Rogelio de la Rosa
Senator Rogelio de la Rosa was born Regidor de la Rosa on November 12, 1916 in Lubao, Pampanga. His parents were Feliciano de la Rosa, the arnis de mano champion of Pampanga during his time, and Rosario Lim, a patron of the theater and the arts.
Senator De la Rosa was sports-minded and highly competitive, qualities he inherited from his father. He was captain of an undefeated basketball team in Central Luzon. In 1932, he became the inter-collegiate welter-weight boxing champion. This was when he was already a student in Far Eastern University, where he also excelled in team debates and oratorical contests on inter-provincial and inter-collegiate levels. Among the many awards he won in such contests from 1932 to 1934 was the 1933 Claro M. Recto gold medal.
He obtained his associate in arts degree from FEU which, years later, named him its outstanding alumnus.
He started his movie career as a singer who accompanied himself on the ukulele, performed as a regular villain in Pampango zarzuelas during his teens.
It was his uncle, Gregorio Fernandez, who directed him in his first starring role in a motion picture in 1929, “Ligaw na Bulaklak,” opposite Rosa del Rosario. He became very popular because of his dashing good looks and, since then, was always cast as a gallant lover in countless movies and paired with pretty actresses. The roles given to him during the prewar days were neither significant nor substantial.
When the war broke out his life changed. He appeared in stage shows at the Life Theatre during the Japanese occupation. The experience made him not only a stronger person but a finer actor as well. When he resurfaced on the screen after the war, he no longer looked or behaved like yesterday’s swain-he had become more sophisticated, he put more character into his roles. It was at his stage of his career that he became the first Filipino to star in an American Picture, “The Avenger,” which was produced in Hollywood. In 1956, he won the best actor award of the Filipino Academy of Movie Arts and Sciences (FAMAS) for his role in “Higit sa Lahat,” with Emma Alegre, and adjudged Southeast Asia’a best actor in the Hongkong Film Festival.
Shortly afterwards, he entered politics. He ran in the senatorial race in 1957 and won. During the 1961 presidential polls, he decided to run as an independent against two other presidential contenders: the incumbent President, Carlos P. Garcia, of the Nacionalista Party, and Liberal Party bet Diosdado Macapagal.
At the height of his campaign, however, he decided to withdraw from the race. Although he knew that he was drawing the biggest audiences, it occurred to him that translating those audiences into actual votes was a different matter. Politics during those days was really dirty. While most of his campaign leaders were sincere and dedicated, there were many who kept asking him for money. An honest analysis of the situation made him realize that while he could beat Macapagal-who, like him, came from Central Luzon – Garcia would ultimately win since the votes from Luzon would be split between them, while those from Visayas and Mindanao would go for Garcia, who hailed from the south. There was a need for a change in administration and the only way this could be accomplished was for him to withdraw in favor of Macapagal. His analysis proved correct, for Macapagal became president.
In 1965, De la Rosa was appointed Philippine Ambassador to Cambodia, now Kampuchea, and designated as the dean of the diplomatic corps. He was respected and admired by Prince Norodom Sihanouk, Cambodia’s head of state. His next assignment was ambassador to the Netherlands and concurrently, as ambassador to Poland, Bulgaria and Czekoslovakia. During this period, socialist countries came to recognize the Philippines. He was again designated the dean of the diplomatic corps during his tenure in the Netherlands.
As a diplomat, he did a lot for the art and culture of the Philippines by encouraging and helping local artists to put up art exhibits abroad and to participate in international conferences and competitions in arts.
De la Rosa again tried to go into politics by running in the 1984 Batasang Pambansa elections, but lost.
He died of a heart attack on November 10, 1986, at the age of 70. He was married to Lota Delgado one of his leading ladies in the movies.