A DAY IN THE LIFE OF LEOPOLDO SALCEDO
Leopoldo Salcedo, dubbed as Philippine Movies' "The Great Profile"
“Guys, what are these prewar actors doing here in the studio today?”
Asked one of the production people on the set of one of my TV shows being taped.
“We’ve been seeing all these old actors come alive. I thought they have died already,” said another.
“Aha!” The Floor Director said. “I know why, it ‘s because Joemari Lee is here!”
Everybody blurted out laughing. This became a standard joke among my colleagues in BBC-Channel 2.
Of course, the production people involved in any of the shows I was writing for that time knew all along that when there was a role for an older person in the drama, rest assured that a prewar actor was always my choice.
Everybody knew as well, that prewar actors were the true performers. They seemed not to make mistakes during tapings and were they ever good.
One of these prewar actors was LEOPOLDO SALCEDO.
He was one of our most talented, handsomest actors, and he was someone who looked and act like a true, honest-to-goodness gentleman: always well-dressed, good-mannered, confident, stylish, charming, gregarious, and a very witty conversationalist. A true image of a debonair that I didn’t seem to see anymore in the younger actors of those days.
Leopoldo Salcedo with Nela Alvarez in SIERRA MADRE, BUNDOK NG HIWAGA
Photo from Kabayan Central
In the 1970s, he was still appearing in local movies and I made sure I cast him in my scripts in TV dramas. He was indeed a fantastic actor, he came on time, ready, all the dialogues memorized (just like Rosa Rosal). While the younger actors were all fumbling during the rehearsal before the take, Pol and Rose were patiently trying their best to understand the shortcomings of younger actors (except Gina Alajar, of course, who would also come to the set well-prepared, and whose caliber was A1).
One conversation I had with Pol that really stuck in my mind was when we were outside the studio of Broadcast City one taping day of the show Alindog. While waiting for all the cast to arrive, we both leaned on the railings on the top landing of the stairs leading to the studio, overlooking the vastness of the network compound – the same raillings where the child Romnick Sarmenta would wait before taping starts. The same raillings where, after seeing me arrive, the child would hurry to meet me, and would jump right at me where I would raise him above my head, up and down, three to four times, while he was laughing hysterically.
So, while Pol and I looked out to the vastness of the compound of the biggest network in RP in those days, he suddenly said:
"Joey, I'm celebrating my 66th birthday this weekend. Do you have time to come to my house?"
"Of course, I will find the time, just for you, Pol. I'm sure all your friends in showbiz are coming as well?"
"Oh. God, no. Many of them are gone now. The ones I worked with like Rose (Rosa Rosal) are much younger than I am. It's really sad when you grow old. You wake up one day, realizing that your closest friends are not around anymore because they have passed on. It makes you feel so all alone. In my youth, every time I would celebrate my birthday, it was always a big event. Producers, directors, movie stars, movie scribes, and even my fans would be there. It was wonderful. Life was beautiful. Now, they're all gone. Sometimes, some people I used to know would even ignore me when they see me."
I choked, and it took me a few minutes before I gathered myself together.
"Pol," I said, "you may be old now, some people may ignore you now, but always remember that you are Leopoldo Salcedo who made many ordinary people happy. They went to see your movies and for two hours, at least you've lightened their load. You made them forget their problems at least for a few moments, and they’ve gone home refreshed, inspired, even thankful for being alive – because there was someone like you who made their daily toil bearable, thus lessening their miseries. You are one of the Philippines' finest actors, and your name will never be forgotten for a long, long time. I will admit to you that when I write a character in my script, and I know that it will be you who would play that role, I feel so happy because I know that, that particular role will be in good hands. You are a great actor and thank God for giving you to us."
He said: "Thank you for all the kind words. You are a good kid. And each time I see you, I am reminded of my children. I wish I have been a better father for them."
I turned to look at him. He was looking away at the distance. There was a profound sadness on his face. We both remained quiet. After a long beat, I told him:
“Pol, nobody’s perfect. We are all infallible. There is no such thing as “slam dunk” formula for being a perfect parent. We all have shortcomings. The only thing we can do is to try to do our best. You’re not a bad father. I know you’ve tried your best.”
“I could have tried my very best,” he said. “But my career had always gotten in the way. I seldom saw them because I was always busy. I could have made them my first priority.”
“Sometimes, we are trapped by life. We have to make choices for our loved ones. Some parents are always at home with their children, yet they can’t afford to give them the bare necessities of life. You have chosen what you thought was the best for your loved ones and that was a wonderful thing. Don’t worry about the past. You’ve done okay as a father. “
I extended my hand to give him a handshake.
“Happy 66th birthday in advance.” I said. And we smiled at each other.
Leopoldo Salcedo with Vida Florante in SIERRA MADRE, BUNDOK NG HIWAGA
Photo from Kabayan Central
Suddenly, Charo Santos appeared at the landing of the stairs, greeting both of us. She was replacing Alma Moreno that day because Alma was filming in Baguio City. And we all went inside the studio.
In my mind, I remember the lyrics of one of Shirley Bassey’s songs:
“But love, if you had been behind the curtain when it fell
When all the lights were out, and I was all alone
You would have seen this actress crying.”