Thursday, May 11, 2017

108. Is That Who I Think She Is? BELLA FLORES, for CAMAY SOAP, 1955

CONTRAVIDA CAMAY GIRL, BELLA FLORES, Camay Soap print ad, mid-1950s.

“The Soap of Beautiful Women”CAMAY—was introduced by Procter and Gamble PMC in 1950, a product that enjoyed such a high profile, that the first boxes  of the beauty soap were sent to Philippine President Elpidio Quirino.

Few years after, the brand rolled out its first advertising featuring—of course—the Philippines’ most beautiful women. Movie queens Carmen Rosales, Paraluman,  Gloria Romero, Alicia Vergel, Norma Blancaflor, Rosa Rosal and Miss Universe Armi Kuusela graced the early ads, followed by young ingénues in the mid 50s—Nida Blanca, Letty Alonso, Charito Solis.

Most of these CAMAY models were chosen not only for their beauty, but also for their wholesome charm, grace and spotless image. It was a surprise then to find, included in this elite list—an actress who earned a reputation as the premier “villainess”—kontrabida of Philippine showbiz—BELLA FLORES.

Born as Medina Papa Dancel in Sta. Cruz, Manila on 27 Feb. 1929, she was a Far Eastern University  college sophomore  when she was discovered for the movies. In 1950, she made her first film, Tatlong Balaraw, an action movie starring Jose Padilla Jr. and Anita Linda. 

It was Dr. Jose Vera-Perez who christened her "Bella Flores"--beautiful flower. Snapped by Sampaguita Pictures to appear as the cruel stepmother of Tessie Agana in the mega box-office hit, “Roberta”, Bella’s popularity suddenly rose. Her iconic ‘kontrabida’ performance turned her into a hot star, and soon she was reprising her evil role in such films as Rebecca (1952), Munting Kerubin (1952), Gigolo (1956), Prinsesang Gusgusin (1957),  Anghel sa Lansangan (1959) and Alipin ng Palad (1959).  Bella was certainly hated by fans for her despicable treatment of Vilma Santos in Trudis Liit (1963) and in Kaibigan Kong Santo Nino (1967) for which she won a FAMAS Best Supporting statuette.

But of course, when Flores first appeared in the CAMAY print ad series, P&G executives would have no way of knowing that she would be typecast in villain roles---characters that movie audiences loved to hate. To them, she was as beautiful as her name—Bella!—and thus perfect for CAMAY.


Her effective portrayals clearly showed how good an actress she really was. In fact, Flores continued acting for most of her life, until she suffered a hip injury that caused her death on 19 May 2013. She even managed to complete a short film for Bench, about how it is to be a kontrabida , a role she relished all her life.

BENCHINGKO/FILMS PRESENTS KONTABIDA 1010, published on 6 Aug. 2012.

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