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Monday, July 28, 2008

Susan Roces, the Queen of Philippine Movies, shines in ‘Iisa Pa Lamang’

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Susan Roces, the Queen of Philippine Movies, shines in ‘Iisa Pa Lamang’

By Napoleon Quintos

ABS-CBN’s Iisa Pa Lamang is creating a lot of buzz with its stellar cast and a budget that can rival that of a major movie. The drama is top-billed by Claudine Barretto, Diether Ocampo, Angelica Panganiban, and returning dramatic actor Gabby Concepcion. But Iisa Pa Lamang has another ace up its sleeve in the form of the Queen of Philippine Movies herself, Susan Roces.

Susan, or Tita Swanee as she is fondly called, also makes her return to primetime TV drama playing Aura, the grandmother of Catherine played by Claudine. She paints a portrait of a grandmother who turned strict and overprotective because of bitter experiences brought about by poverty and oppression. In spite of being related to the Castillejos who own the vast hacienda, Aura was denied her rights at an early age and given only a small piece of land and a house for her family. She has no fear of the greedy and scheming Isadora (played by Cherry Pie Picache), but the latter proves to be a formidable foe who drives them out of their own home, forcing them to try to survive in the slums of the city.

For any movie fan who knows of Tita Swanee’s stature in Philippine showbiz, seeing her again onscreen working her magic is nothing short of awesome. Showbiz icon that she is, she doesn’t hesitate to get down and rough it up for whatever the script demands. She braved a chilling rain scene with Claudine and some hair-pulling and slapping scenes with Cherry Pie. She even dealt with the dust and smoke in the metro as a street sweeper. Her willingness to perform such scenes illustrates her dedication as an actress.

A tribute to the Queen’s craft

Tita Swanee has been more visible on TV of late, returning to the medium in the ABS-CBN sitcom John En Shirley with King of Comedy Dolphy and Diamond Star Maricel Soriano. She appeared in the mini-series Patayin Sa Sindak Si Barbara which was a TV adaptation of the ‘70s horror movie she starred in. The project was the initial offering for the Sineserye Presents: The Susan Roces Cinema Collection where three of her films were to be adapted for TV. In Patayin Sa Sindak Si Barbara, Susan played a mother grieving the suicide of her daughter whose spirit refuses to rest. She passed on her original Barbara role to Kris Aquino, the Box Office Queen of Horror with the blockbuster thrillers Feng Shui and Sukob under her belt.

Maligno was the next movie to be adapted with Susan’s Iisa Pa Lamang co-star Claudine taking over her original role. Maligno featured the story of a TV journalist who is forced to give birth to the child of the devil. This second installment of the special Sineserye presentation ran for four weeks, and like Patayin Sa Sindak Si Barbara, kept viewers at the edge of their seats with its showcase of suspense and fright.

The third and final chapter of Sineserye Presents: The Susan Roces Cinema Collection is set to premiere soon. Florinda will be top-billed by Diamond Star Maricel Soriano, will include Roxanne Guinoo, Cherry Pie Picache, and William Martinez in the cast. This concluding Sineserye promises more goose bumps and plot twists. Acting wise, Florinda also marks Maricel’s return as the pioneer primetime TV drama queen, a title she earned through her phenomenal Maricel Drama Special which aired on ABS-CBN during the ‘90s.

Carrying on FPJ’s legacy

The nation mourned with Susan when her husband, the legendary Fernando Poe, Jr., passed away in December of 2004. FPJ left a void in the industry that might forever remain empty, but his legacy goes on in the hearts of every movie fan. Last year, ABS-CBN produced Alay Ni Da King, a grand documentary about FPJ, both as a screen icon and a man behind the camera. Hosted by Charo Santos-Concio, Alay Ni Da King featured Vilma Santos, Maricel Soriano, Dolphy, Christopher De Leon, Boots Anson-Roa, Direk Eddie Romero, among others who talked about what made the National Artist bigger than the characters he portrayed on the screen.

Susan and the FPJ Productions also granted the ABS-CBN the exclusive rights to air all of FPJ’s movies. After the Alay Ni Da King documentary premiered, Da King on ABS-CBN started showing the films of FPJ every Saturday afternoon.

Through it all, Susan Roces remains a testament to the golden years of Philippine Cinema. Her work continues to inspire her co-workers and fans with her serene presence and effortless grace.

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