Monday, September 5, 2016

*405. LILIA DIZON: Kapampangan Bathaluman

BOMBSHELL BATHALUMAN. Lilia Dizon , who originated  'strong Filipino women roles' on the silver screen is of Kapampangan-American descent.

Today, Lilia Dizon is known as the mother of actors Christopher, Pinky and Lara Melissa de Leon. But she, too, had her time in the spotlight; she was also an actress of note, known for portraying strong bombshell beauties on the silver screen, a sharp departure from the 'pa-sweet' and demure Filipinas whose presence predominated local movies.

She was born in 1931 as Claire Strauss, the only child of German-Jew Abraham Strauss with Kapampangan Regina Dizon. Her father left the family for the U.S. in 1940, but then the war broke, preventing him from coming back. Claire was left with her mother in the Philippines to fend for themselves in Baguio.

At the height of the Liberation, she and her mother escaped the carnage of Baguio by walking all the way to La Union. From there, they proceeded to Manila to start life anew.  At age 15, Claire started performing at the Lotus Theater as a singer. The next year, she was discovered for the movies by writer-director Susana de Guzman--and became known to a legion of movie fans as Lilia Dizon.

Her first lead role was in the 1948 film, “Kaaway ng Babae,” where she had to act like a man in a very physical role that required a lot of running, At 17, she married director and actor Gil de Leon, sixteen years her senior. She made her mark portraying strong women roles in movies like “Sandra Wong,” “Kandilerong Pilak” (Asia’s Best Actress award in 1954), and "Bathaluman” with Mario Montenegro, a role that showed her Juno-esque figure at its most beautiful.

After her 18 year-marriage ended, Lilia left for the U.S. in 1966 to join her father in California and acquired her American citizenship. She made amends with Gil before he died, and after his demise, Lilia married Antonio Abad, a match that produced 2 more children, Antoinette and Corrie.

She would resurface in 1974 to appear with son Christopher in the award-winning Brocka film, “Tinimbang Ka Ngunit Kulang” which would catapult her son to fame. She could not re-establish her career though, as her two young children left behind in the U.S. needed her care. Now divorced, the tough Kapampangan bombshell of the 50s is back to being Claire Strauss and is a doting grandma to fifteen grandchildren.

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