Lolita Rodriguez (1935-2016)

One of our cinema’s most radiant and magnetic stars passes away, far from the limelight.

by Philbert Dy

One of our cinema’s most radiant and magnetic stars passes away, far from the limelight.

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It is strange to think that there are people out there who do not know who Lolita Rodriguez is. But this is a natural consequence of our general failure to preserve the history of our cinema. Rodriguez (born Lolita Clark) was a major star in two of the most important eras in our cinema. She was part of the Sampaguita stable during the first golden age, and co-starred with Dolphy on the adapation of Mars Ravelo’s Jack and Jill. Later on, in the midst of the Filipino New Wave, she was a favorite of Lino Brocka. Her turn as the madwoman Kuala in the director’s Tinimbang Ka Ngunit Kulang remains one of the most courageous and indelible performances in our cinematic history.

Radiant and magnetic, Rodriguez always drew the eye on screen. But she never the type to settle for the empty glamour that tends to come in this line of work. A cursory look at her filmography reveals a stunning diversity of roles. It’s a stark contrast with the stars of today, many of whom seem content to be branded and placed into a particular niche. Rodriguez was an action star, a comedian, a leading lady, and an art film darling. And in her final years, she stepped away from the spotlight to live a quiet life in the United States, unafraid once again to defy expectations.