MANILA -- Veteran actress Lilia Dizon, who starred in several hit movies in the '50s, died on Monday at 8:20 a.m., in their home in Paranaque, her daughter Toni Abad confirmed.
Dizon, the mother of award-winning actor Christopher de Leon, died from complications of lung cancer. She was 92.
Born Claire Strauss in Pampanga in 1928, Dizon was the only child of Kapampangan Regina Dizon and German-American Jew Abraham “Abe” Strauss. Dizon was a bombshell during her prime. While other actresses made a name for themselves with their sweet and demure image, Dizon became known in post-war Manila for her daring portrayals, yet memorable screen acting.
At a young age of 15, she and her mother relocated from Baguio to Manila following the war after her father left for the US. Dizon started performing at the Lotus Theater, where she initially became known as Carol Strauss.
When she turned 16, Dizon subsequently invaded the big screen. In 1946, she was discovered by writer-director Susana de Guzman, who cast her in “Probinsiyana,” with Carmen Rosales and Jose Padilla. That was the time she changed her name and adopted the screen name Lilia Dizon, who eventually became popular on the silver screen.
By the time she turned 17, Dizon tied the knot with actor-director Gil de Leon. Their marriage, in 1945, lasted for 18 years and by the time Dizon turned 36, she was already separated.
Dizon made her big screen debut in director Nemesio Caravana’s “Kaaway ng Babae” (1948), where she was featured acting like a man and played a very physical role. In Caravana’s “Sohrab at Rustum” (1950), Dizon was paired with Rogelio de la Rosa. In Enrique Jarlego’s “Bathaluman” (1952), Dizon acted with Mario Montenegro.
National Artist for Film Lamberto Avellana directed Dizon in the memorable “Kandelerong Pilak” (1954). That film gave her Asia’s Best Actress award at the Cambodia Film Festival, that had 27 entries in competition.
Dizon was not around to receive her trophy at that time, yet the Prince of Cambodia, Narodom Sihanouk, handcarried the plaque and personally awarded it to the actress when he visited the Philippines that year. The prince, who later became king and prime minister of Cambodia, was met by Dizon herself and LVN producer-director Manny de Leon.
In 1955, she played the title role in Gerry de Leon’s “Sanda Wong,” and the following year, she toured the US, where she got to meet Hollywood superstars Marlon Brando and Lucille Ball.
In 1958, Dizon starred in “Glory at Dawn,” opposite Pancho Magalona.
She acted opposite Leopoldo Salcedo in Gerardo De Leon’s “The Moises Padilla Story” (1961), Fernando Poe, Jr. and Joseph in Armando Garces’ “Baril sa Baril” (also shown in 1961), Jose Padilla, Jr. in Armando de Guzman’s “Sakdalista” (1962) and Estrada in Pablo Santiago’s “Pulong Diablo” (1963).
Dizon and Padilla played support to the love team of Vilma Santos and Edgar Mortiz when the pair appeared together in Emmanuel H. Borlaza’s “Renee Rose” (1970), one of their many earlier films.
Dizon packed her bags in 1966 and went to the US in Salinas, California, to be with her father. She left behind her three children – Pinky, Christopher and Melissa. She gave up her career, her house, her life here and everything that she had in Manila.
Dizon lamented that her husband was consistently a jealous man, which made her marriage a difficult part of her life. She was trying to balance work and family life, but her solid career proved to be a bane to her existence.
Admittedly, Dizon had a “very sad” private life when she became a wife and actress. She and De Leon would always quarrel, but subsequently kissed and made up when he tried to win her back.
Her father took her in and she lived with him in the US West Coast. She loved her stepmother and Dizon eventually got her US citizenship by birth, which allowed her to work in Hawaii for four years and she later to California, where she lived for 18 years.
She met her second husband, businessman Antonio Abad, with whom she had two daughters – Antoinette (Toni) and Corrie, who is based in Singapore.
However, once an actor, always an actor. In 1974, when her son Christopher made his memorable big screen debut in Lino Brocka’s “Tinimkang Ka Ngunit Kulang,” Dizon returned to the Philippines to join the cast of the movie.
Much as Dizon wanted to resume her acting career full-blast, she had to return to California as her two daughters were still studying at that time.
In 1976, Dizon and her erstwhile husband, De Leon, shared acting credits with their three children – Pinky, Christopher and Melissa – in Manuel “Fyke” Cinco’s family drama, “Ang Daigdig ay Isang Patak ng Luha.”
In 2006, Dizon joined director Eric Quizon and Mark Solomon’s film, “Wrinkles,” that featured an all-star cast – Robert Arevalo, Eddie Garcia, Gina Pareno, Cesar Montno, Rosa Rosal, Armida Siguion-Reyna, even Martin Nievera and Jericho Rosales.
The following year, Dizon made her last big screen appearance and starred in the trilogy, “Paraiso: Tatlong Kwento ng Pag-asa,” directed by Ricky Davao, Jun Lana and Joel Ruiz. The star-studded film had Maricel Soriano, Cesar Montano. Ricky Davao, Michael V, Robert Arevalo and Carmi Martin in the cast.