Multi-awarded actress Elizabeth Oropesa—known best by the singular monicker La Oro in Philippine showbiz—has appeared in more than 150 movies and television shows since 1973. Considered a accomplished actress, many are unaware that the dusky beauty who was a sexy actress in the early days joined pageants before becoming a movie star.
“It was originally my mother who dreamed of becoming a beauty queen and an actress, but then it never happened because she had a family at a young age. Instead, she encouraged me to join contests, and true enough, I become a beauty queen at 15. I was Miss Republic of the Philippines but I was disqualified afterwards because I was underage,” Oropesa recalled at the press conference of Moonlight Over Baler, which opens in cinemas today.
She laughed confessing her mother had cheated on her age since candidates had to be 18 years old at the youngest.
“Of course we were caught because they were looking for the birth certificate. So they tried to get back crown back from me but my mom did not give it away. She just gave back the gifts—the bed, the trip to Cebu, and P5,000 [which was really a big amount that time], but she really fought for the crown,” laughed La Oro.
Further recalling her experience, she said competing against older girls was indeed difficult. “Of course there was no liposuction, and silicone that time. I didn’t even have any poise being young. I didn’t know how to stand up like a beauty queen. Those were some of the things I lacked but despite of it all, since I was tall, and I had huge..you know, parts of my body,” she chuckled, “I won.”
Thankful for the experience, La Oro continued, “I don’t have any regrets joining pageants. It was such an experience for me—something that really helped me along the way of being an actress, because we always have to deal with all kinds of people. We always need to smile, and we have to answer every question correctly. My advantage back then was we always said ‘po’ and ‘opo’ basically because Bicolanos are courteous.
Endless doors opened for the now 62-year-old Oropesa after joining Miss Republic of the Philippines. She became one of the favorites of the late film icon Ishmael Bernal. She was launched to stardom via Mister Mo, Lover Boy Ko (1975). She won a FAMAS Best Actress for Lumapit, Lumayo Ang Umaga (1975), and starred in Nunal Sa Tubig (1976), considered one of the best films of the ‘70s. All three films are Bernal classics.
‘Moonlight Over Baler’
Forty decades into her career, Oropesa remains a worthy lead of a movie. This is according to noted director Gil Portes, no less, who is all praises for La Oro in Moonlight Over Baler, a love story set in the summer of 1986.
From a screenplay by Eric Ramos, Baler was inspired by the story of Portes’ aunt, who became a spinster because her fiancé–an American soldier–had to go to war during the Japanese occupation but tragically never returned.
Many years later, Gil’s aunt, portrayed by La Oro, suddenly meets a young salesman who looks exactly like her lover, bringing back bittersweet memories of what could have been.
“Oro was just wonderful; her performance here is both inspired and award-winning,” Portes guaranteed.
Produced by T-Rex Entertainment, Moonlight Over Baler also stars Vin Abrenica, Ellen Adarna and Sophie Albert.