TRIBUTE: Mila del Sol shone bright during golden age of Philippine cinema

Leah C. Salterio

Posted at Nov 10 2020 04:27 PM

Mila del Sol. Photo courtesy of former Paranaque Rep. Gus Tambunting

MANILA -- The sky was often overcast when they were working on Mila del Sol’s launching film, “Giliw Ko,” back in 1939. 

However, whenever Tolosa needed to call her to the set, the sun would miraculously come out. Hence, Tolosa re-christened Clarita Villarba Rivera to Mila del Sol, who eventually became one of the queens of the golden age of Philippine cinema. 

Born on May 12, 1923 at the Mary Johnston Hospital in Tondo, Del Sol was the daughter of Amado Rivera and Lorenza Villarba.

Del Sol’s father was an employee at the internal revenue service by day and worked as a waiter by night at Sta. Ana Cabaret to augment his income. He provided for eight kids, while his wife was a full-time mother and homemaker. One child of the couple died when he was still a baby.

Del Sol’s father served as a guerilla in the Philippines during World War II. He was from Batangas, where he met and fell in love at first sight with Lorenza, who was then visiting from Mindoro. 

For her grade school years, Del Sol attended Malate Primary School, San Andres Elementary and Intramuros Intermediate School.

Unfortunately, she could not proceed to high school as she was compelled to work as early as 12 years old. Older sister Sofia was the first to venture into acting and was re-christened Gloria Imperial. However, she didn’t last long being in showbiz.

Another sister, Adela, also tried acting and was re-named Guia Imperial. By then, Del Sol was simply content with being a mere chaperone to her sisters who were earning money for the family.

However, Del Sol was destined to be in front of the cameras, too. She made her big screen debut in “Nasaan Ka Irog” (1937), starring Tito Arevalo, Elsa Oria and Anghel Esmeralda.

In 1938, Del Sol appeared in three films – “Ang Maya,” “Hatol ng Mataas na Hari” and “Mariang Alimango.”

She got her first starring role in Carlos Vander Tolosa’s “Giliw Ko” (1939), the first film bankrolled by LVN Pictures, where she was paired with Ely Ramos and Fernando Poe, Sr. The other stars of the film were Mona Lisa and Ben Rubio.

Mila del Sol

Del Sol made 12 films for LVN, including “Hali” and “Sawing Gantimpala” (both shown in 1940). The latter was based on a song written for Del Sol by then First Lady Aurora Quezon, wife of President Manuel L. Quezon.

Del Sol was also in the cast of the first local movie partially filmed in color, “Ibong Adarna” (1941).

In 1943, Del Sol walked down the aisle with Fernando Tambunting, her rich, ardent suit who pursued her with lavish gifts and wooed her with fine dining dates. The couple later had two children – Jesus and Ellen.

Hewr first grandson is Gus Tambunting, who became Paranaque City vice mayor and later as congressman of 2nd District.

Filmmaking was halted during World War II and del Sol did volunteer work for the Red Cross. She visited prisoner of war camps with the Blue Ladies of the Philippine film industry.

After merely five years of marriage, Del Sol had to fly to the US to divorce Tambunting. When she returned to Manila, she appeared in the first post-war Filipino film, “Orasang Ginto” (1946), which also heralded her film comeback.

In the 1950s, Del Sol attended the Hollywood City High School then went to college at the Los Angeles City College, both in the US.

She returned to the Philippines in 1960 and subsequently resumed her acting career. Del Sol did two films that year – “Pakipot” and “Tatlong Magdalena.” 

Mila del Sol

At around that time, she also acted on TV and starred in widely followed TV series, “Problema Mo Na ‘Yan” and “Rosalka.”

No sooner did Del Sol meet a handsome American, Texan guy Alonzo Young, who attended a party hosted by Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino, Jr. Young was sent to the country by the US government to work in Manila as officer of the Philippine War Damage Committee.

Del Sol and Young had a whirlwind love affair because after only 19 days, they plunged into marriage. The couple had two daughters – Melita Jeanne (Bunny) and Melissa (Peachy). But the marriage also didn’t last very long.

TV host Jeanne Young is Del Sol’s daughter, who became popular in the seventies as host of the TV game show, “Spin-A-Win.” Sister Peachy passed away in 2005. The latter left behind two sons – musician Ira Cruz and brother John.

Del Sol had two other children – Dinky and Doodle – with the late National Artist for Film, director Eddie Romero. The children were raised in the US and reside there.

Actor Onemig Bondoc, meanwhile, is the grandson of Del Sol’s brother, Amado Rivera, Jr.

Del Sol played mother to Vilma Santos in director Pablo Santiago’s action-romance, “Bato sa Buhangin” (1976), which topbilled Fernando Poe, Jr.

Moreover, Del Sol worked with Sharon Cuneta in Emmanuel Borlaza’s “Kahit Wala Ka Na” (1989).

Del Sol even appeared in the 1961 Hollywood film, “Espionage Far East,” directed by Ted Post with Gerardo de Leon and Eddie Romero. Among the other local stars with whom she shared topbilling were Leopoldo Salcedo, Shirley Gorospe, Manuel Conde and Vic Diaz.

Aside from Ely Ramos, among the leading men who were paired with Del Sol were Poe, Sr., Armando Goyena, Jose Padilla, Jr., Fred Cortes, Rogelio de la Rosa, Jaime de la Rosa and Leopoldo Salcedo.

Meanwhile, the noted directors who worked with her, aside from Tolosa, included Manuel Conde, Lamberto Avellana, Manuel Silos, Gregorio Fernandez, Gerardo de Leon, Vicente Salumbides and Emmanuel Borlaza.

Undoubtedly, Del Sol pioneered the maintenance service industry in the country, with her Superior Maintenance Services that started in 1964. For more than 50 years, the company has employed over 100,000 people. To date, it is managed by Del Sol’s grandchildren.

In June 2015, Del Sol was honored by the House of Representatives for her contribution to the local film industry

In 1993, Del Sol was the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award, given by the Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF). In 2013, she was accorded with the same prestigious award by Gawad Urian.

A long-time Marian devotee, Del Sol attributed her long life to constant prayers. She prayed fervently to the Mother of Perpetual Help. She lived a full life until she was 97 years old.

She passed on earlier Tuesday after a lingering illness.

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