BALIK-TANAW by Dr. Romy R. Protacio
Gloria Sevilla earned the title Queen of Visayan Movie land for having starred in most of the Visayan-made movies in the Philippines in the 50s and 60s. At the very young age of 15, she was the biggest and most admired movie star in the Visayas and Mindanao. A native of Sibonga, Cebu and the only daughter of Bonifacio and Natividad Sevilla, Gloria reigned supreme as the undisputed queen of the Visayan movies for years and critics have often referred to her as the Swan of Visayan Cinema.
She is one actress whom I have had many memorable experiences with. She may not remember them all but I do. In 2000, she came to Seattle, Washington with her husband, the late Amado Cortes. At that time, Amado was the Consul General at the Philippine Consulate in San Francisco, California. I invited Ambassador Amado to be the inducting officer when I was installed as President of the Asian American Association of Marysville. There were so many of our kababayans in Washington who attended my inaugural ball because they learned Amado and Gloria would be the evenings special guests.
In 2006, Gloria and her daughter, Suzette Ranillo) were my guests at a private dinner I hosted for them. We had a grant time reminiscing the past.
On October 6, 2006, Gloria promised to attend my birthday celebration at the Century Park Hotel in Manila, a black tie dinner in celebration of my 65th birthday anniversary. It was a special occasion, graced with the presence of about 400 guests, which included famous names such as Susan Roces, Delia Razon, Liberty Ilagan, Robert Campos, Pepito and Ramil Rodriguez, Minda Morena, Sheryl Cruz and Arnel Ignacio. Manilas finest were in attendance. Unexpectedly, however, Gloria called me at the last minute to say she could not come because of an out-of-town shooting. Instead, she sent Matt Ranillo. Matt came with his wife and son. The father and son looked alike and both are guapos. I was the envy of some badings at the party. Ka guapo man gid nila, quipped one guest. Makalaglag panty! Matt Ranillo was so gracious to be the co-host at my party together with Rico Puno and Marita Zobel.
When I hosted an event of the Baliksamahan at the Orchid Garden Suites in Manila. Gloria came with the other movie stars of yesteryears, among them: Lilia Dizon, Oscar Obligacion, Liberty Ilagan, Nova Villa, Minda Morena, Robert Arevalo, Pepito and Ramil Rodriguez, Liza Lorena. Baliksamahan is an organization of those in the entertainment industry (movie stars, directors, writers, singers, etc.) organized by Pempe Rodrigo. Most movie stars of yesteryears from LVN Studio, Sampaguita Pictures, and Premier Productions are members of the Baliksamahan.
The Movie Career
Gloria loves to reminisce about her starting years in show business. When I was in grade four or five, I already knew that I wanted to be in show business. From morning til night, I was inside the movie theater. Its no surprise then that Ive already memorized all of my favorite characters dialogues when I step out of the theater. My favorites then were Oscar Moreno and Tita Duran.
She was only 14 years old when a talent scout approached her after watching her superb delivery of the declamation piece, Vengeance is not ours, its Gods. during a declamation contest at the University of Western Visayas. At that time, the talent scout was looking for a young girl who will portray the role of a princess. She was later on brought to the studio to audition for the role, together with 15 other girls. It was a day written in Glorias destiny, as she was chosen to play her very first film role as Princess Tirana.
Princesa Tirana was followed by a string of hits like Leonora, Pailub Lang (Be Humble), and Gloria Akong Anak (My child Gloria). At the age of 15, Gloria was a household name, a well loved child actor in the Visayan movie scene.
She recalls one incident when her father met the brother of Dr. Santiago, the owner of Premier Productions. Dr. Santiago was wondering why the Visayan movies were more popular than the Tagalog movies, why Glorias films were box office hits. She remembers him asking her father, Bakit si Gloria Sevilla pumapalo ang mga pelikula? Mr. Sevilla, bakit hindi mo dalhin ang anak mo sa Premier Production at ako ang bahala?
Through Dr. Santiagos brothers coaxing, her father allowed her to go to Manila to try her luck doing Tagalog movies. She still remembers how as a young teenager she would from time to time question whether it was the right thing to do compromise her fame in Cebu to gain a wider venue for her talents in Manila. She recalls, When I came to Manila, kahilera ko ang mga ekstra sa mahabang pila na kumukuha ng pagkain. It prompted me to question my decision. Why did I even come to Manila? Queen of Visayan Movies, tapos, dito pumipila ako sa pagkain. And then, noong first shooting ko, yung mga big stars like Efren Reyes, Sr. saka si Mario Montenegro, hindi naman nanunuya, pero tinitignan nila kung mahusay akong umarte. So I proved to them that I can act. Noon kasi ang tingin nila sa mga Bisaya, atsay lang kaya ginawa kong challenge sa sarili ko yun.
As expected from a pure Cebuana, Gloria had difficulty expressing herself in Tagalog. She overcame this obstacle by studying Tagalog, with a lot of help from Liwayway Magazine, which she read from cover to cover. She shares my fondness for the Tagalog magazine, a remnant of my past as well, as my family never missed a single copy of Liwayway magazine. My mom enjoyed reading the novellas which would later on become materials for movies. I, myself, enjoyed reading the komiks section, especially Kenkoy.
In the movie Mga Banga ni Zimadar which was her first foray into a Tagalog film, she was billed as The Queen of Visayan Movies. The movie catapulted her to instant stardom. In the movie Ifugao she was supposed to play the role of Aniway, the main villain in the story. However, Dona Adela Santiago, the Premier Productions matriarch, recognized her potential and chose her to take the female lead opposite Efren Reyes, Sr. In todays standard, it is not quite uncommon for a movie star portraying a love scene to go nude, or even topless, walang daya ng kamera. During Glorias time, modest as they were back then, she wore a prosthetic breast for a scene that required frontal breast exposure.
Gloria fondly recalls that during her time, there were no prima donnas in the movie industry. Gloria relates, During our time, walang pa-star star! We always come on time for our shoots. I learned this valuable lesson during my early years doing movies. Once, I came late to the set of May Bakas ang Lumipas starring Rogelio de la Rosa. Pagdating ko sa set sa Poro Point at 7:30 in the morning, the cast were all there. Wala pa akong make-up. Rogelio said, Good morning, little girl. I was so embarrassed that I vowed from then on never to be late again.
Gloria made several movies during the Golden Age of Philippine Cinema to the New Millennium, among them: Buenavista, Pailub Lang, Pepe en Pilar,Sangang Nangabali (1952), Gahaman (1963), With These Hands (1970), Mag-inang Ulila (1971), Banaue (1975), Minsay Isang Gamugamo (1976), Pinakasalan ko ang Ina ng Aking Kapatid (1977), Dyesebel (1978), Guhit ng Palad (1988), Matud Nila (1991), The Flor Contemplacion Story (1995), Bida si Mister, Bida si Misis (2002), Lapu-Lapu (2002), Kay Tagal Kang Hinintay (2002), and many more.
Glorias films made lasting memories. In the film Ifugao she played the role of an Ifugao maiden in love with the character played by Efren Reyes. She gave a very impressive performance and firmly established herself as a dependable dramatic actress. When Ifugao was entered at the Asian Film Festival in Indonesia, Gloria was nominated for Best Actress but lost by one point to Chinas Lin Dai.
After Ifugao, Gloria gave another great performance as the leading lady in the dramatic tearjerker May Bakas ang Lumipas, a movie based on a popular serialized radio show with Rogelio dela Rosa and Oscar Moreno as her leading men. At the FAMAS night, she was again nominated for the Best Actress Award but lost to Gloria Romero who won for her comedy acting in Dalagang Ilocana.
Her proudest moments came with her acting victories at the FAMAS. Her first was a Best Supporting Actress for her superb performance in Madugong Paghigiganti (1962), based on the Maliwalu massacre, a true story which happened in the town of Maliwalu, Pampanga. Wala akong dialogue doon kasi pipi ako, she says. I played the role of a rape victim who turned insane after being repeatedly raped by military men. Leopoldo Salcedo was my avenging brother.
With her husband Mat, Gloria produced and appeared in her next movie, Badlis sa Kinabuhi (1969). The movie was acclaimed to be the first Visayan film to be shown in the Tagalog region. When the FAMAS award was handed out that year, Gloria romped away with the Best Actress award, a kind of sweet vengeance for she vested the award away from her close rival, Gloria Romero, who was nominated for playing Imelda Marcos in the film Iginuhit ng Tadhana. Miss Romero, as mentioned earlier, won over Gloria years back for the same honor.
Badlis sa Kinabuhi was personally chosen by then First Lady Imelda Marcos as the Philippines lone entry to the Berlin Film Festival in 1970. Gloria became the most photographed star of the festival and her pictures appeared in the front pages of many publications in Berlin. She even had an audience with the mayor of Berlin and was even squired around town by international European actor Horts Bucholtz.
She was later on nominated as Best Actress at the Asian Film Festival held in Hongkong for her performance in the same movie. Sadly, she again lost by a slim margin to Chinas Lin Dai, the same actress who won over her a few years back.
To date, she counts as her most memorable triumph that day in 1973 when she and daughter, Nadia Veloso made history as the first real-life mother and daughter to win the FAMAS Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress for the movie Gimingaw Ako
Her Love life
In her first movie, Princess Tirana, she played opposite her real life crush, Mat Ranillo. She was ecstatic when she was told that her leading man will be Mat, as she was an avid fan of his. Soon, the two fell in love. Love na love ko si Matt. When we started shooting, ligaw-ligaw siya agad. Oo naman agad ako, she recalls. The couple soon got married and was blessed with 5 children. It was a dreadful day for Gloria when Mat died in a plane crash. Devastated with his untimely death, she was suddenly faced with the ordeal of raising a family on her own. She was also 8 months pregnant with her 5th child, Junie, who is now also in the movie industry. (I met Junie when I attended the launching of GMA Pinoy TV in San Francisco. Gwapo man gid si Junie, I said. Junie is a staff member of GMA 7. He was introduced to me by my friend, Joseph Francia, head of GMA 7s international division.
When Mat died, family friend Joseph Estrada was one of those who climbed the mountain in Antipolo to search for Mats body. In that moment of grief, the future president of the Philippines, gave Gloria and her six children (Lilibeth, Mat III, Suzette, Jonathan, Dandin and Junie) the much-needed support and a shoulder to cry on.
She continued with her movie career, soon branching into film production. She would later on find friendship and comfort with her kumpare, Amado Cortez. She graciously shared how their romance blossomed, Si Amado was my kumpare. Barkada yan ni Leroy Salvador, Mat, Joseph Estrada. I used to produce movies. Every time I need help, I would call Amado. Amado was always there to give a helping hand. Wala naman kaming ligawan. Then one time, after so many months, Amado said, I want to marry you. I love you, I love you. Later on pumayag na ako. I told him I would need time to think it over. She had since then not regretted making the decision of marrying Amado, who would later on become a Consul General at the Philippine Consulate in San Francisco.
She carried on her obligations as a wife of an Ambassador in San Francisco, with the same fervor and enthusiasm she had whole-heartedly showcased as an actress. She graced many functions for the Philippine community and became an icon in her own right, both as an actress and a politicians wife. Sadly, she will once again be faced with widowhood when Amado died in 2005.
Gloria frequently visits her daughter, Suzette, in Los Angeles, California. (Suzette, Junie, and Matt are my personal friends). She feels blessed to have reached her dreams, I am so grateful to God dahil lahat ng Pangarap ko, nakuha ko. Hindi man ako naging mayaman, naging artista naman ako. When asked what is the secret of her success, her response was – Prayers and hard work. When I want to get something I really work hard for it. Despite her showbiz success, Gloria considers her family as her greatest achievement. I have seven gifted children, and I married two lovely men, she says.
Her more recent filmography includes more recent films and teleseryes such as Kay Tagal Kang Hinintay as Doña Tilda Ventaspejo (2002), Bida si Mister, Bida si Misis as Tiya Ina (2002), Ganda ng Lola Ko as Lola Inday (2005), Captain Barbell as Lola Melay (2006), Fantastic Man as Lola Cedes (2007), Kamandag (2007), Joaquin Bordado (2008), Kapitan Boom as Lola Gretchen (2008) and Zorro as Nana Zita (2009). Glorias current project is GMA 7s Telebabad via the Philippine adaptation of the Mask of Zorro. Zorro series premiered on March 23, 2009 with Richard Gutierrez playing the lead role of the masked hero.
Having once been an Ambassadors wife, Gloria feels that the government can upgrade the state of the local film industry by limiting the importation of foreign movies and the Asian telenovelas. She decries that the foreign telenovelas are taking away jobs from local actors, directors and writers. She dreams of reviving the Visayan film industry and would want to help in making this dream a reality. I want to go back to my roots, and help revive the Visayan film industry, she says. Maraming mahuhusay sa Visayas actor man o singer. She sees efforts such as Cesar Montanos Panaghoy sa Suba as a positive initiative to revive the film industry of the Visayan cinema.
Entertainment writer, Gypsy Baldovino describes Gloria as very much like the modes swan Odile, who magically transforms herself to become the lovely Princess Odette in Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovskys Swan Lake. Her persistence to overcome hurdles in her acting and personal life gives inspiration to aspiring new actors. She has painstakingly yet successfully molded herself into becoming the respected actress that she is today.
Copyright © 2009 Dr. Romy Protacio. All rights reserved.