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Tuesday, August 17, 2004
(abstracted from Filipinas Magazine by: Gemma Nemenzo)


Rosaline Sweet Williams was eight years old when her mother, who she describes as the quintessential stage mother made her take drama lessons and brought her before the late Fernando Poe, Sr., so she could be a child star.With her natural curls and her very mestiza features, she was the living image of the adorable doll that Filipinos at that time craved for. Poe Sr, featured her in some of his movies, such as "Irog Paalam" and taught her how to act.

She was 14 when Premiere Productions signed her up as a contract star with her first starring role in "Abenturera". That was when her name was changed to CORAZON RIVASand she was launched into stardom. For five years whe was one of the hottest properties of Premiere, getting choice leading roles in such big movie hits as the "Lo Waist Gang", a Filipino version of "Oceans Eleven" (it also starred Zaldy Zshornack, Berting Labra and a host of others)was such a big hit that Premiere mined it to the hilt by making it a series of movies, all of them with Corazon Rivas as the leading lady.

With her star on the ascendant, Rivas went to play lead roles in most Premiere movies, often being paired with actors who were like wise being groomed for stardom. One of them was Joseph Estrada, who she remembers as being "scary" when he gets drunk but he nonetheless became her friend. It was Poe Jr., however, who was her favorite leading man. she starred with him in may of her movies.Even then they had a rapport that was discernible even on screen, she recalls. In real life, they were never an item, she laughs, although they were promoted as such.

After staying away for more than 10 years, it was Poe who arranged for a reunion for the "Lo Waist Gang" at his Antipolo retreat.It was one of those gatherings that was off limits to the press so everyone was able to let down their guard and act like they were still teenagers that they were doing the movie. That party was the last reunion with Zshornack who passed away.

When she was 19 in 1959, Rivas married her first husband, an american serviceman assigned at Clark Air Base. It was an act of rebellion, she admits now, because she was no longer happy living life in a fishbowl. "I was already earning P5,000 per movie, which was a big salary at the time," she recalls. But except owning her own car, she hardly enjoyed such largese."The money did'nt belong to me", she revealed. Her mother collected, she merely got an allowance. And then there was the requirement to always try to please other people, an integral part of a movie star's job description that anyone would find tiring. Rivas, already a jaded veteran before she even turned 20, found her way out through marriage. Or so she thought.

It did not take long for the marriage to unravel. Rivas and her husband left for the United States so she could give birth to their first daughter; by the time she was pregnant with her second, she was on her way home. It was then she resumed her movie career that she met Paquito Toledo, the band leader/actor/director, who eventually persuaded her to give up the trade and emigrate to the U.S. with him in 1976.

Just like most immigrants to this country, Rivas had to do a variety of jobs to get by while Toledo played the Filipino circuit. Just like most immigrants, she had moments of gregret and bitterness. One of her part time job was as an assistant to a coutourier in San Francisco where she had to help customers dress up. This was when the changes in her life really hit her -- back home, she was the one who was pampered and dressed.

When Toledo started ailing, Rivas had to carry the burden of supporting the family, which included their son and her two daughters. The rough times hardened her, and her determined to make it on her own efforts. Their friends in the movie industry back home helped her through the ordeal but there was no beating the cancer that put Toledo in a coma until his death in 1981.

Today Rivas lives alone in her cozy house in Milpitas, California. Her children are now married; two of them live close enough for weekly visits.She now does what she has always dreamed of, a regular job that tkes her out of the house from 8 am to 5pm each weekday, a commute that she grumbles about like ordinary folks and a quiet anonymous life that allows her to choose what she wants to do without having to perform. That, for someone who used to live under intense public scrutiny, is what happiness is all about.

posted by infraternam meam @ 3:48 AM  
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Name: infraternam meam
Home: Chicago, United States
About Me: I am now at the prime of my life and have been married for the past 25 years. Sickly at times, but wants to see the elixir vita, so that I will be able to see my grandchildren from my two boys.
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