EVERYONE knows her as the wife of the late King of Philippine Movies Fernando Poe Jr. Movie scribes describe her as the “Face that Refreshes.” Everyone in showbiz calls her “Tita,” and yet even after 50 years in the entertainment industry, only a handful knows how she got her iconic name. Born Jesusa Purificación Levy Sonora, the actress popularly known as Susan Roces recalled that just like most movie stars of her generation, she started out as fan following her favorite actors before she was discovered by Sampaguita Pictures.

“Doc Perez, (producer of Sampaguita Pictures) said he wanted to change my name to something that had more recall; so instead of Jesusa, he changed it to Susan, which sounded real good for a teenage actress.

“At that time, actresses with family names that started with the letters ‘R-O’ like Gloria Romero and ‘Lolita Rodriguez,’ were becoming successful. So as he was browsing through the magazines and newspapers on his table he saw a copy of The Manila Times, and noticed that most of the publications were owned by the Roces family; so he decided Roces would be a successful name for me, which eventually proved quite prophetic.” she narrated.

Susan Roces landed her first starring role in the movie Boksingera Daw (1956) with Luis Gonzales. Following its success, the Queen went on to team up with the biggest names during the golden years of showbiz, namely Juancho Gutierrez, Jose Mari Gonzales, Romeo Vasquez, and Eddie Gutierrez. 

Taking a well deserved break from showbiz in the late ‘90s, she staged a movie comeback in the second installment of Chinese-themed flick Mano Po 2 (2003) from Regal Entertainment.

During a press conference at Annabel’s Restaurant in Tomas Morato in Quezon City, Roces recounted her auspicious start in the industry, and her return to primetime television as part of TV5’s upcoming soap opera Babaeng Hampaslupa.

Roces says costar Alex Gonzaga reminds her of her beginnings. “I see myself in Alex when I was just starting out. Back then, there were no acting workshops and we Sampaguita newcomers got acting tips from the likes of Lolita Rodriguez, Rita Gomez, Dolphy and Gloria Romero. They were not selfish and were very supportive of newcomers. Now, I find myself in a position to do the same for Alex.”

In Babaeng Hampaslupa, TV5’s first foray in primetime soap drama, Roces plays the role of Helena See, a strong-willed Chinese tycoon who finds her family at odds with the Wong patriarch, played by Freddie Webb. Through their exceptional characters, Susan Roces, Alice Dixson and Alex Gonzaga represent the continued quest for hope, love and ambition.

Roces describes Helena See as a very modern and feisty woman. She says it was one of the reasons why she accepted the role. “This is quite the opposite of one of my more recent roles where I played a poor woman who was afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease. This time I get to dress up and be more fashionable,” Roces explained.

“It’s a nice role, and these days, it’s very rare that senior actors like me get this kind of offer. It’s not something that you can turn down and say, ‘Sa susunod na lang.’ So I took it.”

Asked if she had any special conditions before she accepted the role, Roces says she’s never been one to make requests, adding that she even does her own makeup and comes to the location all ready to shoot to save time.

As for the talent fees? Roces just replied “Secret,” before flashing that eternal smile from the face that still refreshes.

Helmed by Eric Quizon and Joyce Bernal, Babaeng Hampaslupa leads primetime viewing starting February.
The series also assembles an impressive cast with some of the country’s finest actors and actresses including Jay Manalo, Bing Loyzaga, Freddie Webb and Celso Ad Castillo; and younger stars such as Karel Marquez, Alwyn Uytinco, Vandolph, Jenny Quizon, and Martin Escudero.

Kobe is The Black Mamba

Chinese Spring Film Festival @the Shangri-La