By Rica Arevalo
While we are currently celebrating the centennial of Philippine cinema, the industry was just six years old when Alice Buenaflor Lake, popularly known as Anita Linda, was born on Nov. 23, 1924.
One by one, a generation of film luminaries is being “wiped out”—Mona Lisa, Eddie Garcia, and on June 10, Anita Linda. These actors are our only connection to film masters Gerardo de Leon, Lamberto Avellana, Eddie Romero, Lino Brocka, and Mario O’ Hara.
Anita Linda’s first film, High School, was released in 1943 and her last film, Circa, was screened just last year at the Pista ng Pelikulang Pilipino (PPP)—that’s a career that spanned 76 years! Movie audiences will remember her in Gerardo de Leon’s Sisa (1951) as a deranged woman oppressed by the church and government.
Director Adolfo Alix, Jr. first worked with the 1952 Maria Clara best actress in Tambolista way back in 2007. “During the filming, aside from her focused performance, what I would look forward to was the behind-the-scene stories of her collaborations with other directors and actors from her vast filmography in between takes,” he tells Manila Bulletin Lifestyle.
One anecdote was when she was doing Sawa sa Lumang Simboryo (1952) with Jose Padilla, Jr. She didn’t know how to ride a horse but she was so professional that she took the challenge and almost got hit by the klieg lights because she could not control the horse. The film won Best Picture at the 1953 FAMAS Awards.
“In all her stories, I realized that she was the epitome of professionalism and that was one of the reasons she never left the business,” remarks Adolf. “She was very warm and sometimes funny.”
How did the 1982 Natatanging Gawad Urian ng Manunuri ng Pelikulang Pilipino awardee prepare for her roles? “It was always crucial for her to know her character so she could prepare for her role,” muses Adolf. “That remained with me—how to be ready for every project I take on. And to be professional in all aspects.”
There were no small roles for Anita Linda. “She came out of every performance winning the audience with her gift,” relates the Adela director.
This gave Anita Linda numerous Best Actress awards at the Cinemanila International Film Festival, Gawad Tanglaw, and Young Critics Circle. Adela is a heartbreaking story of an old, lonely woman celebrating her 80th birthday, waiting for her family to reunite with her but no one seems to come. It was the opening film of the 2008 Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Film Festival.
“Her greatest contribution was her work ethic and versatility. That’s why she was only one of the few actors to have been part of the three golden ages of Philippine cinema.”
Anita Linda is indeed a screen legend and a pillar of Philippine cinema, having been part of critically acclaimed films spanning seven decades and working with the best and brightest generations of film directors.
“I am honored to have worked with her. I will treasure all the beautiful memories she left with us. More than an accomplished actress, she was family to me—a mother who guided us in our endeavors,” reveals Adolf.
In a past TV interview, Anita Linda once said: “Hindi ako mawawala kahit anong gawin sa akin, hindi ako mawawala (I will never leave, no matter what they do to me. I will never leave).”