La Primera Contravida

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Thanks to the article in the Inquirer by Bayani San Diego (“Don’t mess with La Primera Contravida”) we saw how beautiful Cherie Gil is. She, says San Diego “isn’t known as La Primera Contravida for nothing.

Some years ago, we wrote an “Ode to Philippine filmdom’s kontrabidas,” preferring the Tagalog spelling.

Yes, where would Philippine movies be without its colorful character actors and actresses whose job is to be as unpopular as possible?

These are the men and women who specialize in playing the villain, and whom Filipino audiences love to hate. The moviegoers hiss and scream obscenities at these villains, whenever they appear onscreen.


The female of the species is known as the kontrabida, or the foil of the hero or heroine.

Philippine movies lost this week (this editorial came out on Mar. 21, 2013) one of the best kontrabidas of all time – Bella Flores.

While there has never been a shortage of actresses who could believably play the evil mother-in-law, scheming neighbor, or dirty old woman lusting for young studs, Bella Flores was unquestionably their queen, their role model.

No wonder she had a career that lasted for close to seven decades.

With her distinctive throaty voice and flashing eyes, she could convince anyone that she was indeed evil personified.

She wasn’t, of course. It is in tribute to her acting prowess that Bella Flores remained active in showbiz well into her 80s. She only faded from the limelight when her health started to deteriorate.

Philippine movies have had many talented thespians who played the bad guy or bad girl with ease. It is worth noting that the movie going public seems to believe that what they see onscreen is for real. Witness the shortage of movie villains being elected to public office.

In contrast, the heroes are usually easy to elect. Look no farther than the Philippine presidency, where three top actors have aspired to be the Man in Malacañang.

Then matinee idol Rogelio de la Rosa, who had been elected vice-president four years before, ran for president, but backed out when he went short of funds. King of Philippine Movies Fernando Poe Jr also ran, and many believe he may have actually won, but for some machinations by the Comelec.

Finally, there is Joseph Estrada, yet another onscreen hero who made it all the way to the presidency.

It is quite possible that Bella Flores may have acted opposite all three big stars at some time or another. She very probably acted alongside all the big stars of Philippine cinema from the 50s to the first decade of this millennium.

Indeed, the lady was one class act.

She may be gone now, but she has left behind a body of work that has given her a measure of immortality.

We salute Bella Flores, who may never become a National Artist, but who is certainly a National Treasure as Queen of the Kontrabidas.

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