Monday, March 24, 2008


What was the magic of Carmen Rosales?

I have always asked this question. You see, I have never seen her in person, and when I was old enough to watch movies, she was no longer around. From time to time, magazines and tabloids would feature her photos, but no studio or television network has ever bothered to show us, the younger generation, her films.

That's exactly why Carmen Resales became a mystery to me.
The more the older Filipinos raved about her, the more she became mysterious to me.

What I knew about her was rather sketchy. Older Filipinos say that she danced, she sang and she acted. Well, there were so many actresses who did all these, how come nobody talks about them the way people talk about Carmen Rosales?

I remember my mother telling me about her best friends ASUCENA VERA who became the wife of Sampaguita Pictures producer Jose R. Perez, and ELSA ORIA who was to be dubbed later on as The Singing Sweetheart of Philippine Movies (they met on December 8, 1930, during La Concordia's Immaculate Concepcion Day celebration. My mom, who was then Filomena Armengol, a French-Spanish young woman, was an intern at the Colegio de la Concordia. Elsa was an intern at Colegio de Santa Rosa, and Azucena was an intern at Santa Scholastica - they became friends for life). My mother told me that Elsa later on became one of the most popular actresses and singers in the Philippine movie industry.

Too bad, my mom was not a follower of Tagalog movies. So there's no way for her to tell me exactly how Carmen Rosales fared compared to Elsa Oria.

So, the mystery became more perplexing to me.

What was so special about Carmen Rosales to warrant such following, such love, such adoration?

Well, I searched the web for old black and white Tagalog movies on video, particularly the ones starring Carmen Rosales. I thought it was absolutely a long shot, but what the heck, I might just get lucky and find one. Kabayan Central has a copy.

ANG TANGI KONG PAG-IBIG. Starring Carmen Rosales and Rogelio de la Rosa, plus the young Luis Gonzales.

I became excited. I was about to demystify the mystery of Carmen Rosales.

ANG TANGI KONG PAGIBIG is based on Dr. Fausto J. Galauran's serialized novel in Bulaklak and Alimyon Magazines. It's a pity that the story and screenplay of this very popular film are not well written. The scriptwriter wrote his screenplay exactly the same way the serialized novel was constructed. Result: ANG TANGI KONG PAG-IBIG becomes an episodic love story that fluctuates like a spygmomanometer in action. Up and down, down and up, and up and down. One cliffhanger comes up, then it is resolved in no time, just for another cliffhanger to begin, only to be resolved just before the plot point begins to whet your appetite.

Surprisingly, Mar S. Torres' direction is quite creative. Even though the script is so limiting, he manages to expound this rigmarole of a screeplay, effectively. It's also fascinating to see the old Manila, just before immigrants from other countries went to live there. Back then, it looked so friendly, spacious and extremely clean. The last description is in bold type, for I think it would take a miracle before Manila could possess once again such clean surroundings. Seeing Rogelio de la Rosa and young Luis Gonzales walking in the streets of Manila made me wistful.

Wistful and not wishful, because I knew that deep inside me no one will see a spic and span Manila ever again.

Carmen Resales' performance made ANG TANGI KONG PAG-IBIG a classic. In this movie, she sang, she danced and she acted.

The Stanislavsky Method emphasizes the use of the voice and body as the tools of an actor. Carmen Resales used both tools quite competently. He eyes "lead," so to speak in Method Acting.

I have met many Philippine actresses during the late 70s and early 80s who were much more beautiful than Carmen Rosales (and I dare say Imelda Ilanan is one of the most beautiful actresses I've ever seen in my life), but not one of them has matched the expression of Carmen Rosales' eyes. Lolita Rodriguez came this close, but not quite. Carmen Rosales didn't have to say anything to express an emotion. A stare, or a glance, or a wink, was enough for us to understand what she was trying to convey. She was most effective when a scene was quiet. There was one particular scene in ANG TANGI KONG PAG-IBIG where she was wearing a surgical mask. It was an unforgettable close up, for by just using her eyes she was able to emote a color swatch of emotions. All the loneliness, the pain, the confusion, the happiness and anger of the character she was portraying came to life.

Mar S. Torres sure knew how to explore an actress' capabilities. I wish we had more movie directors like him. He was as intuitive and creative as Hollywood's Willy Wyler.

At last, I have unravelled the mystery of Carmen Rosales. I maybe thirty or forty years late to have discovered her, but it is worth it. I know that from now on, I will be raving about her too, just like the way the older generation did then and are still doing now.

What was the magic of Carmen Rosales?

The answer is simple: she was such a consummated actress, a singer, a dancer, but most of all, she was a master of improvisation and mime, a rara avis in the Philippine movie industry.

ANG TANGI KONG PAG-IBIG is available (unfortunately) on VHS only, from Kabayan Central.