Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Mila del Sol

MILA DEL SOL is the mother of Jean Young. Here is an article about her written by Bayani San Diego in 2008.

Bayani San Diego Jr.

Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines - Never dare ask a lady her age. But if the woman in question is 1940s movie queen Mila del Sol, expect the unexpected.

"I'm 45," she says in jest. "But sometimes I'm tempted to say my real age … 46!"

That's Mila's quick retort after being accosted by eager fans at a recent screening of the films of LVN colleague Rosa Rosal at the IndieSine of Robinsons Galleria.

Mila is back in Manila after two decades in the US and, she says, she is raring to act in movies and television again.

Her last film was 1989's "Kahit Wala Ka Na," where she played mom to Sharon Cuneta. Prior to that, she shared the screen with Vilma Santos and Fernando Poe Jr. in 1974's "Batya't Palo-Palo."

"I got to work with big shots," notes Mila, or Clarita Rivera in real life, who made movies as a teenager in 1938 with FPJ's father, Fernando Poe Sr.

"I was cast as Fernando's younger sister in 'Hatol ng Mataas na Langit' and 'Ang Maya.' I played support to him and soprano Consuelo Salazar."

A year later, kid sister was promoted to leading-lady status, but not before going through the proverbial wringer.

"Giliw Ko," LVN's maiden offering in 1939, was the film that almost got away from Mila.

Carmen Rosales tried out for the lead role of Guia, but was promptly rejected by LVN matriarch Doña Sisang de Leon.

"Doña Sisang thought Carmen's nose was flat," Mila recalls. "Later, they asked Corazon Noble, but Sampaguita didn't allow her to work with LVN."

Originally, Doña Sisang had her heart set on Mila's older sister Gloria Imperial, a major dramatic actress then.

"But her fiancé, Alfredo Bunye, asked her to quit the movies," Mila relates. "My sister Gloria later married Alfredo and one of their sons is Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye."

All-around assistant

Mila recounts that her first show biz role was as Gloria's chaperone and all-around assistant. "I carried her clothes and makeup kit to the set. Chimay na chimay ako. (I was her maid.) I wanted to be in the movies that badly."

Propitiously, it was while accompanying her sister to a race in San Lazaro that she was spotted by Doña Sisang's daughter Bading.

"Bading told her mother that Gloria had a younger sister, but that she was plump, a tomboy," Mila reminisces.

When Doña Sisang met Mila, the pioneering producer was smitten. The old lady fought for Mila to be cast in "Giliw Ko," though the director, Carlos Vander Tolosa, hated the neophyte.

"He was skeptical about my abilities," she remembers. "Even if the scene didn't call for it, he ordered me to keep running in front of the camera. He wanted me to get tired and give up."

That merely strengthened her resolve. Eventually, she won over Tolosa who christened her Mila del Sol. "He realized that, wherever we went, even if the sky was overcast, the sun would inexplicably shine when it was time to shoot my scenes. She called me the 'miracle of the sun.'"

Looking back, she feels she was fated to co-star with Fernando Poe Sr., Mona Lisa and Ely Ramos in "Giliw Ko."

"I started with LVN, and LVN started with me," she notes. "We made each other stars."

Doña Sisang helped build Mila's first home in Sta. Mesa Heights. "From P500 per picture, I later earned P25,000 per film. Rogelio de la Rosa and I were among the highest paid stars at the time."

To think she had very modest dreams when she first joined the biz. "I prayed that I'd become a movie star so I could buy my mom a pair of slippers. We were poor. Although my seven siblings and I had slippers, our mom didn't. She sacrificed a lot for the family."

Malacañang guest

From their impoverished neighborhood in Karapatan (near San Lazaro), Manila, she and her family suddenly found themselves in Malacañang one day.

During the premiere of "Giliw Ko" at the Metropolitan Theater, her constant running onscreen impressed the president, Manuel L. Quezon.

Mila recounts: "He stood up and applauded, shouting: 'Donde este Guia?' [Where is Guia?] My character's name was Guia."

The spotlight searched for Mila who was in the bleachers. "I wasn't seated with the stars because I wasn't popular!"

President Quezon insisted on meeting the newcomer. "He invited me and my family to have breakfast at the Palace the next day."

Before and after World War II, she averaged five to six movies a year.

She had the most famous actors of the era—Rogelio and Jaime de la Rosa, Leopoldo Salcedo and Jose Padilla Jr.—for leading men.

"Rogelio was serious, the statesman; Jaime liked to joke around. Pol [Salcedo] was always busy, hopping from one set to another. Pempe [Padilla] was pilyo [naughty]. Which I loved because I was also pilya."

She was known as the original "Sarong Girl" of Philippine movies, local counterpart of Hollywood's Dorothy L'amour, because she literally made a splash in a wet sarong, in the 1947 film "Sarong Banggi," which co-starred Rogelio de la Rosa and comedienne Lopita. (A clip of her "daring" sarong swimming scene is on YouTube.)

Even though she was already married to Jesus "Sonny" Tambunting, she continued to top-bill one box-office hit after another. "I already had two children (Sonny and Ellen) then. I must've made 50 movies with LVN," she notes.

Hollywood roles

In 1957, she also acted in a Hollywood film, "Escapade in Japan," which co-starred Teresa Wright, Jon Provost and a then-unknown Clint Eastwood.

"I also worked with Clint on the TV shows 'Raw Hide' and 'Silent Service,'" she relates. "I ended up in Hollywood because I was a foreign correspondent for Kislap-Graphic magazine."

By then, she was separated from Jesus and married to diplomat Al Young, who became the father of her two other daughters, singer-TV host Jeanne Young and Peachy Young, mother of musician Ira Cruz.

While in the US with Al, and Peachy was already three years old, she went back to Hollywood High, where she earned her high school diploma in 1961.

In the US, she took a business course at the City College of Los Angeles. Back in Manila, she enrolled in special courses at the Ateneo with her grown son, Ancel Edgar.

In 1965, Mila, son Sonny and daughter-in-law Terry Tambunting started Superior janitorial service, "on a wing and a prayer." The company has been in business for 45 years.

For 10 years, she shied away from the limelight and took care of ailing daughter Peachy.

After Peachy's passing a year ago, Mila decided it was time to come home.

She could've settled for quiet retirement in San Francisco, but duty beckoned once again.

Son Sonny and grandson Gus Tambunting, current vice mayor of Parañaque, made Mila an offer she couldn't resist.

"They asked me to chair the company's foundation, Pag-Asa ng Kabataan, designed to provide college scholarships to the indigent," she says. She believes it's the most enduring legacy she can leave to her 15 grandchildren and 26 great grandchildren.

The foundation and her pilgrimage to different local churches keep Mila busy these days.

"If I get TV and movie assignments, I'm pledging my talent fee to the foundation," she says.

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