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Corazon Noble:Queen of Hearts

Angel Esmeralda and Corazon Noble

Corazon Noble with Angel Esmeralda

On November 12, 1945, in the powder-blue ballroom of the partly ruined Manila residence once occupied by a U.S. high commissioner, Major General R.B. Reynolds of the American Military Commission sat as the presiding judge to the trial of General Tomoyuki Yamashita — the so-called “Tiger of Malaya.”

The first witness was a pretty, 26-year-old Filipina. In her testimony, she recalled that on February of 1945, in what was infamously known as the “Manila Massacre”, she had taken refuge with her ten-month-old baby in a Red Cross Emergency Hospital. At the confines of the hospice, four Japanese sailors had trapped her. One raised his rifle, fired, and wounded her in the elbow. Then, they bayoneted her. “I was stabbed nine times,” she said.

“The baby was stabbed three times. When they were gone, I walked out the back door and gave her to my brother. I couldn’t stand it any more.” “What happened to your infant child?” asked one of the five U.S. generals in the commission. “She died,” was all she said.

Forty-two days later, on February 23, 1946 in Los Banos Prison Camp, Yamashita was hanged for his war crimes.

The valiant mother, who sought justice for the death of her child and some 50,000 Filipinos in the infamous 30-day battle for Manila, was Corazon Noble, pre-war movie queen. Corazon was Patrocinio Decano Abad in real life—wife to actor Angel Esmeralda, elder sister to former actress Carmencita Abad, and mother to the late actor and heartthrob Jay Ilagan. She was a native of Gapan, Nueva Ecija.

In her prime, she was considered the queen of tearjerkers, and rival to the throne of Carmen Rosales. In other words, Corazon and Carmen were the Nora Aunor and Vilma Santos of their generation. Some of her notable films were: “Dugong Hinugasan” (1938), “Gunita” (1940), “Anak ng Pari” and “Binatang Bukid.”

“From what I saw in clippings, she made movies with Rogelio dela Rosa and my dad, Angel (Esmeralda). But they were not really a loveteam. Marami siyang ka-partner”, said Corazon’s eldest son, Leslie Ilagan.

In 1946, Corazon made a movie comeback via “Maynila” for Sampaguita Pictures, featuring the young Tita Duran. It was followed by “Isumpa Mo Giliw” with husband Angel, “Magkaibang Lahi” (1947) and “Backpay” (1947) with Justina David. “Because of her arm injury, she discontinued her movie career,” added Leslie.

“Well, maybe she did one or two movies after the war. But after that, mother roles na lang.” In addition to the crushing emotional wound, the Red Cross incident inflicted a lasting physical injury to Corazon. “Natanggal yung kanyang right elbow, when it was hit by a bullet. My mom went through a series of nine operations to remold what was left of her right arm, and she had to learn how to write using her left hand,” he said.

Noon daw, nagpaiwan na siya sa mga uncles ko,” recalled Leslie about the fateful day. “So, tinakpan na lang daw siya ng mga yero. My mom had said that she even advised her brothers to just come back and check if she would still be alive. Kasi nga, baka bumalik pa ang mga Hapon at maabutan sila.

As fate had it, nung binalikan nila si Mommy, buhay pa.” “My mom was a very strong person,” Leslie said. “She buried two children— my sister Lourdes who was with her at the Red Cross building, and the baby of the family, Jay (Ilagan). She also lost a thriving movie career due to her injured arm. But she wasn’t at all bitter. In fact, she had said that she felt truly blessed by the Lord because siguro sa family niya— maayos naman, pati kaming mga anak.” During the early 50s, my dad went to Guam because he became an American citizen,” continued Leslie.

“So, when I was growing up, my dad was not here. But despite his absence, my mom would always advise Jay and me to love our father. “Mahalin n’yo Papa n’yo,’ she would remind us. ‘Mahal kayo ng papa n’yo.” Definitely not the type who would succumb to life’s pressures, Corazon would always reinvent success. “We got by quite comfortably because my mom was very enterprising,” he recalled.

“She was a great cook. At one point, we were catering to all the major film studios—from FPJ to Tagalog Ilang-Ilang to JBC.” Even as a child, Corazon had shown an independent streak.

.“According to stories, my lolo daw had a policy that each of his children was entitled to own just a pair of shoes every year. Tapos, during Christmas, saka sila bibili uli. But my mom, whenever she wanted a new pair of shoes would make little dolls or something. Kasi, she was very creative. And she would sell them in school in order to raise the money to buy shoes”, said Leslie. Truly, no problem was too heavy for Corazon.

“When Jay died, she was devastated. But she was able to bounce back because of her strong faith in God. I even left my children to her care when I went to the U.S. I came back to the country when I realized that it was pointless to work there when all my loved ones were here.”

Leslie’s decision proved providential. Corazon Noble died in 2001 at the age of 81, due to pneumonia and cardiac arrest. “I thanked God because I was given four years, na nagkasama pa kami ng mommy ko,” he mused. “I miss her,” sighed Leslie, Corazon’s only surviving child.

“When she was around, she would still cook for us, kahit matanda na. Gusto niya, siya ang nag-aasikaso. She was a hands-on mom.” Corazon Noble in Spanish means noble heart, and eldest son, Leslie said she was indeed of pure heart.

“My mom was a loving, caring person. Siya yung, isusubo na lang niya, ibibigay pa sa ibang tao. I miss everything about her”.

Corazon with daughter Lourdes

 

 

Corazon with infant daughter Lourdes.

(For comments, send e-mail to gypsybaldovino@yahoo.com)

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Jay ILagan:Everybody’s Darling Boy

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“Brutal”, “Sister Stella L”, “Soltero”, “Kisap-mata”, “Tatlo, Dalawa, Isa”, “Tubog sa Ginto”, “Minsa’y Isang Gamu-gamo” and “Aguila” are true gems of Philippine cinema. But aside from being great classics, they have another plus factor— they all starred a truly gifted actor named Jay Ilagan.

Jay was from the famed Ilagan clan of showbiz. His parents were the top stars Corazon Noble and Angel Esmeralda of circa 40s. Hermogenes Ilagan, the father of Philippine sarzuela was his grandfather while national artist Gerry de Leon was an uncle.

According to his elder brother Leslie, Jay practically invited himself to showbiz. “When my mom was shooting “Mga Tigreng Tagabukid” in Pandi, Bulacan, she used to take Jay and myself with her every weekend. One day, director Manding Garces needed a child in a scene. To everyone’s surprise, Jay volunteered. ‘Uncle Manding, ako na lang,’ he said. My mom was surprised but Uncle Manding wasn’t. He said to my mom: ’Kataka-taka ba ‘yan. Pareho kayong artista!”

Jay did the scene in one take. And soon, he was accepting other films roles. In his next film, “Walang Duwag na Lalaki” under Tagalog Ilang-Ilang Productions, he already had a billing. His first screen name was Boy Noble.

Fernando Poe Jr. saw Jay’s first film and was very impressed. “Naku, idol na idol ni Jay si Ronnie,” relates Leslie. Saka, tinuturuan siyang mag – swimming niyan eh. So, binata pa si Ron noon, may rapport na sila ni Jay.”

“When FPJ started producing movies, he got Jay as his sidekick. When he did “Batang Maynila”, he billed Jay as Jay Ilagan”, Leslie says.

He was an instant sensation. FPJ was everybody’s favorite and every young boy wanted to be Jay Ilagan because he was FPJ’s perennial sidekick in the movies.

“When Jay was a kid, biglang darating si FPJ sa bahay, nagkukuwentuhan sila. Soon, pati si Erap, si Jay na kinukuha basta may child role. Pati yung “Maruja”(1968) si Jay din yung batang Romeo (Vasquez), while Vilma (Santos) was the young Susan (Roces)”, he says.

Jay’s career never wavered until his teen years, when he reigned as one of the top three matinee idols, along with Tirso Cruz III and Edgar Mortiz.

But while his contemporaries banked on their musical and dancing skills, Jay concentrated on honing his craft, and appeared in worthwhile movies that helped define the golden age of cinema in the 70s and 80s.

Among Jay’s impressive body of works were: “Bad Bananas sa Puting Tabing” (1983), “Kakabakaba Ka Ba?” (1980), “Kasal?” (1980), ”Salawahan” (1979), “Fe, Esperanza, Caridad” (1975), “Ato ti Bondying” (1973), “Dodong Diamond” and “Santiago” (1970).

To Leslie, Jay’s best performance was showcased in Marilou Diaz Abaya’s “Brutal”(1980). “He was so convincing as the villain in that movie, and I know it was plain acting because his film character was his polar opposite in real life. He was also good in “Kisap-Mata”(1982), where he effectively employed under acting. He’s the type of actor, na hindi nakikipagsapawan. He loved to read and he did a lot of research in preparation for his roles.”

Jay was Corazon and Angel’s youngest child but he grew up with his mom and elder brother Leslie. His eldest sister Lourdes died when she was just ten months old while his dad, Angel was based in Guam. Despite the dad’s absence, Leslie claims, “Lumaki kami na parang buo ang pamilya because the Ilagan clan is really closed-knit”.

Despite the demands of showbiz, Jay was able to finish Advertising in Maryknoll College (Now Meriam). “He was among the first batch of male students accepted in Maryknoll when it turned co-ed,” adds Leslie.

Jay was a man of varied interests. “He didn’t know how to cook but he definitely loved to eat. He played basketball, did scuba. Mahilig siya sa outdoors, biking and motorcycling. He was close to Bobot (Edgar Mortiz), the Bad Bananas (Johnny Delgado, Christopher de Leon), barkada talaga ‘yan”, says Leslie.

“Jay was kind. Sa kanya, walang masamang tinapay. He’s exactly the same as my mom,” he continues. “He didn’t know how to say ‘no.’ Kakainin na lang, ibibigay pa sa ‘yo. He was super-generous, to a fault, and he wasn’t attached to material things.”

“When he died, there was a group of handicaps. They brought flowers to Jay at the funeral. ‘Hindi n’yo naitatanong, sumusuporta sa amin yan (Jay)’, they said. And no one knew it. We were raised that way. My mom used to say, ‘Never let your right hand, know what your left hand is doing”, he furthers.

“As a brother, I miss him,” admits Leslie. “When Jay was alive I wasn’t afraid of anything because I knew that Jay would take care of my family should something bad happen. I knew he would always be there for me.”

“He was emotional when it comes to love, but he would never show it”, he continues. “Marami siyang naging girlfriend but he wasn’t the type who would ‘kiss and tell’. He respected women. And he wanted to be the pursuer, not the pursued.”

“Pag sikat ang kapatid mo, lahat ng pinto nakabukas para sa ‘yo,” he philosophies. “When Jay died, I told his children not to take comfort, na dati bukas lahat ang pinto, dahil maraming pinto ang sasara”.

Jay was only 36 when he died in a motorcycle mishap in February 3, 1992. He was survived by brother Leslie and daughter Leona Paula (with erstwhile wife Hilda Koronel).

“People told me that FPJ cried when Jay died,” says Leslie. “He came to the wake at dawn. Nagalit pa nga yan, nung tumaba si Jay. Sabi n’ya kay Jay, ‘Paano ko magreretiro? Ayokong magretiro kung ‘di ko sa ‘yo ibibigay ang korona”.

“He died a rich man,” says Leslie. “He was comfortable as he wasn’t wanting of anything. He was simple. And as long as he had a good sound, good movies, okey na yun. And he knew na maraming nagmamahal sa kanya.”

(For comments, send e-mail to gypsybaldovino@yahoo.com)

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Eddie Peregrina and the memories of our dreams

 

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EVELYN was  32 years old, when she became a widow. With two daughters, Edlyn, 6, and two-year old Michelle, she had no choice but ‘to learn to live alone’, very much like the song specifically requested by her late husband for her to learn by heart.

“One day, he brought me this long playing album that carried the song “It Takes Too Long (To Learn To Live Alone). Nagandahan siya, and he said sana daw pag-aralan ko at kantahin. Little did I know that it would be the song of my life,” said former singer-actress Lyn Salazar, widow of the late ‘Jukebox  King’ Eddie Peregrina.

“I became so thin. Parang walang laman ang ulo ko,” was how she described

herself, months after Eddie died. “Ang bilis ng pangyayari. Eddie was healthy. Ni hindi

nagkakasakit. Tapos, sa isang iglap, wala na.”

Peregrina was only 32 when he died in Polymedic Hospital on April 30 1977. The popular singer sustained fatal concussions in his internal organs due to a car accident. He was on his way home from a two-day taping at ABS-CBN, when the car he was driving bumped into a doctor’s car along an underpass in Shaw Boulevard. “Daig pa raw sa sipa ng kabayo ang tumama sa sikmura n’ya“, said Lyn.

Eddie died exactly a month and a week later after the accident. “Lumalaban s’ya pero hindi na kaya ng katawan“, she said. “He had a major operation almost every week. Our friends said that had he lived, Eddie would have been reduced to a vegetable. He couldn’t even talk because his trachea was perforated. So, even singing would be out of the picture.”

edie et al

Peregrina’s losing his precious singing voice was truly ironic for an idol, who practically sang his way to success. As early as six years old, Peregrina had been winning in amateur singing contests like the DZXL’s “Tita Betty’s Children Show”.

The next twenty-six years of his life saw Eddie conquered other national singing contests like the “Tawag ng Tanghalan”, worked as a singer in Japan for five years with The Blinkers band, and became the first Jukebox King of his homeland.

During the early 60’s, a singer’s popularity was practically determined by the jukebox, a coin-operated machine that can play specially selected songs from self-contained media. It was a period when fans dropped twenty centavos in a jukebox to listen to Timi Yuro’s “Crazy” or Matt Monro’s “Walk Away” and “Before You Go”.

Of course, Eddie’s songs like “Together Again”, “Two Lovely Flowers”, “Mardy” and “I Do Love You” were considered as national love songs and outdid their foreign counterparts not only at the jukebox but also on the airwaves, in restaurants and well….. the local cabarets.

His real name was Eddie Villavicencio Peregrina. He was born and raised in Manila but his dad Octavio hailed from Pililia, Rizal and his mother Nena was from Cebu. Eddie studied Architecture at the University of Santo Tomas. He was a scorpio, borne on November 11, 1944.

“Ed was very kind, malambing pero seloso and quite possessive when it came to his family. Kaya noon, lagi akong naka- mumu dress kahit nasa bahay”, said Lyn. “When he was at home, he was the ideal father. Yung tipong nagbubuhat ng sako ng bigas. My in-laws said that even as a child, Eddie was inherently nice.

Amang- ama siya. He was strict to his daughters. Ayaw nang matigas ang ulo.

Eddie and Lyn shared a total of seven years as a couple before Eddie died. “As much as possible, gusto n’ya isa lang sa pamilya ang nasa showbiz”, she said.  “That’s the reason why I quit. He was sharing his all to the public but his family was entirely his.

I recalled that before he died, he promised that we would soon come out in public as a couple. Noon kasi, fans were different. Ayaw nila na may asawa ang idol nila. That’s why we kept our marriage a secret as much as possible. Nasasaktan ako, but coming from showbiz myself, I also understood the reality.”

Eddie was already famous before Nora Aunor became a superstar. In fact, there was this show on Channel 9 that billed him ahead of Nora, “The Eddie- Nora Show(1970)”.

He also did a number of films, like “Mardy” with Vilma Santos, “Memories of our Dreams” with showbiz loveteam Esperanza Fabon and wife, Lyn, “Batul of Mactan” (1974), “Your Love” (1970) and “Dito sa Aking Puso” with Nora (Aunor).

Napakahusay niyang makisama. He would travel the extra mile to defend his friends and fans,” said Lyn.  “There was this incident between the studio’s security and his fans and his driver. Talagang ipinaglaban n’ya ang fans. And they adored him for that. Many times, Eddie would be surprised to see his fans ahead of him on movie locations.  Kahit gaano kalayo, sinusundan s’ya.”

During his prime, Eddie, aside from his television show was doing one record album after another. Among his many popular songs were: “What Am I Living For?”, “Don’t Ever Leave Me”, “Puppy Love”, “The Voice of Love”, “Return to Me”, “In My Little Room”, “The Wonder of  You”, Mga Bakas ng Lumipas”, You Mean Everything to Me” and “Lonely Boy”.

He was a known balladeer and his songs reeked of emotion. But according to Lyn, Eddie was hardly a loner. “Palabiro nga ‘yan eh. Pero napakataas talaga ng boses”. She said that each time, Eddie would hit a very high note, he would tip one of his feet backwards for support in case he collapsed. “Nakakahilo daw kasi kapag masyadong mataas ang  kanta”, she added.

“We even recorded an album, “Our Wedding Song”. But personally, among his songs, my favorite is “Memories of Our Dreams”.  It echoed our love for each other.”

“Eddie wasn’t bound to material things”, she continued.  “He made a lot of money, pero nakakalat lang ang pera n’ya sa kotse. He was the top earner of Swan Records. He was also able to put up some business of his own, the Edviper Records and the Pervil Photo Studio.”

“He was a simple guy”, she described. “He wasn’t fond of jewelry, clothes and even perfume. Hindi siya maporma, although he had heaps of clothes, courtesy of Palaganas.  But he loved to read books. He also idolized (Ferdiannd) Marcos, ang talino daw. He read all his books.”

            While Lyn had many suitors, she decided not to remarry. She still lives in a house built by Eddie for their family, in Better Living, Bicutan.  Their two children, Edlyn and Michelle who grew up without knowing their dad eventually ended up following his footsteps. Edlyn, still single, had been in Saipan as a singer for many years now, while the younger Michelle, who is happily married, has her own band.

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Lilia Dizon-femme fatale of the 40s

In the taxonomy of flowers, pure-as-white lily symbolizes majesty. On the silver screen the splendor of lilia is captured by its namesake, the  femme fatale of the 50s, Ms. Lilia Dizon.

For two decades, Lilia’s on-screen characters sizzled as the anti-thesis of the  Maria Clara prototypes  that dominated the post-war movies. During her heydays, she was the Venus, the bathaluman, the engkantada, the sultry screen siren ala Rita Hayworth.

But unlike other alluring stars, this Lily was no dummy.  After all, fleur de Lilia  notched the record as the first Philippine actress ever to win an international award, as Asia’s Best Actress for the film “Kandilerong Pilak” in 1954.

The win came as a welcome respite from her six nominations (and losses) in the FAMAS.  Her triumph was particularly significant because that year, Lilia lost to Gloria Romero for her portrayal in “Dalagang Ilocana.”

The FAMAS trouncing however was very well compensated by Dizon’s unprecedented win in Cambodia, where she competed against 27 actresses from the Asian region.  “Prince Norodom Shihanouk even came here to personally hand me the Asia’s Best Actress award.  I’m proud of  the recognition, but it’s bittersweet,  because it took another country to recognize my acting ability,” reminisced Lilia.

She started her luminous showbiz career as Carol Strauss, a  singer in Lotus Theater.  Her first break in the film industry came in 1948 when writer–director Susana de Guzman,  tapped her to do “Probinsiyana.”  It was also  De Guzman,  who christened her Lilia, based on her name in her first movie, while the  surname  Dizon was culled from her mother’s last name. “In ‘Probinsiyana’,  I was one of the nemesis of  movie diva Carmen Rosales. I was nervous but I wasn’t totally lost because of my training on stage,” said Lilia.

At the age of 16, Carol, the singer  turned into Lilia, the film star.  At seventeen,   she married Gil de Leon, a five-star character actor, who was then 33.

One fateful day, film director Nemesio Caravana spotted Lilia furiously running across Avenida street to escape a strong rain.  And based on her natural  running  agility, the director sought her out to be his lead star  in  “Kaaway ng Babae”  under LVN Pictures.

Lilia was thrilled, but there was a problem—she had  a contract with Premiere Productions.  Together with husband Gil, Lilia talked to Premiere producer Dona Adela Santiago  to allow her do “Kaaway ng Babae” for LVN.  The couple’s case was founded on the studio’s inability to fulfill its part of the deal in Lilia’s contract—that she’d be provided  her own house.  The discussion turned sour, ending with Gil tearing Lilia’s contract to shreds, and in the process emancipating her.  The rest, as they say, is history.

“I stayed in LVN for a good eighteen years.  In a year’s time, I was able to build my own house  on  Boston Street,” said Lilia.

In  “Kaaway ng Babae,” Lilia tackled the dual role as the charming Lydia and the macho man Tenorio.  She was to disguise as a man in the company of his unknowing boss, a woman-hater played by Jose Padilla Jr.  There was this crucial scene,  where she had to run on track like other boys. So, ran she did, and transformed her status from a supporting  player into a  lead star.

Among her many films, Lilia considers “Kandilerong Pilak” as her most important.. And for obvious reason—it gave her  an international acting  award.  “I played the avenging daughter who witnessed the murder of her parents.  It  was  directed by Lamberto Avellana.”

Another film that left an indelible mark was “Sanda Wong.”  “In 1955, Premiere got me again to do this film, which was actually a collaboration between  Premiere  and a Hongkong film outfit.  It was directed by the master filmmaker, Gerry de Leon. It was even shown in Hongkong.”  The movie cemented Lilia’s reputation as the first Filipina actress to make it in the mainstream Asian market.

However, she regards “Bathaluman,” as her most memorable because it captured  her on-screen persona as the ultimate goddess of beauty.  “For the movie, Anastacio Caedo crafted a life-size statue of myself”, said Lilia.    “It was an exact replica. When  the film was finished, my producer Dona Sisang de Leon gave me the statue.  For a while, it served as the main attraction in  my  dress shop cum beauty parlor in Araneta, the  Bathaluman House of Beauty.  The statue was so beautiful that passersby actually stopped to admire it.”   Alas, the life-like statue was not meant to last.  It was smashed to pieces by  husband Gil, in one of their many spats.

Among her leading men, Lilia puts Leopoldo Salcedo on top of the list. “He’s a good actor, so versatile and a good coach.  In a way,  he was my mentor because he taught me a lot about  acting “,  said Lilia.

She also likes Jose (Pepe) Padilla Jr., whom she describes as a most natural actor. “No over-acting for him.  Natural lang”.

And of course, there’s Rogelio dela Rosa, her leading man in “Haring Kobra.”  Lilia said, “Rogelio is  Rogelio.  He’s different, very dignified. He really commanded respect. He was a senator and almost became a vice president”.

At the age of 36,  she left the movies.  It was also the time when she had a bitter separation from Gil. Her marriage with De Leon  produced three children: Christopher , Pinky and Lara Melissa.  Lilia went to her father Abe Strauss in the United States. While in the U.S.,  she married Antonio Abad and raised two more children: Toni and Connie Abad.
Lilia came back on  the silver screen in 1974 via the historic “Tinimbang ka Ngunit Kulang” directed by Lino Brocka. The movie marked the acting debut of a living legend, Lilia’s only son  Christopher de Leon.

Aside from having an impressive body of work and being a role-model for strong woman personages, Lilia’s showbiz legacy is fortified by her children, four of five are in showbusiness: Christopher, Pinky de Leon, Lara Melissa de Leon and Toni Abad, who is a singer.

Two years ago, GMA 7 summoned her from the U.S, where she is based, to play an important role in the telenovela, “Narito ang Puso Ko.”  “But that’s all.   I am now retired. I might have problems in memorizing my lines.  Ayokong magkalat,” quipped Lilia.

Why indeed should a queen settle for an exit that’s less grand?   Lilia Dizon did not wither before the public eye because she had chosen to fade, just at the right time, as a beautiful flower should.  After all, Lilia is also a flower. (For comments, send e-mail to gypsybaldovino@yahoo.com)