CARMEN Rosales is reputedly the first superstar of Philippine movies. She didn’t dream of becoming an actress, less a superstar, and was content in pursuing a career as a dressmaker with husband Ramon Navales.
But as fate would have it, Carmen was invited to audition for a singing part in the movie Mahiwagang Binibini with Atang Dela Rama in the lead role. Carmen was to sing “Bituing Marikit” in that movie. And sing she did, passing the audition with flying colors. In a blink of an eye Carmen was instantly elevated to be the lead star of Arimunding-Munding.
“Arimunding-Munding was the milestone, yung movie na yun ang bumago sa buhay niya,” says Rene Navales, Carmen’s only surviving son. “In fact, that movie is so memorable to us that we in the house used to call her Munding.”
“ Rene Navales holding the programme of NCCA’s mini-filmfest ”
Aside from her good singing voice, Carmen was famous for her a la cowboy roles. “My mom didn’t relish wearing skirts and was most comfortable with slacks,” according to Rene. “In real life, magaling siya sa caliber .45. She never read scripts and instead had someone read it for her.” Rene still recalls the porcelain complexion of his mother, saying Carmen was fond of Pond’s cold cream. And as far as her son remembers, Carmen did her own make-up.
As for his being the eldest son of Carmen, Rene relates, “Spoiled kami ni Cesar kay Ermat pero disiplinado naman. May swimming pool pa nga kami sa bahay namin sa tabi ng Iglesia (Manalo’s INC headquarters) sa San Juan. Hindi lang kami blood brothers ni Cesar, partners in crime pa!” Rene’s only brother, Cesar Puyat, died of lung cancer a few years ago.
Carmen passed away in 1991. “A few years bago siya namatay, parang naging hypochondriac si Ermat,” says Rene. “Munting kibot lang punta agad sa doktor, ke dentista, ke optometrist o ophthalmologist. Suki na nga siya ng mga doktor eh, “ he quips. “Pero yung ikinamatay niya dehydration. Parang nag-LBM lang siya tapos after a few days naglaro (fluctuate) na ang blood pressure niya at heart beat.” Rene mentions the name of the hospital with disgust.
For the fortune that Carmen had left behind, “Si Cesar malaki ang namana kasi mayaman ang erpat niya pero sa akin meron din naman. Actually nakakatawa nga kasi yung bahay ni Ermat sa Greenpark (Pasig) inangkin nung alalay niya.” The said alalay was with them ever since. Rene was wondering why the alalay refused to accept the furnitures. “Yun pala, yung bahay ang gusto. Nagkademandahan pa nga.” Rene’s son Jovy adds, “Nakakahiya nga ho kasi katulong ang kalaban namin sa demanda. Ginawa nilang headquarters ng religion nila tapos banned kami dahil naka-barricade pa!” The case was eventually resolved and the property was turned over to the rightful owner – Rene Navales.
To clear up some issues about Tanya Garcia, Rene has this to say, “Si Tanya, bale apo ni Jose. Anak naman ni Roberto Rosales si Jose. My mother has 3 siblings, the eldest was Trining followed by Eddie, Roberto then Carmen.” He adds, “Nung inalok nga si Tanya na mag-bold tinanong nila ako kasi alam nilang sensitive ako sa ganyang issues. Sabi ko dinadala ni Tanya (bilang apo) ang Carmen Rosales, di ba?” Rene disapproved of Tanya Garcia’s going bold to preserve his mother’s legacy in the entertainment world.
Carmen ruled the local movies, so to speak, for 3 decades. She started with Sampaguita Pictures then moved to LVN Productions and then after venturing with other studios she went back to Sampaguita. As the reigning superstar then, Carmen had countless of leading men but the most popular tandem was that with Rogelio Dela Rosa. Carmen starred in the first local movie in technicolor, Batalyon 13.
Last Feb. 28, NCCA held a mini-filmfest in honor of Carmen Rosales. Rene Navales was quite surprised upon learning of the said tribute and gatecrashed on the last day which was March 4. He shakes his balding head, “Hindi siguro ako kilala nung Danny Dolor kaya nagpakilala ako!” He was referring to the Danny Dolor, the organizer of the event.
Anent Film Academy’s search for the statuette’s name, Rene gets serious, “Sana nga, yan ang pinakamagandang tribute na maibibigay ng Film Academy kay Ermat. Biruin mo, forever na yan. Carmen, puwedeng panlaban sa Oscar ng States, di ba? At pag Carmen ang naging pangalan ng statuette eh di tutuntong na naman ako sa stage,” he smiles with a trailing chuckle.
Before signing off the interview, Rene offered his cellphone number in case the Film Academy wants to contact him for anything about his mother. “Andun pa ba si Atty. Laxa? Kilala ako nun,” were his parting words.