Weekly Graphic Magazine
November 8, 1961
By Rodolfo V. Azanza
WHEN JOSEPH ESTRADA, after a brief stint with the now defunct LVN, signed a three-year build-up contract with Larry Santiago in 1959, he virtually thwarted his father's dream of seeing him become an engineer.
Joseph’s old man did not say a word about Joseph's cancellation of enrolment at a technological school. He merely said, “I hope you make good, son.” His father's words hung heavy on Joseph’s conscience. He knew he had committed not just a minor insubordination. He practically told his father he could paddle his own canoe. He chose an uncertain movie career over a future meticulously planned by his father, who is the foremost authority in sanitary engineering hereabouts.
Success Didn’t Follow
At first, Joseph faced his movie career with youthful disregard. He thought that with his build-up contract, success would follow inevitably. A talented actor, he managed to play his roles well. Directors complained about his habitual tardiness, but they were always full of praise for his acting. This did not help Joseph in any way because he got stuck with second lead roles.
Joseph never forgot his father's words, and he tried hard to move ahead in 1960. Without anyone telling him, he reformed. He reported to work on time and tried to regain the friendship of movie scribes whom he kept endlessly waiting for interviews just after he had signed his contract. The odds, however, were against him. Joseph continued to be just one of the boys on the studio roster.
Late in 1960, Joseph got even more disturbed, LSP signed up another bright young man, Rodolfo Cristobal, and in only three pictures the newcomer jumped to full stardom. Joseph was not envious, but it made him see more clearly that his career was lagging, He asked his producers for choice roles but all he got were second stringers. Joseph promised himself to make good in 1961 if only to bolster his confidence in himself.
You can call it luck or anything but in 1961, a new Joseph Estrada emerged. He was tagged for the role of Asiong Salonga, the underworld kingpin. Joseph could not say how he got the role except for some facial resemblance with the notorious Tondo character. He put his heart in his portrayal of Asiong Salonga, which incidentally was the last picture in his contract.
A Box-Office Hit
The movie, which was produced on a moderate budget, smashed all box-office records during its 10-day run at the Center Theater. Asiong Salonga was also sizzled in the provincial circuit. Joseph’s fan mail jumped twenty-fold after the picture was released. Fans, mostly men, attached the tag
“Asiong” to his name. He became good copy for fan magazines, and producers vied for his services. This time, Joseph became an even more sober fellow. He knew that he had struck pay dirt. He went carefully over all offers and with competent legal advice. He signed up with Tagalog Ilang-Ilang Productions, with option to appear in pictures outside as a freelancer.
Joseph is now one of the highest-paid actors in local filmdom.He has appeared in seven pictures since Asiong Salonga, the latest being Sa Baril Mag-usap for People's Pictures. At the pace he is going, Joseph is practically killing himself, yet he refuses to heed advice to slow down. He admits he is going too fast but he has to take advantage of his current popularity to make up for lost time. Then there are his projects of several apartment houses into which he sinks every peso.
Taking Advantage Of Success
“1 do not know how long I will stay at the top so I have to save for rainy days. I have seen many enjoy the same public acceptance only to end up penniless,” Joseph said when we interviewed him on the set of Sa Baril Mag-usap. “If I have to make sacrifices, this is just the time. I have made sacrifices before, but there was not much return for my effort. It was only after I attained stardom that I did not have to rely on my old man for pin money, so why should i hesitate to make more now?"
Joseph subscribes to the saying that in the movies your best recommendation is your last picture. And he intends to get most out of himself while picking is good. His stock is going up and he is still far from his peak. He has yet to be in the ranks of the big three of local filmdom namely, Romeo Vasquez, Fernando Poe, Jr., and Zaldy Zshornack.
Joseph may be bent on being a financial success in the movies, but he does not work just for pecuniary reasons. He looks a script over carefully before he accepts a role. To him, toting a gun or throwing his fists is not enough. He must be provided a chance to portray roles different from those he has played before. The present vogue is for action pictures, and Joseph fits well into them. However, when the public's taste changes, Joseph thinks he will fare just as well. If he concentrates on action roles now, it is only because he wants to ride with the tide.
His Public Image
At present, the public image of Joseph is that of a tough young man, who would punch anybody on the nose for the slightest cause. This is an entirely wrong picture of the real Joseph, Actually, Joseph is shy. He does not go for crowds and is most relaxed when seated in a corner by himself. Joseph is not the kind whom you can push around.
The actor admits that since he played Asiong Salonga, he has become a target of mischief from both teenagers and adults who want to size him up. I have been egged into fights," Joseph said, “but I have kept out walking straight ahead. It is only when I cannot dodge trouble that I put up my dukes in self-defense.”
From where he is now, Joseph has already proven financially that he did not err when he picked the movies over his studies. What remains now is to successfully keep out of trouble and erase the bad public image of him. Only then can he completely show his father that he has really made good.
November 8, 1961