina to blaze the trail and make history in the premiere movie capital of the world that is Cannes. Together with Brocka, she has helped paved the way for a new generation of actors, actresses, directors and film makers who are now leaving their mark in international festivals around the world.

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