Interview by Rachel C. Barawid and Jaser A. Marasigan
Photos by Ivy Baraquia and Jozel Esguerra
Manila Bulletin, May 13, 2012
* * * * * *
MOVIE QUEEN MUM
EXHAUSTED after arriving from a late-night taping of
her soap "Walang Hanggan, veteran actress Susan Roces could have easily
rushed to finish our afternoon interview and returned to bed to catch up on her
gracious host, who even had a sumptuous adobo and spaghetti lunch prepared for
us at her Greenhills abode, gamely answered all our questions and happily
shared precious stories of life, career, family and even her recipes for this
Mother's Day interview which extended way beyond 60 minutes.
may know Susan, who is Jesusa Purificacion Sonora in real life, as the Queen of
Philippine Movies. Loyal followers may
even remember her as that gorgeous lass from Iloilo, the movie fan who became a
movie star herself and went on to become the wife of the King of Philippine
Movies Fernando Poe, Jr.
much is known about her as a mother to Movie and Television Review Classification Board chairperson Mary Grace
Poe-Llamanzares and a doting grandma to three grandchildren.
daughter, Mary Grace said her parents gave her all the confidence necessary and
treated her like their own. An excellent
listener, Susan would always be too happy to hear stories from her daughter. The eager mom also made sure to support her in
all her endeavors.
As "Mama Susan" to her apos, she
didn't like being called a lola and would rather have her grandchildren
treat her as a friend and confidante. As
such, she wouldn't bore them with stories of the past and give unsolicited
advices. Instead, she would patiently wait for them to ask.
disclosed that she is neither a spoiler nor a "ceremonial lola"
who would require Sunday lunches and dinners with her children. "I do not require Sunday lunch or dinner
every week. My grandchildren have their
paternal grandparents (too)! They are
professionals who have just Sunday off. Ako, flexible ang profession ko.Mas marami akong oras naavailable. I would rather have them around when they want
to, not because I'm their grandmother but because I want them to be my friends.
(pag)grandmother, parang sapilitan o
obligasyon," reveals the 70-year-old actress.
She may not
love to cook and be in the kitchen like some typical mothers but Susan knew
very well her role, and performed well the responsibilities that go with it. What is most admirable about her is that point
in her life when she gladly gave up her successful career to become a full-time
housewife and mother to her husband and daughter.
"Mahirap ang role ng housewife. It's a profession
that does not pay. Walang suweldo pero ang daming trabaho! Dapat mayrights (rin) ang mga nanay. Tapos
pag nagkamali pa ang anak, sinisisi pa yung nanay." observes Susan.
But instead of boasting her achievements as a mom,
Susan chooses to recognize other mothers, especially her daughter and her own
mother's efforts and excellence in raising their children. She particularly takes pride in how Mary Grace
is able to excel at being a good mother, wife and career woman. On the other
hand, Susan says she got her strength from her mother who was a good homemaker
and yet, proved to be ahead of her time.
Susan is not just reinventing herself as an actress with the revival of her career, but is also becoming more relevant to the youth. When not mentoring her fellow young actors, she meets up with her fans who've immortalized herheydays by putting up the Susan Roces Facebook fan
page and several blogs and websites.
rare interview with the movie queen, we learn not just the secrets to longevity
in showbiz or the recipes of a good, sumptuous kare-kare and adobo, but also
why she is continuously loved and adored by her children, grandchildren,
relatives, friends and the fans that have remained true and loyal to this day. (Rachel S. Barawid)
STUDENTS AND CAMPUSES BULLETIN (SCB):We
were surprised to find a Susan Roces fan page on Facebook!It seems you have young fans too?
(SR):Yes. I've met some of them.They have included me in the internet.They featured my old movies, clips of some
interviews, pictures from pictorials during my early days in the movies.What interested them they said, are the
movies that we did before.They also are
affected by the love stories. Well, love knows no age (laughs).It's the same in every generation.
SCB:So you do use the Internet?
SR:My nephews and nieces have introduced me to
the internet and some gadgets.Now I can
link up with them better.I still miss
the old sentimental ways of receiving love letters.I have kept all my love letters, cards that
have been sent to me by friends and suitors.
What's nice about the present is that you
get things done faster, as though everything is urgent.However, the romance is gone (laughs).
The handwriting of the person who's
sending the letter, and the words in it come from the heart.
you surprised that you have these younger fans? It probably helped that you're
in a soap opposite these younger actors.
myself in the internet was a pleasant surprise.At first I couldn't understand why I was there.I said, did any member of my family put me in
there?Then I found out it was a fan who
has been following my career.And there
are younger members of the Susan Roces internet...
SR:I don't know what to call it (laughs).Sometimes they link me up with my other
SCB:How about Twitter?
SR:No I'm too
busy for that.I'm not too happy about
what I'm hearing about via Twitter.Sometimes it feels like you're writing on a page, a diary.It's just between you and the paper you're
writing on.However, this is
different.A lot of people get to read
your sentiments, about your thoughts, and everybody differs in opinion and
So it's more
likely that others who have the luxury of time would just dwell on that subject
and then there will be a fierce exchange of words.You have to be careful with what you tweet
about.On the other hand, there are very
innocent messages there that other people misinterpret.
you miss those days, nung mas simple po ang buhay, no cellphones?
many things I cherish about the past, however, we don't live in the past. I
appreciate what's happening now. This is the world we live in.
SCB:Do you tell
that to your apos? That during your time it was like this...
SR:I made it a
practice just to wait until they ask.Because I remember as a young person, I always heard the phrase "Noong
panahon namin." That's how my relationship is with the younger members of
my family, especially my grandchildren.
I'm not the type
of lola who you would call lola. They call me Mama Susan. When the
grandchildren started coming, Ronnie didn't want to be called lolo. So bakit
naman ako magpapatawag na lola (laughs).
DETOUR FROM TEACHING TO ACTING
SCB:How did you
get into acting in the first place?
SR:When I was a high school student in La
Consolacion College, they first introduced acting as a subject, Speech and
Drama.I participated in many stage plays.Most of the parts that I played were male
because it was an exclusive girls' school and I was quite tall for my age.
Eventually, my teacher said why don t you
take up Speech and Drama and teach in this school because there was a need for
it.And so, when I came to Manila, I
wanted to take up that college course and be a teacher.It was the summer of 1956 and Sampaguita
opened its doors to the fans.And I was
a fan of Gloria Romero.I also loved
Nida Blanca movies.I was not for the
love team, it was strictly for Gloria and Nida.I was at the Sampaguita studio and I was admiring the actors and
actresses whom I asked autographs from.And unknown to me, Dr. Jose Perez, the producer was also searching for
new faces. That's how it started.
it was destiny.
was your first job?
SR:During that time they were in search of a new
face for the role of "Boksingera ", penned by Mars Ravelo.They already negotiated for the story but
Alicia Vergel, the actress for whom the role was intended, left the Sampaguita
Studios, so they were left with a project without a star.So they thought of searching for a new face
to portray that role — and I landed the role. However when they previewed the
finished product, they realized I wasn't credible for the role because it
needed a tough lady, a serious action actress.So they made it "Boksingera Daw."They shelved it.It took several projects before I was
accepted by the audience.
plan really was to graduate and teach?Did you ask permission first from your parents?
SR:Of course. My mom had dreams of being an
actress when she was young. My dad, a doctor, was in the States.When he found out, he didn't get mad.He appreciated movie actors, he was a lover
of beautiful pictures.That's howhe met my mom.He was having his graduation photo taken at a
studio and he saw a picture of a young lady in costume displayed there.Sino yan? The studio photographer said
the name.Someday I hope to meet her, he
ever done or played serious villain role?
for me to portray that in "Babaeng Hampaslupa."Later on, sabI ko,why isn't she as bad
anymore.Sabi nila, nagrereklamo ang
ad placements, ayaw nilang salbahe ka.I still look forward to a character like that.One that is for real.Wala naman talagang sobrang sama or bait.
SCB:Have you done your dream role yet?
SR:It's happening now.There are roles that I wish I could have done
when I was younger and lighter in weight (laughs).
SR:Oo (laughs).But it can never happen (laughs).Hindi nila ma-imagine!
it in acting that you love so much?
SR:As a person, I've always been curious how
each and everyone feels, more than what they're wearing. Curious ako palagi
kiniss siya, anong nararamdaman niya? Sinampal siya, iiyak ba 'yan?As a kid, I would tag along with my dad to
the hospital.He was a doctor in Lepanto
Mines.I could see in the emergency ward
that he had to attend to everybody.Sa
mina, kung ano-anong aksidente ang meron.Siguro doon nag-umpisa ‘yun.
was your childhood dream?
SR:I wanted to
be a flight stewardess, ang gandang tignan, naka-uniform at may
bitbit na attache case, may sombrero, nagbibyahe sila, they see the
world and they get paid doing it.I also
wished to be a doctor because of my dad.A ballerina too,because when I was five years old, from the windows of our house in
Iloilo, I would see pretty young girls wearing tutus and toe shoes.I wished I could take up ballet too.But we could not afford it.
THE SECRET OF SUCCESS
SCB:Did you have to work to support the
us.And I believe that's the reason for
our success.The secret of success is
when your intention is not for yourself, but for others.Gusto kong magtrabaho,gusto kong mag-artista at makaipon ng pera
para mapatayo ko ng bahay ang nanay at tatay ko, mga kapatid ko.
sa amin ganun.Magbigay kayo ng mga
pangalan ng artista. Malalaman ninyo.Nora Aunor is one of them.Gloria
Romero also.Not that we have or we were
forced to work for our family, maybe it's God's way of answering everyone's
prayer. Maybe our parents were praying
hard too na sana naman maging maayos ang buhay namin, na we can provide better
for our family.My father was working as
a doctor, although he was working abroad.My mom was busy looking after all of us.Lima kaming magkakapatid, I was second in the family.When I joined the movies I was 14.
SCB:Did you have a happy childhood?
yes. We lived most of the time in the hacienda. Food was plenty, I also
experienced going to school in the Mountain Province. I lived in many places and studied in many
schools.We've been moving from one
house to another.It's a constant
change.My parents were a young couple
searching for where they should establish themselves.
war, my dad had to join the USAFFE, the one taking care of the medical needs of
the soldiers.He saw to it that we were
secure in his hometown in Negros.
SCB:Did you ever get to build that dream house
for your family?
SR:Yes.Sa Wilson St.Maliit lang.In 1960, we started building our house. My
parents saw to it my income was invested in land, in real estate.I wish to share this with the youth.Salary wasn't really big but it was good.And value of money was good.My parents saw to it that I purchase my first
property on installment.Maski ano,
basta kayang tapusin ang bayad, hulog-hulogan.My mother was very good in budgeting.She said, everybody must cooperate, don't look for anything that's not
within the budget para matapos nating hulugan itong lupa.
plenty, food was good, but simple. Wala 'yung mga hindi kailangan na mga
outing or party.
started in showbiz at 14, you didn't feel that you missed out on your
SR:I was very
fortunate in my generation because there were only four major studios.In the Sampaguita lot, we enjoyed our teenage
days.We had picnics. We interacted with
our friends outside and within the movies.But we were not allowed to interact with other actors from other
studios.Bawal din ang ligawan.
also to have parents, especially my mom, who was broadminded. She allowed us to
accept visitors in our house.Nakatapos
ka na ng high school, nagtatrabaho ka na, may nanliligaw sa'yo, sabi
niya, ayoko ng makikitagpo ka kung saan-saan.Bukas ang bahay natin.Dito sila pumunta.
keeps you going? It seems you still have the energy to do soaps, etc..
SR:I'm going to a different phase of my
career.In the past, focus was really
more on glamour, looks, stardom, popularity, romance, to link you up with this
love team, who is better than who.I was
assigned to do more of the goody-goody-goody thing, over sugar-coated stuff
(laughs).It’s the fantasy stuff,
rags-to-riches, everything positive.There was no negative role for me.
So now, this is what excites me.As they say in our showbiz lingo, mga totoong
tao.Nobody has a monopoly of being bad
or being good, mixed.Now also, we can
be heard.Before, being under contract,
it’s dictated upon by the producers, do this, do that, no questions asked.Ngayon iba na, puwede mo nang sabihin.
SCB:Si FPJ po ba artista na rin during that
hindi pa kami magkakilala.Magkaibang studio
kami.We only got to see each other and
became aware of each other because of the activities in the movies that we both
had to attend, like FAMAS Night, 'yung ganyan.
there instant attraction?
SR:Our first meeting was during the birthday of
Romeo Vasquez.I made my first movie
outside of Sampaguita, "Daigdig ko'y Ikaw" in his production.They offered for me to team up with him.Ganun lang, artista lang.
boyfriend po ba kayo at that time?
SR:Ah marami akong naging boyfriend (laughs).One thing I can share with the youth is that
love is a wonderful feeling. But you must take care not to mistake it as
something very permanent when you're young.
So your attraction for the opposite sex
varies, man or woman, differently according to your age.Sa pagiging totoong tao lang, sometimes its physical attraction, or
infatuation.Iba-ibang feeling, iba't
ibang age, akala mo in love na in love ka na only to realize, hindi
pala.When you reach a certain age and
you look back at the photos and you say "Ha, na-inlove ako diyan!? Yuck!"
po ba nagpunta ng bahay niyo para manligaw?
SR:Ah yes, kinailangan.Hindi puwedeng hindi (laughs).
long did it take you to say yes?
mga three years.
years before we got married.But we got
to like each other when we're working.Love hate, love hate because he didn't put his best foot forward. It was
that way for us.
fortunate we are from the same profession so we understand our
professions.We were not just husband
and wife, we were partners in our careers.So it was easy for us to understand late night taping or shooting.But because I already achieved what I wanted
in my career, I was 27 when we got married, my career became a second
choice.My main goal was to be a good
wife, a good mother.I could only do
that if I set aside my movie career. However, I realized although it was not
asked of me, I volunteered to do it.It was
not good because an idle wife is a jealous wife (laughs).
interviewed your daughter Grace, she told us that when FPJ was still alive,
maraming pumupunta sa bahay niyo, humihingi ng financial na tulong, etc.Ngayon po ba, ipinapagpatuloy niyo pa rin
'yung mga advocacies niya tulad nun?
SR:You see, Ronnie and I had experienced how it
was to be in need, how it was to be on the receiving end.So it's our way of reciprocating with people
who had been kind enough during our times of need, when we were young and
helpless.Life is like that.Prayers are answered through other people.
you instill that value of working with other people in your children and
nila by example.Tapos natutuwa din sila
kasi nakikita nila.
you miss most about your husband?
things.They ask me how come you still
live in the same house and you haven't rearranged anything inside your
room?Because I still feel him
around.He built this house and we made
it a home together, from the time we married.So I cannot imagine living anywhere else.
I miss a
lot of things.Being able to share
important moments.Doing things that I
got so used to doing with him, like having coffee in the morning; discussing
matters while having coffee; and making yabang to each other about our
achievements. Kami lang naman ang puwede magyabangan eh. Siyempre sa
iba, hindi.It will really sound like mayabang.Otherwise kung kami lang, "uy ang galing
ko" (laughs).Going to the movies
together, having our meals.Simple fun,
just lazing around.It was a luxury for
us already that we're able to just be at home with the family.We had lots of laughter.Well, of course, what every wife misses is
when you wake up in the morning, there's this face in front of you.Marami, marami.But like my mom, I'd cry some and laugh it (laughs).
very thoughtful.As far as I can
remember, there was never a Valentine that he missed, sending me flowers. Like
Daniel in "Walang Hanggan," he made his presence felt.There was a time he made a heart with crepe
paper.Kawayan na pinagawa dun sa art
department, tapos dinikitan ng craft paper na Happy Valentines.Dahil 'yung shooting namin, somewhere where
he couldn't buy a card (laughs).Mga
you ever thought of building a museum for FPJ’s works?
SR:FPJ's memorabilia are all in the FPJ
studios.My personal museum is the
living museum.It's a resthouse in
Batangas, that's where I plant fruit trees.It's not a very large property.It houses all my memorabilia and personal souvenirs since I was a kid.
MOTHERHOOD SHOULD BE A PROFESSION
SCB:What kind of a mother are you?
SR:It's a very
difficult role to be a mother. Iba-ibang personalities ang hinahandle mo,
lalo na kung marami kang anak.There are
many mothers I admire so much.Among
them is Mrs. Aquino (Corazon), Elizabeth Webb, what she had to go through and
her dedication to her son and the rest of the family. The Virgin Mary.
SCB:Are you a spoiler grandma?
mga pangyayari at sitwasyon. 'Pag tinanggihan na ng magulang nila, huwag na
silang lumapit sa akin.Sasabihin ko sa
kanila, "can't do anything." Pero 'pag inuna nila ako, maybe I can
spoil.Ganun ang usapan namin.Kasi baka sabihin mas bida ka kesa dun sa
parents.Pero ang sabi ko naman, I'm not
a ceremonial lola.I do not require
Sunday lunch or dinner every week.
What I want
is quality time, that they want to see me, they want to be with me, not because
I'm their grandmother but because I want them to be my friends.I want them to be able to tell me what's
happening to them.Ayoko ring magsabi na
bawal o anong itong naririnig ko na may nanliligaw sa iyo (laughs).Eh napagdaanan ko rin yan.
SCB:What can you say about Grace's work at the
glad to hear positive comments about her.Natutuwa naman ako pero siyempre sabi ko sa kanya mahirap na trabaho, you're
always under scrutiny.Mabuti naman at
diyan ka naassign sa movies. Kasi part of her growth was also influenced
by the movies.
SCB:What are the qualities that you got from
SR:She was the
best mom in the world.She was more of a
friend, she was ahead of her time.What
was important for her was hindi kami tatanga tanga, alam namin kung ano 'yung
papasukin namin.Whatever strength I
have, I got from my mom.She was a very
practical person.She'd cry some and
then laugh it off.
My mom was
a diabetic.So she had also
glaucoma.One eye had to be removed to
save the other.So she was wearing a
false eye.One time, when she was
sewing, it dropped.Siyempre, 'yung
pangyayaring 'yun saddened her. She picked it up and cried.She went to the bathroom and cleaned it, then
put it back.And then she laughed.Sige pag salbahe kayo, aalisin ko ito
(laughs). She was a character!
SCB:And the best lessons you learned from her?
SR:She told us,
experiments are to be done here at home, not outside.You want to know how liquor tastes?Sige mag-inuman tayo (laughs).
When we go
to a party, she'd tell us, "Oh kids, handa na 'yung pagkain, kumain na
kayo.""Eh di ba party
'yung pupuntahan?" "Ayokong pagdating niyo sa party,
para kayong gutom na gutom.So
kumain na kayo.At maghintay kayong
alukin kayo pagdating niyo doon.Hindi
'yung dahil gutom na gutom kayo, after saying hello, diretso na kayo sa
She also told me
when I wanted to help her in the kitchen."Mag-aral ka para makapagtrabaho ka para mayroon kang
pangsuweldo sa cook at sa pambili ng iluluto (laughs).So when I got married, she told me, "O ipinagluluto
mo ba ang asawa mo?"Ma, mayroon
akong cook!""Iba naman
siyempre pagikaw ang nagluluto.”"Ma di ba sabi mo!" (laughs).
are you most proud about Grace?
is a good mother, more than anything, and a good wife to her husband. She is also
being kind to herself and being able to practice a profession.Mahirap kasi lalo na itong modern age,
masyado kang magiging dull kung housewife ka. Pero
mahirap ang role ng housewife. Dapat may suweldo!
SCB:It is a career!
isang subject for Mother's Day.When
you fill a form that says profession, in lieu of a career, you put
housewife.But it's a profession that
does not pay.Dapat may rights ang
mga nanay.Masyadong abused.Tapos pag nagkamali pa ang anak, dahil
'yung nanay ko ganito, ganyan!Sinisisi
pa yung nanay.Naalala lang sila pag
matanda na sila at kapag Mother's Day.