By Hernan C. Robles
“Amy, Suzy and Tessie… Romeo, Juancho and JoseMari…” so goes the children’s chant as far as I remember. The most telling feature of that one-liner is the presence of the first two names: Amy for Amalia Fuentes and Suzy for Susan Roces, the first legitimate star rivalry in Philippine Movies.
The fan system was long ago established in the movie industry but it appeared dominant during the time of Susan and Amalia. The movies experienced a phenomenal peak in terms of box office sales attributed to the heated rivalry between Amalia and Susan.
Rivalry, a healthy one though, is a proven formula to attract interest. Take the case of the PBA, the golden era of Philippine basketball was at the time of the Crispa-Toyota rivalry. You cannot say the same today in spite of the fierce competition, more tall players and even the inclusion of Fil-Am players. Add to that the latest issue about the Fil-shams. But that’s another story.
The movie industry had its heyday in the time of Rogelio Dela Rosa and Carmen Rosales, the first legitimate love team that hit the pinnacle of success. And the success rubbed to other stars. Rogelio’s brother, Jaime Dela Rosa, soared to greater heights. And Rogelio’s popularity almost made him a Philippine president. Touted as the sure winner, many were disappointed when Rogelio pulled out of the presidential race in 1961 which Diosdado Macapagal eventually won.
Carmen Rosales reigned as the queen of Philippine movies for a long time with pretenders to the throne falling wayside one by one. But Carmen disappeared from the limelight when she got involved with a rich businessman. And as proof of her contented private life, Carmen did not attempt to stage a comeback. But if ever she did, she may not have been as successful as before because of the broken love team… unless there’s a rivalry to speak of.
The entry of Amalia Fuentes and Susan Roces revived the movie industry. The main factor is their rivalry. Compared to the love team of Carmen and Rogelio, the intensity of the Susan-Amalia rivalry was way above expectation. Fans club sprouted and success again rubbed its serendipitous skin. Rosemari and Tessie, sisters of Susan, became lead stars in no time at all. More stars surfaced due to the public’s vigorous interest in the movies. Romeo Vasquez, Eddie Gutierrez, JoseMari to name a few.
The Susan-Amalia tussle lasted for a good number of years until history caught with them. Amalia bore a daughter by Romeo Vasquez and Susan married action king Fernando Poe, Jr. The departure of the rivalry created a vacuum in the limelight. Not even the Rosemarie-Ricky Belmonte love team could sustain the popularity required by the movie industry.
Enter Nora Aunor and Vilma Santos. From the Tawag Ng Tanghalan, Nora’s legendary voice caught the imagination of the movie-going public. Vilma was a former child star looking for an identity. The two met in the arena of star rivalry, instantly sending them to greater heights. The fans got alive again and countless of fans club sprouted. What made it even better than the Susan-Amalia era was that the Nora-Vilma rivalry turned into a contest of love teams. Vilma was paired with Edgar Mortiz, a talented singer. Nora had Tirso Cruz III who came from the famed Cruz clan with a Valentino look.
Other stars took a free ride in the bandwagon. Espie Fabon, Perla Adea, Eva Vivar and some others rose to fame together with the male stars like Manny De Leon, Romy Mallari and even Eddie Peregrina, the original sentimental singer. The popularity of Philippine Movies then was incomparable.
But like the Amalia-Susan rivalry, time caught up with the Nora-Vilma competition. Marriage was not the culprit though, maybe the public just got tired of them being paired to other male stars. So another vacuum was created. And despite the attempts, none came out successful.
It was a good start for Janice De Belen and Julie Vega, both child stars who earned their popularity via TV soaps. Flor De Luna vs. Anna Liza, from TV to the big screen. The takeoff was smooth but it did not reach a good cruising altitude. Julie died of an unknown illness, leaving Janice all by her lonesome.
The popularity of the song Mr. DJ brought Sharon Cuneta to unimaginable fame and glory. A new hope for the local movies was born with the Janice-Sharon rivalry. To add spice, a love triangle was created: Gabby-Sharon-Janice. But the Bermuda of a triangle jumped from the reel into real life. Gabby snatched Janice’s young heart the dumped her and married Sharon. Janice, in turn, borne a son by Aga Muhlach.
There were many who followed, many who tried to fill the big shoe of star rivalry but the vacuum remains. It would have been a good fight between Judy Ann Santos versus Jolina Magdangal, both enthroned in different genre, both enjoying legions of their own fans. But their handlers failed to cultivate that angle.
There’s a potential to create a star rivalry between Jennylyn Mercado and Sandara Park. Much better would be to make it a rivalry of love teams, Jennylyn and Mark Herras against Sandara and Hero Angeles. Both are graduates of star search, Jennylyn from GMA-7′s StarStruck and Sandara from ABS-CBN’s Star Circle Quest. But it is evident that the Jennylyn-Sandara rivalry will not take off because it is obscured by the private war of their networks.