That was Susan Roces, whose passing is mourned by multigenerational fans, beginning with the teenagers in the late’50s who are today’s grandmothers and all the way to touching the core of millennials who followed her on FPJ’s Ang Probinsiyano.
The departure of Susan, born Jesusa Sonora, leaves the firmament with one less movie star to shine but, hey, look again, there’s one new star shining large and bright up there, tonight, with her name on it.
Susan, a contemporary of Amalia Fuentes and Nida Blanca, was a “graduate” of “Doc” Pinggot Perez’ Sampaguita Pictures, he who was the most prominent, celebrated starmaker of the ‘50s. Amalia was the gorgeous artista with a fiery temper to boot, Nida was the livewire that comedies were created for, but Susan was the wholesome one, she of the porcelain skin, sunshine smiles, the face of innocence.
Small wonder, that at age 17 she was chosen for a heavenly role. As her friend Danny Dolor recounts in his 3-kg book, Remember When (published last year), Susan played the Virgin Mary who appeared to Bernadette (portrayed by Barbara Perez) at Lourdes, France. The Lenten production of Dramatic Philippines was staged in 1958 at the old Opera House in Manila to celebrate the centennial anniversary of the apparition at Lourdes.
Speaking of Mr. Dolor, in the chapel that he built in the Villa Soledad named after his mother in Batangas City stands a holy water font sculpted from white marble, a gift from Susan. Danny calls it a chapel but it’s large enough to be a church.
Flashback to another time, another church. Susan and Fernando Poe Jr., “cinema’s royal couple,” were married at Santuario de San Jose in Greenhills, San Juan, on Christmas Day, 1968. The wedding, according to Danny’s book, happened nine days after the superstar couple eloped. For the complete details of the “dream wedding” as told by Susan’s friend, Baby K. Jimenez, turn to page 463 of the book (that only Hidilyn Diaz can lift with one hand).
The “sweet-faced” Susan was not only a well-loved actress, she was a model Filipina to her fans young and old. To the end, her wholesome image remained intact. It was not an act, it was for real.