Not for a second would I ever consider Valerie Concepcion as someone remotely resembling iconic screen villain Bella Flores. But I have to give it to the TV 5 people to doll up the gorgeous actress to the likeness of Ms. Flores. Stroke of genius, I'd say.
When TV-5's latest drama anthology, "Star Confessions" (Wednesday evenings, after "Bababeng Hampaslupa") featured the veteran actress' life story, I just couldn't miss it.
At 17 sometime in the late 40's, Medina Dancel was a hopeful young upstart who wanted her feet in local show business. Possessing an inimitable look, Miss Dancel played extra in a few Sampaguita Pictures projects until its head honcho, Dr. Perez (played by Lander Vera-Perez) took notice in and rechristened her "Bella Flores" which meant "Magandang Bulaklak" (beautiful flower).
But just when things were looking up for 18 year old Ms. Flores, she fell in love with film crew Ernesto (Yul Servo). They eloped and she was forced to stay home while Ernesto moved on and became a police officer. It was a tempestuous marriage fraught with physical abuse and marital indiscretions.
In 1951, Bella decided she wanted to pursue her dream of becoming an actress. After several long waits to pursue Dr. Perez (her erstwhile producer), she was finally offered the part of child actress Tessie Agana's "madrasta" (stepmother) in the behemoth film, "Roberta". This paved way for her to star in one flick after the next - as Sampaguita Pictures' "primera contavida". Her career soared, but her marital woes took the nose dive.
Her husband Ernesto left, and she was tasked to rear her only child Ruby. Meanwhile, she appeared in huge blockbusters - "Salaginto at Salagubang" with Fernando Poe, Jr., "Trudis Liit" with Vilma Santos, "Kung May Gusot, May Lusot" with Nora Aunor and Tirso Cruz III.
In the early 90's, the state of Philippine movie production suffered along with the country's economic woes, and fewer movies were being produced. By which time, younger, more beautiful actresses have cropped up. And veterans like Bella Flores lost film assignments by the bucket. It took her awhile to accept the handwriting on the wall, but with the help of her friend Marina (Shirley Fuentes), she finally decided to hang her hat and migrate to the United States with her daughter.
To be honest, I wouldn't have watched this had it not been Valerie Concepcion topbilling the anthology. And true enough, Ms. Concepcion was the lone bright spot in an otherwise awful dramatic production altogether. The story was treated superficially, it felt too generic and sketchy to be enjoyable or instructive. This is truly a disservice to a living icon, and the artistic merits leave much to be desired. Moreover, much of the story telling feels unfinished. Yeah, I am aware that Ms. Flores is still alive, but the denouement of the narrative suffered a declarative plateau.
Its most conspicuous weakness is a trite script, littered with pedestrian dialogues and moth-eaten sequence treatments. It doesn't help that the host is someone as smug-looking as Cristy Fermin who is fashioned here in the realm of a Helen Vela, Mel Tianco or - heavens! - Charo Santos-Concio! I had goosebumps!
I would watch Ms. Fermin in showbiz-oriented shows like her "Juicy", but inspiring empathy from her is like growing grapes out of an utot-utot plant! You better believe me when I say that watching Ms. Fermin impart inspiring lives is too much to swallow; her morose demeanor felt like a huge santol-seed stuck down my throat! The moment she stood up to give Miss Bella Flores a peck on the cheek, you somehow feel that she'd soon run back to her "Juicy" set thereafter and wave Miss Flores' dirty laundry for everyone's enjoyment!
If that is inspiration to you, it simply sends shivers down my spine. Brrrr....