A fan became an award-winning film producer because of her. Fellow actresses are vocal in saying that she’s a true role model. The producer of her home studio (Sampaguita Pictures) proclaims she is a true gem.
She is the glorious Gloria Romero—-the movie queen of the 50s, who, amazingly, is still on top of her craft even today.
“She’s a role model to her fellow artists,” says respected actress Gloria Sevilla. “As a person and as an actress, I admire Gloria because she’s very sweet, napakabait, walang-bahid.”
Violett Sevilla of Violett Films also admitted that she joined the movie-making business because of Gloria Romero. “I used to go to Sampaguita just to catch a glimpse of Gloria,” she said in an interview. And true enough, her films as producer, “Cass & Cary” and “Magnifico” starred Gloria.
Sampaguita Pictures matriarch Mama Nene Vera Perez, recalls, “The first time I laid my eyes on Gloria, I already felt that she’s special. Magaan agad ang loob ko. She was only sixteen, when her uncle accompanied her to the studio. Pangarap daw talaga niyang mag-artista.”
Gloria’s contemporaries and even potential successors have come and gone, but her illustrious career continues to shine. So, let’s ask the divine Ms. Glo on her insight as a movie queen in her 54-year showbiz career.
She smiles at the compliment, and says, ”Let’s just say, that I was once a movie queen. Even a queen has to give up her crown to the next successor, ‘di ba? That’s me. A title is not really important. I never put it into my head. Even during the height of my career, I was just enjoying my life. Hindi ako masyadong conscious sa title.”
She truly isn’t mindful of many things, including her age. “I’m 72 years old.,” she admits, almost proudly. And, why not? After all, who, at her age could past muster as a model for the successful “Ganda ng Lola koh!” campaign by a beauty parlor chain?
Gloria in her heydays was the epitome of the ideal Filipina—dainty, demure and dignified. The angelic profile is in fact, one of Gloria’s strongest points. Mama Nene says, “She’s really beautiful. Parang santa.” “Mahinhin talaga,” adds veteran reporter Virgie Balatico.
“Kalog nga ako e,” says Ms. Romero. “Masayahin naman ako.“ But when probed, she says, ”Maybe I got that demeanor from my mother.” She also related that during her Sampaguita days, they were given rigid training, not only on poise, but in good manners as well. “Our bosses taught us how to face and interact with people, and the fans. Pati pagbibihis, trained kami.”
“Mama (Donya Dolores Vera) would advise them to come here (Sampaguita Pictures) every morning,” relates Mama Nene “They are made to walk, barefooted, with a book on their head. ‘Pag hindi nahulog ang aklat, it means, maganda ka maglakad.”
The young Gloria was also the movies’ biggest admirer, especially of Rogelio dela Rosa. And when a fan was to have his idol as her leading man, Gloria was transformed as a starry-eyed fan, once more.
Mama Nene says, “On their first day of shooting, Gloria couldn’t deliver her lines. She was really star-struck! Nakakatuwa. After several takes, she was okay, but not until she was motivated by Rogelio, who advised her to treat him not as an idol but as the character in the movie.”
She is Gloria Borrego Galla in real life—a pangalatok and American hybrid. She was born in Denver, Colorado on December 16, 1933. Her mom was Mary Borrego and her dad was Pedro Galla. “My father was from Pangasinan, from the small town of Mabini. Simple lang ang buhay doon pero mababait ang mga tao, “says Gloria.
She was the second in a brood of four, with her sister Louie as the eldest. Her brothers are the late Tito Galla, who also became an actor, and Gilbert, a doctor, who is now based in the United States.
Gloria initially honed her craft in romantic fluffs about ugly swans that turned into pretty princesses in movies like “Kurdapya,” “Miss Tilapia,” and “Cofradia.”
“She did not change at all, even when she became famous,” says Mama Nene. “She wasn’t late in any of our shootings, just like Rogelio (dela Rosa). One hour before the shoot, she was already on the set. And she came prepared, with all her dialogues memorized.”
She also recalls, that during the shoot of a big musical scene, Gloria accidentally stepped on her other toe. “Natuklap yung nails. Dumugo pa. My mom (Dolores Vera) decided to postpone the shooting because of that. But Gloria refused. She reasoned na kawawa daw yung mga ekstra at ibang artista, na maaabala. She was also worried about the additional cost in production if the shoot would be postponed. Instead, she asked for a tape to cover her damaged toenail. Tiniis niya ang sakit, and she finished the scene. She is truly remarkable.”
“At saka si Gloria, hindi humihingi ng pabor ‘yan. That’s why, one time, we decided to take her with us, for vacation in the United States. Ganoon namin kamahal si Gloria,” continues Mama Nene.
She also said that she considers herself as Gloria’s second mother. “I cannot forget that incident, when I saw her in the hospital, after an appendectomy. Earlier that day, her dad came to Sampaguita Studio to inform us that Gloria was rushed to the hospital. When I and the late Doc Perez came to visit her, she was still asleep. So, I kissed her on the forehead. She then opened her eyes, and when she saw me, she cried. Sabi niya, naalala daw niya ang kanyang ina. That if she were alive, she would also kiss her on the forehead. So, I told Gloria, I am now your surrogate mother. Alam mo, mula noon, parang anak ko na nga siya. Maaga kasi siyang naulila sa ina.”
Gloria had her share of suitors from showbiz, like Rudy Francisco (Fred Montilla’s brother), her perennial loveteam Luis Gonzales, and Tito Garcia, who was proclaimed Mr. Number 2 in a popularity contest. But Gloria decided to marry, Mr. Number One himself, Juancho Guttierez, her first and only boyfriend. Their union produced a daughter, Maritess Guttierez, who also graced the movie screen at one point. At present, Gloria is a doting lola to her only grandson Christopher, now an upcoming teenstar on ABS CBN.
Mama Nene says that Gloria had a persistent suitor from Pampanga. “Boto na sana ako doon. He was educated in the States, and from a good family. Guwapo din and very rich. At saka mahal siya. He fell in love with Glo the moment he saw her as a model in Ramon Valera’s fashion show. His sister came to me and narrated her brother’s story. So, ipinakilala ko naman. But while the sympathy, I think was mutual, Gloria refused the young man. Masyado raw mayaman yung lalaki at natatakot siyang hindi i-treat na mabuti ang kanyang pamilya. She is the type who would sacrifice her own happiness for her loved ones.”
Gloria’s works in a span of almost six decades, is a history in Filipiniana. Among the hundreds of films she has starred in, are: “Bahay ni Lola 2” (2005), “Singsing ni Lola” (2002); “Tanging Yaman” (2000), “Bilangin Mo Ang Bituin sa Langit” (1989), “Mirror, Mirror on the Wall” (1988), “Condemned” (1984), “Mother Dear” (1982), “Kasal?” (1980), “Daigdig ng Lagim” (1976), “Sakada” (1976), “Pinagbuklod ng Langit” (1969), “Kaibigan Kong Sto. Niño” (1967), “Alaala ng Lumipas” (1965), “Hamon sa Kampeon” (1965), “Iginuhit ng Tadhana” (1965), “Fighting Waray sa Ilocos” (1964), “Show of Shows” (1964), “Esperanza at Caridad” (1963), “Haliging Bato” (1963), “Tugtuging Bukid” (1962), “Apat na Yugto ng Buhay” (1961), “Lawiswis Kawayan” (1961), “Mga Kuwento ni Lola Basyang” (1958),”Mga Reyna ng Vicks” (1958), “Hongkong Holiday” (1957), “Sino ang Maysala?” (1957), “Pagdating ng Takipslim” (1956), “Bim, Bam, Bum” (1955), “Anak sa Panalangin” (1954), “Biyenang Hindi Tumatawa” (1954), “Pilya” (1954), “Apat na Taga” (1953), “Mister Kasintahan” (1953), “Recuerdo” (1953), “Madame X” (1952), “Palasig” (1952), “Siklab sa Batangas” (1952), and “Sana’y Laging Magkapiling,” among others.
In 1959, she also hosted a radio anthology, “Ang Inyong Lingkod: Gloria Romero.”
Gloria’s ability as an actress was first recognized by the FAMAS in 1954, where she won as Best Actress for “Dalagang Ilokana.” It was followed, thirty-three years later by a Best Supporting Actress win for “Saan Nagtatago ang Pag-ibig” (1987). The next year, she won again as Best Supporting Actress for “Nagbabagang Luha.” She also won two Best Comedy Actress awards for her work as the always-tipsy Tita Minerva of television’s “Palibhasa Lalake.”
In 2001, she got four Best Actress awards, from the Metro Manila Film Festival, Urian, the FAMAS and Film Academy, for her role as the lola suffering from Alzheimmer’s disease in “Tanging Yaman.“
In 2002, she was again proclaimed as Urian’s Best Supporting Actress for “I Think I’m in Love.” In 2004, she was recognized by Urian Awards as its Ulirang Artista awardee. The same night, she also earned Best Supporting actress trophy for “Magnifico,” And last year, along with Anita Linda and Mona Lisa, Gloria was honored by a feminist movement with the PAMA-AS Gintong Bai Award for her outstanding contributions to Philippine cinema.
Hope truly springs, even for a beleaguered movie industry, for as long as there are stars, like Ms. Gloria Romero—-a true showbiz evergreen. (For comments, send e-mail to email@example.com)